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Is 'American Psycho' Misogynistic?

Reviewing Literature in the Trump and #Metoo Age

Can it be a coincidence that the year in which Donald Trump infamously made remarks uncovering his explicit misogyny was also the year American Psycho was published, the protagonist of which being known for uncompromising idolisation of the now political, presidential figure? Whilst this information has only recently been uncovered by global media, the existence of such prevalent and rampant misogyny calls into question the relevance of literature in educating the masses, and therefore the responsibility of Bret Easton Ellis in his divisive novel, American Psycho. To be unaware of Ellis’ seminal novel is to be unaware of one of the most controversial cultural and literary phenomena of the late twentieth century. The extent of the enraged criticism of the novel began at conception of publishing, with Simon & Schuster citing ‘aesthetic differences’ for the split in contract, leading to publicity for such a divisive novel pre-publication. This outrage over the novel’s content was merely the start—replicated and exacerbated particularly by feminist groups and activists, including Gloria Steinem and the National Organization for Women, American Psycho became infamous for the leaked passages of the protagonist Patrick Bateman’s graphic murderous rampages and undeniably severe misogyny. Following full publication, whilst the severity of contemporaneous criticism remained, outrage dimmed. This suggests that, while passages in isolation were horrifying accounts that glorified the patriarchal and consumerist male at the expense of women, in context, the message of the novel is far different. Ellis himself states that the novel to him is about the ‘dandification of the American male,’ focusing therefore upon the disillusionment of men and reaction to growing cultural narcissism and materialism during the apex of American capitalism.

The maturation of the novel saw yet another barrage of contemporary criticism, notably Fay Weldon’s article in The Guardian which, while not explicitly critical, preaches refraining from reading the novel, for she ‘did it for you.’ Conversely, critic Julian Murphet in his A Reader’s Guide provided further thought, rejecting Weldon’s stance and quality of argument, and instead suggesting the inclusion of such vile atrocities as necessary to condemn the misogyny of 1980s culture. Feminist critics, including Hélène Cixous and Judith Butler, help provide a narrative that condemns American Psycho as a misogynistic pall preaching unprecedented violence to anonymous females to the masses, such as Ellis’ manipulation of names of characters, and the presentation of female identity throughout the novel. However, the existence of the precision of the violence, rape, abuse, and misogyny present acts in a different format: by evoking a sense of moral righteousness within the reader because they are so far from Bateman, highlights the ongoing societal problems which are perpetuated and exacerbated by patriarchal power. Ellis puts forth the argument that Bateman is merely a satirised, hyperbolic version of the everyman, forcing the readership to question the relativity of their actions in their society, implying everyday sexism is as profound and condemnable as the twisted rapes of Bateman in the hyperrealistic world of American Psycho. Ergo, it can be argued that the novel is fundamentally antithetical to the misogynistic cesspit many critics would have society believe, who themselves converge to become part of the patriarchal problem which Ellis denounces.

The presentation of the protagonist as a highly depraved individual condemns the character’s actions through the developed satirisation of the psychopath in a seemingly familiar society. Ellis’ depiction of Bateman’s one experience as a man appears to represent every female character’s experience in the novel, and thus in the society in which they exist. This use of synecdoche, in which Bateman admits to the reader that he is ‘a ghost’ and ‘something unreal, something not quite tangible, yet still an obstacle of sorts’ introduces two concepts to the reader. Firstly, that Bateman not only serves to represent the yuppie psychopathic male, but also the extent of the female identity, which seems rather ludicrous. The suggestion by Ellis that the female characters can be accurately represented by their abuser, for they are indeed perceived throughout the novel to be merely a ‘thing,’ a ‘girl,’ ‘meat,’ and ‘nothing,’ is absurdly abhorrent. This creates the notion that women are purely defined through their involvement with a man, and the violent and horrific torture they receive, instead of their own identity. Furthermore, this comparison of women to a foreign, ‘ghost’-like entity is continued by Ellis when Bateman muses, ‘her voice [was] reminding me of someone human,’ evoking once more the absurd, for it appears that someone must always be human, yet the view of women is so transgressive that they are perceived to be merely an inhuman ‘thing’. Bateman’s debauched moral purity is used to exemplify his perception of women to be not only something foreign and alien, but also an unknown mystery, when he admits within his inner monologue that ‘as usual, in an attempt to understand these girls I’m filming their deaths.’ The non-sequitur reinforces the absurdity of trying to understand someone by observing their death, thus drawing attention to the existence of gross misogyny, as such an abhorrent figure as Patrick Bateman cannot degrade himself to the extent of attempting to get to know a woman when she is alive and able to show her identity.

