This character study focuses on is Patrick Bateman, the anti-hero protagonist of “American Psycho”, an often misunderstood satire of the upper class American lifestyle by Bret Easton Ellis. The book is set in New York in the 1980s, and let the reader see through the eyes of the protagonist himself by using first narrative. Therefore when reading the novel it feels as if one is reading a diary, although there are no strict time intervals between each chapter. The storyline is very simple. The novel depicts the everyday life of Patrick Bateman with every minute detail.
We are put right into a typical scene of Bateman’s life straightaway at the start when we see him and his friends at a posh dinner party. Immediately we get the idea that he is very rich and lives his life in style. The foods at the dinner party are exotic and Bateman couldn’t help keep showing off his “platinum American Express Card”. Like his friends, he loves to mock homeless people and those less fortunate than him. One of his favourite tricks is to pretend handing a dollar note to a beggar and then taking it away in the last second whilst taking pleasure from the disappointment of his victim.
He also possesses some good qualities. For example, he is extremely intelligent and shows disgust in discrimination of any kind, provided that those people are on the same “level” as him. He even ridiculed a colleague for his anti-Semitic comments. However these good qualities are actually a fai?? ade, hiding his true personality. Contrary to what appears, he is strongly homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic and unfair to women. This can be demonstrated by his opinion of rap music, describing it as “too niggerish”. His views on women were “they are only there to help men carry on the human race”.
Patrick Bateman is also very health conscious. Except for an occasional cigar, he does not smoke and loathes others who do. He also imposes a strict healthy foods regime on himself. His regime is somewhat similar to a vegan’s. He eats mostly fruit and almost never meat, with a special emphasis on exotic foods. His favourites include kiwi fruit paste and Japanese apple-pears, costing him an inordinate amount for each. To complement his dietary regime, Bateman frequently utilizes his exclusive, private health centre named Xclusive.
Furthermore, he uses a wide range of health care products and medicines. These are actually Ellis’ exaggeration of what happens in real life, where the social elites desperately try and keep themselves healthy, with any means possible. During the day Bateman can be seen as a normal upper class person, but during the night things are completely different. When asked about what he does during the night, he replies “I have to return some video tapes”. This has become the euphemism of his night-time activities. At night, he indulges himself in murdering innocents and raping unfortunate individuals.
Sometimes the shock of doing these things gets to him, and he starts to have panic attacks. It’s during these panic attacks we see really how weak he is. He often confesses his crimes to total strangers. However they always ignore him and think it’s a joke. This, combined with how characters in the book often mistakes one person for another, is Ellis’ way of representing how in the modern world we don’t really care about who we are talking to. One thing that cannot be ignored about the novel is how explicit it is.
Rapes, murders and grotesque actions are described with nothing left out. For example, in one of the scenes Patrick Bateman drinks his own urine and in another scene, he cuts out the eyes of a homeless person. To give you an idea of what the language is like, here’s an extract from the book: “I push the serrated blade into its [a dog’s] stomach and quickly slice open its hairless belly in a squirt of brown blood, its legs kicking and clawing at me, then blue and red intestines bulge out and I drop the dog onto the sidewalk….
He [the owner] just stare in horror saying ‘oh my god oh my god’ as the sharpei drags itself around in a circle, its tail wagging, squealing, and it starts licking and sniffing the pile of its own intestines, spilled out in a mound on the sidewalk, some still connected to its stomach. ” From this you can see how graphical the book is. Unfortunately this is only a small piece of the whole story and this extract is the most weak in terms of disgust in the book. This simply enforces the idea of how demented and psychotic Patrick Bateman is.
The irony of the novel is that Bateman does completely opposite things whilst insisting what he does is always right. For example, he often mocks his colleagues for making discriminatory comments, but he is secretly just as discriminatory. While he outlandishly keeps himself fit and healthy, he abuses cocaine and anti-depressants. This is the core of Ellis’ satire, where he makes fun of the upper class, which insists on their perfection but actually is ignorant on how imperfect they are. Also in the novel Bateman dedicates a single chapter plus many parts of other chapters detailing his material wealth.
Also he tirelessly compares his belongings to those of someone else. Indeed in one scene he discovered that another person’s business card was of a better quality and design than his and thus started to have intense jealousy for that person. This can be interpreted as Ellis’ satire directed at the greed of humans and our desperate struggle to have the best of everything. After he commits his final murder, Bateman does not feel good and “high” as he described it. Instead, he feels nothing. Not even killing can satisfy him now.
It is astounding how he was never suspected of any of the numerous murders he committed. At the end we discover that he may have imagined all his acts of atrocity. This deliberate ambiguity is the only mercy Ellis has for this truly evil character. Despite this, I pity Patrick Bateman, for he tried to find pleasure, like we all do but in other ways, and failing to do so. In the end, he is left “hollow” with no emotion left whatsoever. It’s pitiful how one can become mentally deranged on one’s quest for personal gain.