American Psycho Book Summary

American Psycho Summary. American Psycho Book is a novel by American writer Bret Easton Ellis, published in 1991. The story is told in the first-person by Patrick Bateman, a wealthy, narcissistic, vain Manhattan investment banker who supposedly lives a double life as a serial killer. Alison Kelly of The Observer notes that while "some countries [deem it] so potentially disturbing that it can only be sold shrink-wrapped", "critics rave about it" and "academics revel in its transgressive and postmodern qualities".

A film adaptation starring Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman was released in 2000 to generally favorable reviews. Producers David Johnson and Jesse Singer developed a musical adaptation[ for Broadway. The musical premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London in December 2013.

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American Psycho Summary

American Psycho Summary

American Psycho takes place during the 1980s. It is divided into 60 short chapters. At the novel’s start, the narrator and protagonist, New York stockbroker Patrick Bateman, attends a dinner party hosted by his fiancée, Evelyn. He suspects that she is cheating on him with a work colleague, Timothy Price. Bateman’s relationship with Evelyn is vacuous and defined by appearances. The next day Price and two other acquaintances go to a bar and an expensive restaurant, where they discuss fashion and women. They head to a club where they take cocaine. Bateman goes on a date with a woman who is not his fiancée and starts to have increasingly violent, compulsive thoughts.

In Chapters 9-20, Bateman’s violent thoughts increasingly spill over into real life. He returns some blood-spattered clothes to a drycleaner. This is clearly the result of a murder he has committed. He goes on to brutally assault a homeless man, stabbing him in the stomach and eyes. Bateman tells his colleagues and various women he sees, including Evelyn, about his psychopathic desires and fantasies, and even how he has murdered people. But none of them listen. On top of this, and influenced by his massive drug consumption, he starts to lose his grip on reality. He has blackouts and wakes up not knowing where he is. He also has out of body experiences, where time and the external world become transformed or distorted. 

In Chapters 21-28, Bateman tries to kill Luis, the boyfriend of a woman he is having an affair with, Courtney. However, Luis mistakes Bateman’s attempt to strangle him as a sexual come-on and reveals that he has desires for Bateman, to the latter’s horror. When Luis confesses his love for Bateman in a shop, Bateman threatens him with a knife. Meanwhile, Bateman’s acts of violence escalate. He kills a gay man and his dog, and assaults and abuses two sex workers. Bateman lures a drunk colleague, Paul Owen, back to his apartment. He then murders him with an ax, before disposing of the body with lime. Bateman breaks into Owen’s apartment to change the message on his answering machine and create the false impression that Owen is going to London.

In Chapters 29-40, the frequency and brutality of Bateman’s violence intensifies. He meets an ex-girlfriend from university, Bethany, for lunch and knocks her unconscious when she goes back to his apartment. He nails her hands to a wooden plank with a nail gun and kills her by sawing off her arm. He kills another woman by electrocuting her and murders a five-year-old child at the zoo by stabbing his neck. In addition, he murders two sex workers in his apartment using acid and a drill. These murders leave Bateman with an ever-increasing sense of despair and emptiness.

A private investigator, Donald Kimball, shows up at Bateman’s office. He asks Bateman questions regarding Paul Owen’s disappearance and suspects that something is awry. In Chapters 41-60, Bateman’s psychosis accelerates. He finally breaks up with Evelyn and sends her a box with flies in it for Valentine’s Day. He claims to have killed a woman using a rat and to have tried eating her body, as well as having concealed a machine gun in the locker at his gym. However, the veracity of many of these stories is called into doubt when a colleague at a party reveals that he had lunch with Paul Owen, the man Bateman supposedly murdered, in London 10 days ago. The extent of Bateman’s psychosis is evident at the novel’s end. This is when he admits that cash machines have been talking to him.

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American Psycho Book Themes

  • Excess and Consumerism: Patrick Bateman, the novel's protagonist, embodies the excesses of 1980s Wall Street culture. His life revolves around materialism, designer labels, and conspicuous consumption, highlighting the potential for emptiness and alienation within a culture obsessed with wealth and status.
  • Violence and Deshumanization: The graphic depictions of violence in the book are a disturbing exploration of human capacity for cruelty and the dehumanization of others. Bateman's detachment from his actions raises questions about morality, sanity, and the influence of a hyper-competitive environment.
  • Identity and Performance: Bateman's meticulously crafted persona hides a dark and chaotic inner world. The novel explores the concept of constructed identity and the lengths people go to maintain a facade of normalcy, particularly in the face of societal pressures and expectations.
  • Gender and Masculinity: The portrayal of hypermasculinity and toxic masculinity in Bateman is a critique of traditional gender roles and expectations. The novel exposes the destructive nature of these stereotypes and their potential to fuel violence and aggression.
  • Media and Pop Culture: Bateman's fixation on music, movies, and celebrity culture reflects the pervasive influence of media in shaping his worldview and desires. The novel critiques the superficiality and shallowness of popular culture and its potential to influence behavior and perceptions.
  • Class and Privilege: The story takes place within the privileged world of Wall Street, exposing the dark underbelly of wealth and social status. Bateman's unchecked actions and sense of entitlement highlight the dangers of unchecked power and the potential for privilege to breed contempt and disregard for human life.

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Questions and Answers about American Psycho Plot

What is the American Psycho book about? Set during the Wall Street boom of the 1980s, American Psycho follows the life of Patrick Bateman – callous investment banker by day, deranged psycho killer by night. The book describes Bateman's exploits in such graphic detail that it barely made it to publication.

What is the main idea of the book American Psycho? Themes. According to literary critic Jeffrey W. Hunter, American Psycho is largely a critique of the "shallow and vicious aspects of capitalism". The characters are predominantly concerned with material gain and superficial appearances, traits indicative of a postmodern world in which the 'surface' reigns supreme.

What is the overall message of American Psycho? American Psycho explores the inherent violence of corporate greed, using Patrick Bateman's sadistic acts as a metaphor for the callousness of Wall Street. The film's ambiguous ending signifies Bateman's moral awakening, as he tries to hold himself accountable for his actions while those around him remain indifferent.

Is American Psycho all in his head? Writer and The L Word actress Guinevere Turner has also been adamant that the American Psycho ending explained that Bateman was the killer all along. While it's true that Patrick is experiencing delusions and hallucinations, it doesn't mean that the murders are in his head.

Was American Psycho all a dream? Patrick Bateman's crimes were not a dream, at least not all of them, instead, the real message that both Herron and Eston Ellis wanted to convey was that a man of such social status could literally get away with murder.

Why is American Psycho banned? His transgressive third novel, 'American Psycho', was the one that truly propelled him into the spotlight. Upon its release, it was widely condemned as being too graphically violent, outright misogynistic and got him labelled as a sadist.

Why do people like American Psycho? The fact that the world around him laughs or even acts complicit when the protagonist confesses his crimes makes this story one of the best critiques of the depravity of the business world. Because this is how Bret Easton Ellis meant his book to be understood: as a great metaphor.

Is American Psycho hard to read? Ellis's 400-page novel is by no means an easy, fun read, and it starts the same way it ends: ambiguous. When going into the novel, the reader knows the main character is Bateman, but the first few pages put us in a state of confusion.

Is American Psycho Based on a true story? No, American Psycho is not a true story.

What happens at the end of the American Psycho? After Bateman confesses all of his crimes, he returns to Allen's apartment but finds no traces of any of his murders and the property put up for sale. Confused, he meets colleagues for lunch and bumps into his lawyer who took his confession for a practical joke.

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