However, Ellis’ continued display of Bateman being completely unaware of the intricacies and personalities of the women he abuses, yet his ability to represent them with such accuracy, for they are all ‘a ghost to this man,’ seems extensively incongruous. Such incongruity thus suggests that Bateman has no control over his inextricable link with these women, and that he is also ignored and rejected by his peers, as all he aspires to do is ‘to… fit... in.’ Ellis’ depiction of Bateman not being in control of his attitude introduces the concept of him merely being a product of his society, that he has not chosen to live this way, and simply knows no different, which is exemplified when Bateman remembers ‘when I was fourteen and had raped one of our maids,’ suggesting he must have learned to behave this way as a child. The reader is then arguably forced by Ellis to question the source of such education, concluding that society is vile and misogynistic, and Bateman is both a victim of this, and a psychopathic perpetuator of what he has learned. However, the extent to which Bateman is presented as a villainous, abhorrent character through the horrific levels of detail of the torture, rape, and murder seems impossible, leading the reader to question Ellis’ ability to go beyond society’s ‘acceptable’ level of depravity, which was voiced around the time of publication when the author himself received over thirteen death threats, and the National Organization for Women called for a boycott on the grounds that Ellis had ‘written a how-to novel on the torture and dismemberment of women.’ However, Julian Murphet argues that American Psycho is ‘an act of literature which wants to denounce that very degradation,’ thus suggesting that Bateman merely represents a satirised and grossly hyperbolic version of the misogyny and depravity which actually exists within modern society.

The explicitly transgressive attitude of the characters to prescribed male and female roles firmly cements the prevailing and enduring nature of these views within Bateman and many of the male characters. The entitled, repulsive, almost braggadocious statement that ‘the only reason chicks exist is to get us turned on, like you said’, a comment shared between Hamlin and Bateman, references the agreement, and continues the concept of endurance—that Bateman has always perceived women in this horrendous and objectifying manner. Bateman’s all-consuming aversion to women having a role greater than merely a sex slave, which he continually tries to instigate, is revealed when he begins to lose control when at lunch with his former girlfriend, Bethany. Ellis’ depiction of Bateman’s ‘violent convulsions’ bubbling to the surface of his veneer in response to Bethany paying for lunch, leads to him admitting, ‘The women’s movement. Wow.’—to which he smiles, ‘unimpressed.’ The profound backlash expected of the reader by Bateman’s explicit loathing of women having any power is counteracted somewhat by Ellis’ portrayal of the psychopath as equally subscribing to adhering to a male archetype, for his ‘theory’s always been... men are only here to procreate, to carry on the species,’ thus showing he feels no responsibility and little individual identity because he is so detached from himself and his actions. Ellis suggests that the extent of Bateman’s male disillusionment leads him to consider that neither gender have significant power or identity, and are, thus, equally inferior.

