American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is a darkly comic, intensely shocking, and startlingly contemporary psychological thriller. Through a combination of exaggerated satire and increased realism, Ellis exposes the materialistic and hedonistic universe of Wall Street and its inhabitants.
The book was universally condemned upon its release and continues to outwardly repulse and divide readers to this day.
The plot follows the life of Patrick Bateman, a wealthy Wall Street banker in the late 1980s. As the novel progresses, Bateman spirals into a depraved and violent state of mind, slipping in and out of reality in pursuit of pleasure and gratification.
Ellis cleverly conveys the mundane and often overdramatic nature of daily life in a high-end professional environment, juxtaposing the corrupt corporate culture with Bateman’s chaotic inner monologue.
The characters in American Psycho are largely portrayed as empty and lifeless, existing only to satisfy their own selfish desires. Character arcs are largely absent and characters themselves are only briefly developed.
Patrick Bateman, the main character, is an embodiment of insecurity and narcissism, constantly comparing himself to others while finding fault with himself and everyone else.
Other characters in the novel include Patrick’s highly competitive colleagues, his uninterested fiancee, and a handful of nameless sexual partners.
Bret Easton Ellis’s writing style is characterized by a sharp-edged satire mixed with undertones of intense realism. His use of often dark and disturbing imagery forces readers to confront the emptiness and depravity of materialistic culture, while still making use of humor and comedy.
The author also employs a stream-of-consciousness writing style, along with frequent shifts in timeline, in order to illustrate Patrick’s deepening mental state.
By providing an unflinching and sometimes controversial look at the seedy underbelly of a life of wealth and privilege, Bret Easton Ellis creates an eerily relatable book that is sure to stay with readers long after they have finished it.