With intense action-filled scenes, great dialogue, excellent characters, and an intricately designed storyline, ‘American Psycho‘ has become an undisputed modern classic of American literature. Since its publication, it has attracted many critiques who have expressed a stunning similarity between the society created by Bret Easton Ellis in his fictional world and that of the modern real world. Though the novel split its audience, it is undoubtedly one of the most critical stories about American society, capitalism, and consumerism.
‘American Psycho’ tells the story of investment banker Patrick Bateman as he struggles to gain control over his dark desires. Narrated from Patrick’s point of view, the book shows how a decadent and consumerism-focused society forces Bateman to begin seeking an avenue to express himself. Unable to emotionally connect with any human, Patrick gives in to his dark desires and becomes a serial killer.
He captures, tortures, rapes, and kills many, including homeless people, Paul Owen, Bethany, Christie, Elizabeth, a five-year-old child, and some prostitutes. With each kill, he plunges deeper into madness, and when no one listens to his confession, he goes on a rampage, killing strangers. Unable to help himself further, Patrick confesses all his crimes to his lawyer Harold Carnes. However, he gets shocked when he learns he never killed Paul Owen.
The story of ‘American Psycho’ is a peculiar one. The author uses the first-person perspective to give the reader a front seat in the protagonist’s mind. Then as the story progresses, the reader gets forced to witness Patrick’s degrading sanity.
With each chapter that passes, Patrick confesses he is nothing but a shell and repeatedly tells the reader how much he feels like killing someone. Then the story places the reader at the center of the brutal tortures and murders Patrick performs. Like a cinematic masterpiece, one gets forced to witness how elated Bateman feels with every kill he makes. The story forces its reader to become an unwilling witness to a crime.
Another crucial aspect of Bret’s novel is the alternating tone of the story. When Patrick is not committing a crime, the story seems slow-paced, panned-out, and borderline boring; this is to show how dragged out the protagonist feels his life is. Then when the tortures and murders begin, the story lights up, as if a spark gets ignited in Patrick.
At the climax, Bateman feels like he is in a Hollywood blockbuster showing how much he wants to be the center of the action. The story forces the reader to witness and experience the protagonist’s emotions as he scampers to safety.
Though ‘American Psycho’ made its characters stereotypically uninteresting, some may say it was intentional. In a world where materialistic value matters more than personality, robotic-dressing and sounding individuals become the norm; this is the case for most of the characters in the novel. Patrick Bateman, his friends, and his colleagues are all one-dimensional people who value nothing else but their status, possession, and image.
Most of Patrick’s friends and colleagues look and dress like him, and the women seem to act the same. The only breath of individuality portrayed in the novel came from characters like Christie and Jean. Also, the minor characters seemed more mentally and emotionally stable than the primary characters. Though Christie and Jean were nobodies according to Wall Street standards, they had more depth than the mindless people they worked with and for.
Though ‘American Psycho’ had good dialogues, the best took place in Patrick’s mind. Most of the time, he conversed with himself in a manner that seemed like he was talking to someone, the reader. Patrick makes several internal dialogues about his inner desire to mutilate people, to feel something, and to be human.
He expressed intense anger at society for being unable to see his pain, and he justified his crimes by stating he wanted others to feel how bad he felt. The conversations between Bateman and himself, or the reader, showed how desperate he needed a person who could sympathize with him.
‘American Psycho’ features grotesque action and violence. Throughout the story, Patrick indulges in torturing and murdering people. With each action scene, there is a very delicate and detailed description of the events that occur. It is as if Bateman wants the reader to visualize and enjoy what he is doing.
When he goes on a rampage, Patrick gets chased by cops, and the world becomes a Hollywood blockbuster. He gets chased by a helicopter but miraculously escapes. The intense focus and description of the action scenes in the novel created a divide among readers. Years later, Bret Easton admitted he wrote ‘American Psycho’ loosely inspired by his life but was too scared to admit it because of how much backlash the brutality of the violence portrayed was.
After the novel’s climax, Patrick meets his lawyer Harold Carnes but gets the surprise of a lifetime; Paul Owen is alive. With such a conclusion, the reader begins doubting everything Bateman claimed he did, as he becomes an unreliable source of information. One may conclude that he was imagining everything and that none of the murders occurred.
American Psycho: Unsettling Brilliance
Lasting Effect on Reader
American Psycho Review
‘American Psycho’ is a novel that follows the life of Patrick Bateman, a Manhattan investment banker. With a knack for materialistic vanities, Patrick starts thinking about killing and torturing people. After he meets a colleague, Paul Owen, he lures him to his home, where he brutally murders him. From then, a serial killer gets born.
- The story is refreshing and well-constructed.
- The sense of detail in fashion is impeccable.
- The climax is incredible.
- The story places the reader at the center of the action.
- The book is very violent.
- Not suitable for people with a fear of blood, death, and torture.
- Depicts cruel scenes of rape and mutilation.
- The characters may appear one-dimensional.