Furthermore, the control of women throughout the novel is depicted through their loss in identity, which Ellis portrays through Bateman’s control and imposition of their names. ‘I don’t know her real name, I haven’t asked, but I told her to respond only when I call her Christie.’ This disregard for upholding even the most basic form of identity exceeds the treatment which many other female characters receive elsewhere in the novel, such as Bateman admitting to himself in the dry cleaners ‘having no idea what her name is I sigh a muted “Hello.” The identity of women is thus diminished to the extent of being unworthy of even a name, whereas the male characters in the novel are always referred to by their full names, or more frequently by their surnames in colloquial conversation. The formality which is attributed even by Bateman to his male associates is indisputable, with respect shown as ‘the group assembled (Richard Perry, Edward Lampert, John Constable, Craig McDermott, Jim Kramer, Lucas Tanner).’The trademark asyndetic listing of Ellis presents Bateman to be obsessed with the names he considers important, however for the reader, to be addressed only by surname evokes a sense of degradation and lack of identity. This conflicting view upon the status of men in American Psycho questions whether men or women have more of an identity, or perhaps once more, Ellis portrays inferiority and subordination to be inherent within both genders, and thus perpetuated by those who suffer from it.

Bateman’s confusion as to the level of identity he attributes to both the men and women around him is indicative of his own severe lack of individual identity, to the extent that he becomes detached from reality. Throughout the novel, Ellis portrays Bateman to be a dominant figure in conversation, with women, at work, and in his menial daily existence, thus his loss in control is far more profound, because of the dichotomy created between the two versions of Patrick Bateman. Robert Coppin argues that by Ellis ‘replacing reality with the hyperreal in an attempt to protect identity and capability for enjoyment, characters are in fact exposing their weaknesses further’, which is further exemplified through the shift in form indicating the holistic nature of the demise of Bateman’s dominance. Whilst the narrative remains in first person for much of the novel, the apparent slip into third person indicates the severe deterioration, as Bateman recalls ‘racing blindly down Greenwich I lose control entirely’, explicitly referring to losing control of the vehicle he has commandeered, yet being implicitly aware of his own breakdown, thus he is detached enough to be able to observe from a seemingly external, yet omniscient perspective. Ellis’ transformation then into third person narrative when describing ‘the cab rolling over fruit stands, smashing through a wall of glass, the body of a cashier thudding across the hood, Patrick tries to put the cab in reverse but nothing happens’. The strange segue into an unprecedented narrative form in the novel highlights the absurdity of the entire chapter, Chase, Manhattan, in which the omission of sentences evokes an idea of Bateman’s stream of consciousness. Whilst hints of this technique are used throughout, it never takes this unrefined, unpolished form, in which the reader might suppose that Bateman is no longer controlling the image he presents of himself, through Ellis’ skilled manipulation of narrative. This severe detachment of Bateman from himself is exemplified later in the novel, when Ellis introduces the idea of the psychopathic protagonist merely playing a role, when Bateman admits ‘this is what being Patrick means to me’. By presenting the murderous, morally and sexually deprave character as merely fulfilling a role suggests that Bateman cannot be held accountable for his actions, thus shifting the responsibility to society. Ellis implies that society is the greater enemy and real harbourer of such extreme and violent misogyny. Whilst the severe levels of abuse in the novel could be described as shocking the reader and wider audience of society into questioning their judgements of gender and violence, such as the abhorrent scene in which Bateman releases a rat into the body of one of his live victims, this severity could be perceived differently. Perhaps Ellis is merely pandering to society’s voyeuristic attitude towards the bizarre and the psychopathic? By describing such depravity in such detail Ellis perpetuates this voyeurism and fuels it by drawing attention to the general public’s hatred, yet obsession with psychopaths. This obsession is also depicted within the novel, as ‘McDermott demands’, ‘“go on...what did he do?”’ when Bateman educates his acquaintances upon the subject of serial killers. In present society this keen, yet bizarre interest, albeit coupled with disgust, in the horrific is exemplified through the popularity of real crime among a plethora of media, and the attention that Bateman’s idol Donald Trump is receiving since the leak and uncovering of his infamously vile and misogynistic words. The case of Michael Hernandez in which he allegedly carried out a brutal murder as a fourteen-year-old taking inspiration from the novel, shows the influence that American Psycho has had on its readership, in only twenty five years of publication, along with the case of the Canadian serial killer Paul Bernardo, who cited the novel as ‘his bible’. By fostering this idea that psychopathic and immensely violent and misogynistic individuals like Patrick Bateman are interesting in their severe depravity, society fuels the few people who may actually behave this way. The possibility of inspiration from the anthropophagic protagonist, not exclusively his murderous violence, but even the everyday misogyny he and many of his associates exhibit, is the most fearful statement.

