A Secret History by Donna Tartt – A Psychoanalytical Approach

The Secret History by Donna Tartt is a mind-boggling novel about 6 students studying Greek at a college in Vermont where two of the students actually die. There is a lot going on from a mental standpoint in these characters, which Freud’s theory can help with. Despite how horrific the events that happen are, a psychoanalytical approach to the novel allows the reader to really understand the characters presented because it helps one to see into the mind of the characters. The best place to start analyzing would be around the end of chapter 4.

Henry, Francis, and the twins performed a bacchanal party where they went into a “Dionysiac frenzy” (Tartt, 163) and Henry admitted to killing someone after Richard guessed at it. As for why, Henry says that being able “to escape the cognitive mode of experience, to transcend the accident of one’s moment of being” (Tartt, 164) was good enough to attempt the endeavor. Using Freud’s theory, one can asses that this “obsess[ion] with the idea” (Tartt, 164) could potentially be due to an unconscious desire to perform the deed. Henry, throughout the novel, is a quiet gentleman that Richard seems to be able to read well. Given that information of his character, it seems almost as though Henry would be the last person to partake in such an act, giving the sense that it was an unconscious desire that even Henry did not know about.

The novel also contains a good amount of foreshadowing to Henry’s admission of killing someone. Throughout the novel, Richard remarks about how certain things would make sense in the future and how “it is easy to see things in retrospect” (Tartt, 93). This leads one to see how Richard may have repressed some of the events he witnessed. He never quite dwelled on anything until the admission. He would dismiss the events indifferently but his future self would mention how he had wished he knew what was to come. With how fond of the group Richard was, it isn’t difficult to understand why he may have repressed anything questionable or why he tried to keep himself out of issues, such as when Richard witnessed Julian and Henry talking discretely and Richard decided to leave and never mention it (Tartt, 71-72).

Talking about the killing of the man during the bacchanal, Henry discusses how “duality ceases to exist; there is no ego, no ‘I’” (Tartt, 167). In regards to ego, Freud describes it as the way we, as humanity, are most tied down to reality. With Henry’s apparent lack of ego in that moment, it raises the question of how we could even begin to function without ego. In accordance with Henry, we could lose all sense of morals and realities of the world and people around us. Henry describes that losing ego and himself altogether was “like being a baby” (Tartt, 167), which would confirm that it would be like having no moral compass whatsoever.

With all of this in mind, there was really none of the defense mechanisms Freud describes in either Henry, Francis or the twins regarding the bacchanal. All four of them didn’t remember what lead up to the event but very much understood that they had killed a random man somehow. There was no repression or denial of it, except when dealing with Bunny for obvious reasons. None of them presented any projection or displacement of any kind. They simply understood what they had done and didn’t take it out on anyone else. They only wanted to move past it without facing consequences, so they decided to take care of Bunny.

Continuing on with the novel in chapter 5, the group decide to kill Bunny off and stage it as an accident when Bunny begins to blackmail the others. In figuring out how to carry out this plan of killing their friend, Henry’s demeanor begins to change in front of the readers’ eyes. He begins to care less about his own life, which is apparent when Henry mentions how “the more I hear about luxury barges, the less terrible death begins to seem” (Tartt, 235). These subtle things Henry mentions can give the reader a sense of foreshadowing to Henry’s suicide.

Leading up to the suicide was the arrest of Charles for drunk driving. While Richard was attempting to diffuse everything, they started talking about Henry and Richard posed the question of “not why he tells us what to do. But why we always do what he says” (Tartt, 447). It creates the idea that the other characters depend on Henry much more than they let on, especially when Charles can’t come up with a reason why. However, Charles starts to display an example of defense mechanisms onto Henry for why they’re currently in that situation. “I blame every bit of this on him” (Tartt, 447) Charles has said, showing how he has started to use Freud’s defense mechanism of projection.

