About the Book

Book Protagonist: Patrick Bateman
Publication Date: 1991
Genre: Horror

Historical Context

American Psycho

By Bret Easton Ellis

In 'American Psycho,' Patrick blames the societal pressure to look and act perfect as a catalyst for his insanity.

American Psycho‘ is a novel with an ever-green relevance in literature. It brutally uncovers the problems of a materialistically decadent society and shows how bad a person who enters the deepest depths of capitalism can get. Set in late 1980s New York City, the story follows the life of Patrick Bateman, an investment banker on Wall Street. The novel dissects Patrick’s mentality systematically, showing how much of a psychopath he is and how he covers his deepest darkest desires with a flashy and lavish lifestyle.

Historical Context

‘American Psycho’ is set in the 1980s, when Wall Street was at its peak performance. With a booming economy created by the policies of President Ronald Reagan, capitalism expanded beyond what anyone could have imagined. Companies sprang up, and there was an excess of products targeting the public. Bret Easton Ellis centered his novel on the rise in consumer-focused organizations and how a materialistic-focused society creates fragmented minds. 

As the economy of the United States boomed, it would have been impossible to escape the never-ending stream of goods and services entering the market. Thus a person who defined themselves by what they owned at that point could have developed personality issues.

Relevance of American Psycho in Pop Culture

Set in a time when pop culture started gaining ground in the United States, ‘American Psycho‘ holds relevance in today’s world. From the critique of musicians like Whitney Houston and Phil Collins to featuring actors like Tom Cruise, the novel dives into American music and culture. Its film adaptation starring Christian Bale remains popular decades after its release. 

Though the story and film tried showing the evil aspects of toxic masculinity, in recent times, some people have begun praising Patrick Bateman, holding him in high standing as a sigma male. According to some, Patrick is a character that does not conform to the societal standards of how one should behave. He got seen as the victim and not the antagonist. The victim broke under the enormous pressure of being a man in a highly competitive world that does not bother about who lives or dies.

Relevance in Literature

American Psychois a crucial novel in American literature. Many praise its take on society and see it as a modern classic. Though some cited the excessive violence towards women in the story, others disagree that it is a misogynistic piece of literature and claim it is a crucial work that explains issues the American society faces.

From the objectification of women to violence, pornography, and excessive consumerism, the story holds up a mirror, showing humanity how bad it has let itself become. It warns about the dangers of fragmented minds living in a world without help and portrays how bad things can get when people get forced to accept their deepest darkest selves in the strive to feel wanted.

Cultural Context

The story of ‘American Psycho’ occurs in a broken world where drugs, sex, and violence are rampant. It shows the hypocrisy of people who publicly declare their love for humanity, but belittle, brutalize, and mock others. With its depiction of obsession, torture, horror, and cannibalism, it mirrors the real world, showing a dark future for a society that mindlessly praises consumerism.

Adaptation and Awards

‘American Psycho’ got adapted by director Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner into a movie. It starred Christian Bale as the protagonist Patrick Bateman, Jared Leto as Paul Allen, William Dafoe as Detective Donald Kimball, Justin Theroux as Timothy Bryce, Reese Witherspoon as Evelyn Williams, and Stephen Bogaert as Harold Carnes. It followed the narrative of Manhattan investment banker Patrick as he went down a dark path of murder and torture. 

After killing Paul, Detective Donald visits Patrick and questions him. Bateman then goes on a killing spree, ending the lives of Christie and Elizabeth. He then goes on the run as a police chase ensues. Patrick leaves a voicemail for his lawyer confessing to all his crimes. However, he later learns Paul Allen is not dead; this forces him to become an unreliable narrator as he doubts his sanity.

After its release, American Psycho’ got nominated for many awards and won two, the Chlotrudis Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor.


What genre is American Psycho?

‘American Psycho’ is a yuppie satire novel. It follows the life of Patrick Bateman, a hollow Manhattan investment banker, who kills his colleague Paul Owen and becomes a serial killer.

What happened after American Psycho’s release?

After Bret’s novel release, many feminists stated the novel was misogynistic and supported violence against women. The backlash was so much that the book’s publisher Simon & Schuster dropped it. However, Vintage took it.

What happened to Courtney and Bethany in American Psycho?

Patrick brutally murdered Bethany after sleeping with her. He tortured, raped, and dismembers her. He did nothing to Courtney.

What is a quote from American Psycho?

Here is a famous quote from ‘American Psycho.’There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.

Joshua Ehiosun
About Joshua Ehiosun
Joshua is an undying lover of literary works. With a keen sense of humor and passion for coining vague ideas into state-of-the-art worded content, he ensures he puts everything he's got into making his work stand out. With his expertise in writing, Joshua works to scrutinize pieces of literature.
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