The severe detachment which Ellis portrays within Bateman, to the extent that he becomes an actor in a role highlights the actual existence of such a role of a deprave misogynist within society. ‘He starts nodding helplessly and I pull out a long, thin knife with a serrated edge, and being very careful not to kill him, push maybe half an inch of the blade into his right eye, flicking the handle up, instantly popping the retina.’ The euphony and almost elegant nature of the lexis Ellis uses reinforces the idea of Bateman merely fulfilling a role, for it seems entirely planned and well-rehearsed. Furthermore, Bateman’s consideration of the torture and murders he commits as an art, exemplifies this notion that his actions are a well-scripted performance. The poetic declarative ‘I linger at the scene, amused by this tableau’, presents Bateman to be in awe of his own destruction of the homeless man he has just brutally tortured, which juxtaposes with his comparison of his female victims. Ellis’ description of the woman Bateman is observing after his rage of torture, ‘her stomach resembles the eggplant and goat cheese lasagna... or some other kind of dog food, the dominant colors are red and white and brown’ creates the juxtaposition and hierarchy within Bateman’s own victim list. Whilst the male victim was subject to an almost artistic form of torture, Bateman degrades the female victim beyond any comprehensible limit, when subjecting her to some of the most abhorrent torture in literature, and then comparing her to food. The extent of the degradation is made clear through Ellis’ omission of a brand name, she is only ‘some other kind of dog food’, which is particularly extreme considering Bateman’s obsession with material items and readiness to articulate the specifics of every brand of every good he owns, ‘on weekends or before a date I prefer to use the Greune Natural Revitalizing Shampoo, the conditioner and the Nutrient Complex. These are formulas that contain D-panthenol, a vitamin-B-complex factor; polysorbate 80, a cleansing agent for the scalp.’ Furthermore, the imagery of the American dream, created through the observation of the colours ‘red and white and brown’ introduces Ellis’ portrayal of a twisted representation of a sullied and dirtied aspiration, suggesting an initial morality, and then downfall into an inescapable abyss of the aforementioned deprave misogyny underpinning the character.

Ellis reiterates this theme of initial perfection and then an inevitable descent through his depiction of Bateman initially trying to present a clean, perhaps moral image. His admonishing tone and objection to the derogatory statements of his associates, provoking him to say ‘It’s not funny... It’s racist,’ presents Bateman in an incongruous light at the start of the novel, as he seems to be morally aware. However this is quickly dispelled when he heckles a homeless man, ‘Go buy some gum, you crazy fucking nigger,’ showing the lack of continuity in his apparent, yet seemingly insincere morality. It could be argued that this moral sensitivity is the true side of Bateman, and that his physically actions, even when alone, are simply further pieces to add to his image —his detailed monologue and desire to film his torture exemplify this concept that he feels constantly under surveillance and judgement, thus, why he continues to behave so abhorrently, when perhaps his real emotions are quite different. His obsession with maintaining an image is articulated by Cojocaru, who argues that Bateman’s ‘desire to fit in is so strong that he imitates the very ideal of the “Everyyuppie,”' to the extent that perhaps his actions are the inverse of his thoughts. This concept, that such violence is used to cover up a morally sincere and just mind shows the absurdity of men at the time of publication. Ellis’ own admittance that he himself was in ‘a place of severe alienation and loneliness and self-loathing. I was pursuing a life... that I knew was bullshit,’ shows the depth of disillusionment and detachment. The depravity and horrific manifestation of misogyny is used to represent the detachment and unhappiness of the male psyche in a materialistic decade.

