When Henry, Francis, Charles and Camilla are reconstructing a Greek rite herein called the Bacchanal, a man is murdered. This is the absence of Bunny. However, later on Bunny discovers what had happened and uses it to blackmail, extract money from them and torment them. The situation gets out of hand when Bunny in a drunken state mumbles about it and they decide to kill him. They therefore wait for him and Henry throws him down a cliff while he is out jogging.
This murder is the conflict of the novel. It torments each one of the five characters. They feel they would have helped the situation otherwise. A fight ignites between the twins, Francis starts suffering panic attacks and Charles worsens as a drunk to the point of being admitted to hospital. The murder of their comrade makes them feel further imprisoned by their guilt than they were by fear of being discovered. Their lives change. After the funeral, which they attend, their teacher Julian, gets to read a letter that had been addressed to him by Bunny requesting for his intervention. This discovery makes him run from Camden College in fear, an act Henry translates as that of fear.
The setting of Camden plays a role in passing the message. First, the teachers seem dependent to make their own decisions on how best to teach their students. Even worse, they are allowed to choose the number of students and select them as they deem fit. This enables fro the formation of a society within a society as is the case with Julian’s Greek classic class. This of course enables for a few characters to be selected by the author so that they are just enough to pass her message.
The central theme of the novel is that of the Greek culture. It is the only way Richard is able to join the Greek Classic class for which he has interest. Indeed, his only interest is to get absorbed into this group and engage in activities such as their own. His slight knowledge of the Greek Culture for which he has studied formerly for two years helps him to get the attention of the Greek students for whom he has a lot of attraction. More still. We attend classes together with the students. We overhear classes about the works of Plato and his followers, Homer and Alexander. Of most importance, I think, is the first class that Richard attends. The teacher says that one way to lose the aspect of self is through love. He adds that this path is unreliable as in this case, the self is lost for the sake of someone else and one becomes prisoner of the other. This is however the path some of them choose when things get dull after the death of Bunny and the disappearance of their teacher.
The conflict of the bacchanal ritual which the group attempted to perform in the and in the process killed a farmer. It causes them to break the confidence for each other. They eventually kill one of their comrades while trying to cover up the first murder. Worse still, they no longer trust each other as they dive into each other’s personal space. The first murder eventually necessitates a second murder and then Henry’s suicide in an attempt to cover up for Charles.
When Richard gets in Julian’s office for the first time, he describes it as “a beautiful room [with] flowers everywhere, roses and carnations and anemones.” He further points other ornamental habits that are associated with ancient Greek and says that the smell of roses blended in the air with that of Chinese tea bergamot and camphor. He feels intoxicated with the strong smells in the room. He also finds the entire room equipped with beautiful art that was associated with ancient Greek such as porcelains, oriental rugs and tiny paintings. He says the room gave him an impression like he was in one of those “churches that are so plain on the outside; inside, the most paradisal painted eggshell of gilt and tesserae.”
This is a reconstruction of ancient Greek. It is unlike any other place in the current generation. The reconstruction gives the novel a new setting. It gives the novel a partial setting of those times when the works they are studying were being written or developed. The comparison of the office with byzantine churches further confirms this as these churches are mainly decorated in accordance to Greek art.
The entire group is of people who have a sickening air around them. First, they are isolated and are not even to get engaged in other classes. Second, they do not attend classes by other teachers. In his speech, Julian says that “honesty being a dangerous virtue.” Richard also accepts that if there one thing he is gifted at, it is lying on his feet. The entire group on the other hand agrees to keep secrets about the murders they have done. There is however one person who fails in both respects: secrecy and dishonesty. Bunny threatens to use the information about their murder to his advantage. He cannot be trusted with such information. Even worse, he writes to their teacher to inform him about the about the murder through a letter which Julian only discovers after Bunny has been killed and buried.
According to the narrator, the faces of the six narrators were chilling from a modern people’s perspective. He argues that had Henry claimed that the Greek class can take Camden town, the teacher would have called for a psychologist in five minutes. This further shows how the class has been transformed with time to be much similar to the Greeks than they are to people of their own times and age.
The group may not be viewed as students only. They go beyond learning in this class; they are absorbed into the Greek society in various ways. They no longer think the same way with other students. Their learning methods are different too. And learning too is not work to them either. It is “the most glorious kind of play.” They are therefore, alienated from their peers. This is because they would not agree on various issues, because the teacher would not appreciate their socializing, and finally, partly because they have secrets they need to keep. The people at Camden do not want to be associated with those from the Greek class. They find them as full of flaws.
Thesis question: How is the Greek culture appreciated by both the entire college and the Greek class students.
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