1. Richard states that he ended up at Hampden College by a
"trick of fate." What do you think of this statement? Do you
believe in fate?
2. When discussing Bacchae and the Dionysiac ritual with his
students Julian states, "We don't like to admit it, but the idea of
losing control is one that fascinates controlled people such as
ourselves more than almost anything. All truly civilized
people--the ancients no less than us--have civilized themselves
through the willful repression of the old, animal self" (p. 38).
What is your opinion of this theory? Are we all attracted to that
which is forbidden? Do we all secretly wish we could let ourselves
go and act on our animal instincts? Is it true that "beauty is
3. "I suppose there is a certain crucial interval in everyone's
life when character is fixed forever: for me, it was that first
fall term spent at Hampden" (p. 80). Did you have such a crucial
interval in your life? What/when was it?
4. In the idyllic beginning it is easy to see why Richard is
drawn to the group of Greek scholars. It is only after they begin
to unravel that we see the sinister side of each of the characters.
Do you think any one of the characters possesses true evil? Is
there such a thing as true evil, or is there something redeeming in
5. In the beginning of the novel, Bunny's behavior is at times
endearing and at others maddening. What was your initial opinion of
Bunny? Does it change as the story develops?
6. At times Bunny, with his selfish behavior, seems devoid of a
conscience, yet he is the most disturbed by the murder of the
farmer. Is he more upset because he was left out of the group or
because he feels what happened is wrong?
7. Henry says to Richard, "My life, for the most part, has been
very stale and colorless. Dead, I mean. The world has always been
an empty place to me. I was incapable of enjoying even the simplest
things. I felt dead in everything I did. . . . But then it changed
. . . The night I killed that man" (p. 463). How does Henry's
reaction compare to that of the others involved in the murder(s)?
Do you believe he feels remorse for what he has done?
8. Discuss the significance of the scene in which Henry wipes
his muddy hand across his shirt after throwing dirt onto Bunny's
coffin at the funeral (p. 395).
9. List some of the signs that foreshadowed the dark turn of
events. Would you have seen all the signs that Richard initially
misses? Or do you believe Richard knew all along and just refused
to see the truth?
10. Would you have stuck by the group after learning their dark
11. The author states that many people didn't sympathize with
Richard. Did you find him a sympathetic character?
12. What do you make of Richard's unrequited love for Camilla?
Do you feel that she loved him in return? Or did she use his love
for her as a tool to manipulate him?
13. Do you feel the others used Richard as a pawn? If so,
14. What do you feel is the significance of Julian's toast "Live
forever" (p. 86)?
15. The author mentions a quote supposedly made by George Orwell
regarding Julian: "Upon meeting Julian Morrow, one has the
impression that he is a man of extraordinary sympathy and warmth.
But what you call his 'Asiatic Serenity' is, I think, a mask for
great coldness" (p. 480). What is your opinion of Julian?
16. Do you think that Julian feels he is somewhat responsible
for the murder of Bunny? Is that why he doesn't turn the group in
when he discovers the truth from Bunny's letter?
17. What causes Julian to flee? Is it because of disappointment
in his young protegees or in himself?
18. While the inner circle of characters (Richard, Charles,
Camilla, Henry, Francis, and the ill-fated Bunny) are the center of
this tale, those on the periphery are equally important in their
own ways (Judy Poovey, Cloke Rayburn, Marion, and so on). Discuss
the roles of these characters.
19. The rights for The Secret History were initially purchased
by director/producer/screenwriter Alan J. Paluka (All The
Men, The Pelican Brief), and they are currently
with director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling on
Cedars). What are your feelings about making the novel into a
movie? Who would play the main characters if you were to cast
20. What is the meaning of Richard's final dream?