This severe unhappiness is shown to be avenged in a twisted and illogical manner, through the judgement of women, despite the rampant insecurity of Bateman. Ellis’ portrayal of the protagonist rating the women in his life, ‘Courtney has a slightly better body, Evelyn nicer tits’, shows the consuming obsession for aesthetic perfection, which spreads outside his own body and image, beyond his control. However, it could be argued that Bateman is presented as more of a victim, as he is constantly strained and controlled by the necessity to be perceived as perfection and dominant. Cojocaru argues that ‘Bateman’s overly mimetic being’ is indicated by his reliance upon Price’s judgement of his business card, not the relative or actual quality of it ‘I’m looking at Van Patten’s card and then at mine and cannot believe that Price actually likes Van Patten’s better’. Bateman’s unmistakable desire to be accepted by his society is continued by Ellis when Bateman questions his former girlfriend upon whether he was ‘really not that tan at Harvard?’ in a ‘mock-worriedly, but worriedly’ manner.’ The unattainable levels of perfection which Bateman strives for, and expects to meet, suggests a Baudrillardian criticism of the society in which Ellis has created, for the philosopher argued that ‘America is neither dream nor reality. It is a hyperreality.’ The expectation of Bateman to succeed in such hyperreality therefore evokes sympathy within the reader, suggesting perhaps that the psychopathic protagonist is a greater victim than the women who suffer his atrocities. However, Bateman’s preconditioned desire to please, along with his attitude to women is portrayed by Ellis to be sufficiently abhorrent that he cannot be perceived as the ultimate victim.

Ellis continues by presenting an image of a weak Patrick Bateman through the portrayal of repressed sexual tension. Bateman’s general obsession with sex, to the extent that when ‘the invitation seems vaguely sexual’, he therefore ‘accepts’, shows the inability to remove this concept from his mind. It is argued by Coppin that ‘one thing all Ellis’s protagonists have in common is that they are unable to converse with women,’ citing the incident when Bateman is told he can ‘barely pick up an escort girl’ as evidence of such inadequacy. This concept of being utterly obsessed with sex, yet unable to solicit it without extreme measures because of severe repression is further reinforced by Ellis through Bateman’s attributing of everyday items as something sexual, for one incident when he looks at Luis Carruthers, ‘in one brief flashing moment his head looks like a talking vagina’; Bateman then feels the necessity to compliment Luis on his suit, despite it being the ‘farthest thing from [his] mind.’ This repressed homoeroticism simply displays further the inadequacy of Bateman’s sexual pursuits, as despite a keen, overtly sexually motivated rejection of Carruthers, has Bateman recounts ‘I start to squeeze, tightening my grip, but it’s loose enough to let Luis turn around,’ and continues with ‘Luis stares at me and I tense the muscles in my arms,’ Bateman never allows himself to indulge in such activity, indicative of the homophobic state of society, and therefore the levels of implicit misogyny yet explicit patriarchy.

In order to maintain this polished image of hyperreality, Ellis’ depiction of Bateman’s constant reiteration that women are interested in him serves to dissuade the reader’s perception of his sexual inadequacy, and perhaps his repressed homosexuality. Ellis’ description of two waitresses following the protagonist, ‘both smiling flirtatiously’ despite Bateman wearing a jacket which is ‘lightly spattered with flecks of his [victim’s] blood, shows the level of narcissism, as he again notes that ‘the two girls linger, still interested.’ Bateman’s use of women to assist in this elaborate disguise perpetuates the diminished status of women in the novel, as they are presented as being unworthy of seduction, consensual sexual intercourse, and instead acting merely as a buffer between psychopaths afraid of their own ambiguity and lack of pinpointed identity. By dissuading the reader’s image and in turn his acquaintances’, and the society’s in which he operates, of his sexual ambiguity in a staunchly heteronormative environment, simply emphasises the unmoving belief that what he projects is what people think of him. Bateman’s confidence in his sexual allure is highlighted when he considers, in internal monologue, his reasons for nervousness, ‘It’s either that I’m afraid of rejection (although I can’t understand why: she called me, she wants to see me, she wants to have lunch with me, she wants to fuck me again).’ The explicit condemnation of ‘this girl, this meat, is nothing, is shit’ indicates the repeated reiteration of his sexual prowess, whilst also depicting the rejection of a woman’s individual interest or opinion.