In conclusion, The Secret History by Donna Tartt displays many instances of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory in regards to the models of the mind and also defense mechanisms. I realize that there are many more just in his psychoanalytic theory along with different theories, but these were the ones I most noticed throughout the novel. It was an overall interesting novel that shows how important the mind and its processes can be in all types of situations.

Claudia Rankine and Her Powerful Poetry

Claudia Rankine is a modern-day poet who sought to advocate the injustice in America done to her fellow African American people. Her poetry in Citizen: An American Lyric is an unusual yet powerful collection since it does not follow any typical poetry devices such as meter, rhyme or formal structure. All of the pieces in this collection flow freely and are compromised in sections that focus on either macroaggressions or microaggressions along with visual images. There in a contrast in language between her examples of microaggressions and macroaggressions, which adds to the impact of her poetry.

In section two of her poetry, Rankine focuses on the macroaggressions against Serena Williams. Serena is a famous black tennis player who had gone through injustices based on her race, which Rankine expresses through her unique poetry style in this section. Within this section is a quote by Zora Neale Hurston which reads “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a white background.” This quote is incredibly significant because it encapsulates the theme of Rankine’s entire collection and is repeated multiple times throughout the collection. This quote expresses what life is truly like“for all black bodies” and allows any race to clearly understand the injustice.

The way that racism works is literally skin deep; Racism makes your skin color and body the only meaningful part of who you are. Rankine even expresses the admiration she had for Serena Williams during a macroaggression on the courts. Rankine identifies the injustice being done and seems even relieved that Serena finally speaks up rather than sit there and accept what is happening to her. Rankine continues to push the recurring idea of black bodies in America in section two of her book.


As offensive as her outburst is,
it is difficult not to applaud her for reacting immediately
to being thrown against a sharp white background. It is
difficult not to applaud her for existing in the moment,
for fighting crazily against the so-called wrongness of her
body’s positioning at the service line.

            On page 35, Rankine includes a photograph of a statue by Nick Cave called Thick Skin. This image’s purpose is to intensify the message she is trying to get across; The image portrays how the statue hides gender, race and class which therefore prevents labeling. By preventing labeling, racism cannot exist in our society yet there is no way to prevent labeling outside of art. It also provides the idea that if there was away to hide our identity, there would be no individuality and we as individuals would lack purpose.

            Serena Williams continued to pursue her dream of tennis even though many people “felt her black body didn’t belong on their court.” Serena’s hardships resulted in quick fixes for the future, including the addition of the Hawkeye. Rankine stated that this new technology “took the seeing away from the beholder”; A phrase which alludes to the common saying“beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Rankine phrases it this way because it takes away some of the power from the umpire and makes it more difficult for outlandish calls to be made against Serena Williams.

Rankine focuses on Serena Williams besides the fact that she is a Black woman but because she is an athlete. Rankine has an understanding that athletes were the ones who were able to break the boundaries of race to become famous and successful, regardless of the color of their skin or the background they are against. Rankine even alludes to the past when Black people were considered property:


While putting forward the arug-
ment that one needs to be white to be truly successful, 
he adds, in an aside, that this might not work for blacks
because if “a n-gger paints a flower it becomes a slavery 
flower, flower de Amistad,” thereby intimating that any
relationship between the white view and the black artist
immediately becomes one between white persons and 
black property.

            Lastly, Rankine includes one last photograph in this Serena Williams section: an image of a famous white tennis player who stuffed her bra and butt with towels to imitate Serena. This photograph describes how the public had wanted a white woman with the same amount of talent as Serena, yet Serena never stopped being her best and being one of the greatest Black women Americans have ever seen. The photograph encapsulates the injusticeSerena has had to face in her career and why she was “traumatized by the aggression” in the sport she loved.