Furthermore, the female characters’ ambitions are incessantly sidelined throughout the novel, to varying extents; Luis frequently abandons Courtney for business, and the intrusiveness of consumerism when paralleled with romance, is shown by Courtney’s lack of autonomous choice, who for example ‘has to leave early to meet Luis at a company party’. Bateman continues this belittlement of Courtney, who admits ‘“I just want to have a child, Just...two...perfect...children,”’ which she says in the presence of Bateman, ‘staring out the window, to no one.’ Ellis’ portrayal of Bateman ignoring this confiding statement of Courtney shows the brutal reality of what the women have come to expect. However, the validity of Courtney’s apparent ultimate dream could be questionable, for perhaps she has been conditioned by society to uphold such an aspiration as one that she too must have, thus suggesting the extent of the deep-rooted misogyny which the reader may initially be unaware of.

The intrusive control of the women in American Psycho is extended by the infantilisation of the victims, suggesting Bateman’s awareness of his moral depravity. Observing a girl who he intends to subject such repugnant torture and violence to, ‘she stares up at me with this seventeen-year-old’s gaze, then looks down at her body soaking in the tub,’ Ellis’ emphasis upon the fragility and innocence of age, is reinforced late when Bateman admits that ‘‘it does sporadically penetrate how unacceptable some of what I’m doing actually is.’ This rejection of morality despite the awareness of such extreme wrongdoing only adds to the ambiguity of his character, suggesting perhaps that his moral conscience is just, and the fact that it does not extend to respecting women in any sense, shows the depth of misogynistic depravity in which Bateman functions. Such depravity is rigorously reinforced through Ellis’ paralleling of a consumer, material society to the murderous, torturous, raping rages of Bateman. The polysyndetic and asyndetic listing of the extreme violence mirrors the same detail used in the descriptions of the banality of Bateman’s existence—his outfit, furnishings and beauty routine. This implicit comparison between women and commodities is explicitly degrading, and alludes to the more overt juxtaposition created between females and meat

Such degradation is heightened through the normalising of violence within the novel towards women. As Ellis begins to interject Bateman’s social conversation with his horrific thoughts, such as when he tells Bethany he would like to ‘slice open [her] beaver’ when at lunch with her, and gains no reaction, the reader becomes aware of being desensitised from the abhorrent violence. This awareness is created by aligning the reader with the bystanders and perpetuator of Bateman’s repugnant nature in the novel, who are so entrenched in the society of violence, they cannot acknowledge or identify when Bateman’s façade slips. The juxtaposition between the detailed listing of Bateman’s deprave acts, and the almost filmic narrative which Ellis counteracts it with, creates a dichotomy between the representation of violence. The filmic narrative can be seen through Bateman’s eyes when describing another social occasion, which reinforces his role as an observant narrator, due to the detail of such observations:

Deck Chairs is crowded, earsplitting, the acoustics lousy because of the high ceilings, and if I’m not mistaken, accompanying the din is a New Age version of “White Rabbit” blaring from speakers mounted in the ceiling corners. Someone who looks like Forrest Atwater—slicked-back blond hair, nonprescription redwood-framed glasses, Armani suit with suspenders—is sitting with Caroline Baker, an investment banker at Drexel, maybe, and she doesn’t look too good. She needs more makeup, the Ralph Lauren tweed outfit is too severe. They’re at a mediocre table up front by the bar.

Ellis’ lexical development picking up upon the intricacies of the scene, from the brand of glasses frame, to the quality of acoustics, evokes a sense of panning around the scene, as though a camera was noting the interactions being performed. This appropriate form of prose seems to lend itself perfectly to a film adaptation, and it could argued that Ellis was aware of the novel’s scope when writing, perhaps intending for American Psycho to reach the widespread audience it was able to, through the film version directed by Mary Harron, thus pandering further to society’s voyeurism. However, it could be argued that the dichotomy created between the two narrative and descriptive forms highlights the extreme bipolarity of Bateman, and the extent that his acts are extreme and unpredictable, that, as a reader we still are unable to fathom this extent, as it again goes further than ‘acceptable’ depravity.