How I Came to be an English Major

At age 3, I almost made my mother faint by reading the word “zoom” off of a billboard with no assistance needed from her. That’s basically when my parents knew reading would be the biggest part of my life. My parents were not big readers, unless you count the Bible my father had on his bedside table. My mother has always been my biggest support system when it came to my love of reading. She would buy me YA books whenever she could and eventually started her own journey in avid reading because of me. The importance of reading started the day my parents adopted me.

My parents would read me a book every night without fail because they believed it would make me more intelligent. However, they only read me old nursery rhymes and the Berenstain Bears. Besides my child level books, we didn’t have many other books in the house. My father didn’t have the attention span to read anything but the Bible and my mom was too busy taking care of me. I was formally taught how to read in my Catholic school. When I came home one night and read perfectly out of a textbook, my mother cried tears of joy. From that day, she began to take me to a library nearby where she and I would stay and look at books for hours.

After my classmates and I were taught how to read, we were then allowed to go to our school library. The library was separated into two sections: one for the elementary school children and one for the middle schoolers. We had reading quizzes we had to take, and the school realized that I was far above the rest of my peers and allowed me to read in the other section. Something I had prided myself on in elementary school was being allowed to read books in the “big kid section” years before anyone else my age. The thing that piqued my interest in reading the most were the Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books. These were the books that made me want to write and read more. These were dark enough to please my soul and much more of a challenge for me to read, which I enjoyed. Needless to say, a lot of my friends quickly became concerned about me once they realized what I enjoyed reading.

As I got older, I was officially diagnosed with chronic depression and generalized anxiety. I had poor mental health my whole life but wasn’t recognized until I was in high school. Once in high school, I proceeded to start writing my own stories. Most of them were short and primitive with such dark themes that it worried my religious peers. Most were about my life and trying to personify my depression while others were dark twists on fantasy creatures like mermaids.

My early writing was terrible. Because of my mental illnesses not allowing me to focus, I would jump from one subject to the next in my stories and nothing ever made sense. For obvious reasons, this infuriated me and resulted in never finishing a single story I have ever written. This annoying habit has even followed me into academic papers where I will have to go back into my paper and add a paragraph or two. With time and patience, I’ve learned how to work my habit so it no longer hinders me.

Once I started college, I tried to give up my love of reading and writing. I was told by many people in my life that pursuing a degree in something like that would only serve to be a waste of money and time. I started as a computer science major, which ultimately made me more depressed. I didn’t go to a single class for months because my interest in my major wasn’t there. By the end of summer semester 2016, I was kicked out of college for my awful GPA. In those two semesters I was kicked out, I had absolutely no responsibility or job. I had a lot of time to look inside myself and analyze what went wrong and what I can change to be better.

In the summer of 2017, I lived in Michigan for 3 months to work before returning to college in the fall. While in Michigan, I picked my passion of reading up again with newfound friends who shared my love. The book that really brought me back was Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. I ate that book up within a week and regained that feeling of the real world melt from around me and the book come to life in my head. I decided to be selfish and change my major, even if it didn’t make as much money as my previous major.

There isn’t a second I regret switching majors. I regained a piece of who I am and became happier to go to class. Being happier in my major and life overall gave me the confidence to apply to write for the Odyssey here at Kennesaw State, which I have now been writing for since September of 2017. I began to actively try to expand my vocabulary in my free time and gained an amazing support system. My mother expresses how proud she is of me each and every day. My boyfriend expresses his interest in my major by learning along with me and always boosting my confidence when I allow him to read what I’ve written.

I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my major. Initially, it was to teach, but now I’m minoring in professional writing. However, the courses for my major interest me and make me excited for the future. My support system continues to push me on difficult days when I need it most as well. All of these things are the only proof I need to know that I am on the right track for my life and future.

The Masquerade Should Be Your Next Concert Venue

The Masquerade’s Purgatory stage, which smells of old antiques and is dimly lit with gothic chandeliers, is an incredibly intimate location for a concert. The Masquerade is located in downtown Atlanta near the capitol building and Five Points, which makes it pretty easy to locate. Grafitti decorates the entire way there and even the parking deck. The walk from the parking deck down to where the stage is located is full of dimly lit brick walls and brick arched entryways.