The interjections of Bateman’s deprave acts into the numbing listing, along with the protagonist's apparent ability to maintain a veneer of perfection despite littering his speech with others with his plans of creating an abhorrent abyss, which goes unnoticed, creates an ambiguity for the reader. It seems improbable that such conversations can actually exist, thus leading to the notion of merely a stream of consciousness within Bateman's inner monologue, which is also suggested through the brief glitches in narrative, which witnesses a shift into an interlude of third person. Ellis’ technique almost takes of the stream of consciousness form, implying the fragmented postmodernist lens with which to read this book, drawing attention to the subjectivism of society. This allusion by Ellis creates a parallel to Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, an extract of which used as the epigraph of American Psycho. Ellis’ intention to create this comparison exemplifies the parallel between the two books, whilst the stream of consciousness, created through fluent lexical features which often disregard typical sentence structures, which is used by Dostoyevsky, mirrors the intense and extensive listing of Bateman’s materialistic depiction of his world, and the acts he commits. Whilst the Underground Man cannot act because of hyperconsciousness prohibiting him from doing so, for he cannot find justification for his actions, he provides a parallel antithesis to Bateman. Ellis’ protagonist’s equally hyper awareness prohibits him from functioning within society, yet his reaction opposes this; he does not require justification, and thus acts precisely as his fragmented mind wills.

Ellis’ explicit allusion to Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, is not, however, the sole overt literary connection the author includes. Continuing the literary allusions, the first line of the novel acts both as an explicit warning to the reader, as though pre-empting the backlash the novel would receive, such as the National Organization for Women’s call for boycott in 1991, and quotes Dante’s Inferno. The paralleling of Bateman’s universe, to the hell which Dante documents, shows the incredibly conscious writing of Ellis, aware of the repercussions of such an explicit, raw novel. The seemingly complementary nature of the first and last lines of American Psycho, as though they could flow into one standalone sentence ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here, this is not an exit,’ brings together the allusion of hell and the inability to escape Bateman’s violent, misogynistic, deprave society. The symbolism used in the final line by Ellis, as Bateman observes that ‘above one of the doors covered by red velvet drapes in Harry’s is a sign and on the sign in letters that match the drapes’ color are the words THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.’ The ‘red velvet drapes’ matching the colour of the sign suggests connotations of blood, and of the horrific acts Bateman commits in the novel. This entrenchment of such violence, so that its marks provide yet another warning, that ‘this is not an exit,’ professes that the reader is still in this world that Ellis has seemingly created, which mirrors on an ostentatious scale the society in which we live. The warning to the reader suggests that we are all still here, and a product of society, much like Bateman, thus presenting one of literature's most violent misogynists to be a victim.

Ellis’ victimisation of Bateman is inevitable, for the reader will not perceive themselves as psychopathic, and thus when paralleled to the protagonist, in terms of equally being a product of society, the reader detaches the severity of judgement of Bateman’s actions and attitudes. The cyclical use of warnings by Ellis fundamentally suggests that such a misogynistic, violent, abusive society cannot be escaped, and by cementing the concept that the novel is not an exit from such, shows the expectation that the reader hopes it to be. Perhaps by reading about behaviour and attitudes far beneath their own, they remove the blame attributed to them for the now seemingly tame everyday sexism and misogyny, thus the novel becomes a way to console society that they don't behave as Bateman does, and can therefore not be perceived as hateful perpetuators of prejudice and misogyny. However, Ellis’ uncompromising, brutal, and repeated statement to the reader, that this novel is ‘not an exit’, he condemns his readers for thinking they are absolved. The real problem of American Psycho is not that, as Weldon says, ‘I don't want you to actually read Ellis’ book. I did it for you.’ Ellis makes his condemnation of misogyny unambiguous, all one must do is read American Psycho.


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