The Masquerade has been around since 1989 and has recently moved from their old location, which is the feature image of this post. It’s housed artists such as Nirvana and Radiohead, so it’s a fairly reputable venue for a concert to be held. The Masquerade holds about 500 shows per year, ranging from popular bands to smaller bands.

My friend and I got there about thirty minutes early and observed their security team check bags, pockets and jackets to make sure everyone would be safe during the concert.

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The entrance to the Purgatory stage.

All of the staff members were incredibly friendly and were all working hard to make sure that it turned out to be a fun and safe night for everyone. They even continuously walked by double and triple checking to make sure everyone was okay and excited for the night to start as we waited for the doors to open. The Purgatory stage is only one of their three stages; the other two stages are named Heaven and Hell. The stages can hold as many as 1,000 people.

Walking into the Purgatory stage felt like walking into another dimension. From the brick and glass doors we had seen outside, inside was all black with fake candles and antique-looking lightbulbs strung from the ceiling. We all shoved our way to the stage, getting as close as humanly possible to where the musicians would soon stand. The first act came out, a small Atlanta-based artist called I The Victor. As they played, it became apparent that all of the musicians and staff acted as though they were a family. The musicians would ask us to give a round of a applause to staff members for working so hard at putting all of this together and even asked us to buy one of the staff a drink since it was his birthday. I have been to two previous concerts in my life yet this concert reverberated so much positive energy from every single person.

The next act was a rapper from Texas named De’Wayne Jackson. He got personal with the crowd by telling us his hardships he’s gone through and how he took a chance by moving from Texas to LA. He told us how our society is going through a lot of hardships and that we need to band together to keep an open mind and open heart. It was an incredibly positive and personal experience while he was onstage. While he performed, we could see the staff hard at work making sure everything was perfect. They were bringing water bottles to the performers onstage, taking photos and videos, attending the merchandise booths and helping people find the bathrooms. Most importantly, we could see a man upstairs controlling the lights for each performer, making the concert experience even cooler.

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The stage inside.

During the time it took to switch acts, the gothic chandeliers would turn back on, allowing us to see the room better. Posters of bands and singers that most likely played at The Masquerade encased the walls around us. There was a small digital clock near the stage where Pac-Man and some ghosts would run across from time to time. In the back of the room were two merchandise booths for all of the acts and the exit door. To the right of the stage was the bar, which was always being attended. Staff stood by the walls and doors, ready to help on a moments notice. It was truly a fantastic venue for a concert.

The last artist to perform before the main act came out was a band called Chapel. While we all came for the main act, each artist that performed leading up to it were all incredibly friendly, energetic, and involved. When I say involved, I mean that every single act told us to either sing along with them or dance like crazy with them or even repeat Vine references with them. Thanks to being in such a small room with a small set made it easy for the musicians to interact with us personally and made it an even better experience.

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The singer, Cody Carson, for the band Set It Off.

Finally, the main act came one: a rock band called Set It Off. The singer, Cody Carson, crowd surfed about five separate times and was able to do it safely, thanks to the diligent staff members. I didn’t know the band very well but quickly learned that they’re all incredibly positive souls that encouraged everyone to be their true and raw selves and to spread positivity in that room and in the world. It was a great band to witness live. After losing our hearing to the concert and screaming our lungs out for an encore, we all filed out of the room. We met with the opening acts and expressed how much we enjoyed them and even got some photos. Surprisingly, getting out of the Purgatory stage wasn’t hectic or full of pushing people out of the way. It was calm and quick and, before we realized it, we were outside and ready to go home.

This was my first time attending a concert at The Masquerade and after experiencing this, it definitely will not be my last concert. It was a personal, safe, energetic, positive, and fun experience that I would recommend to any concert lover. It’s actually pretty difficult to find anything bad about it.