American Tragedy Essay

1005 words - 5 pages

American Psycho is a savage account of a wealthy investment banker in the late 80s that commits heinous acts of murder, rape, and torture. Although on the surface, American Psycho seems as though it is just another horror story, it actually has a much deeper message. This story is a harsh critique of a superficial Wall Street society in the late 80s that was rampant with materialism and greed. This is the society in which the main character Patrick Bateman lives–where appearance, material possessions, and status define a person. This superficial existence leaves him hollow and dead inside and turns him into a psychopathic killer. A society such as this, devoid of any morality, inevitably ...view middle of the document...

Other descriptions are instead presented visually. The characters, setting, and costumes are quickly established in just a few scenes at the beginning of the film. The opulence of the society in which he lives is visually shown. These descriptions and visual representations show the unwavering superficiality of the characters.
These characters are so vain and self-centered that they frequently mistake each other’s identities. They even dismiss Bateman’s many blatant confessions of his crimes. They are so wrapped up in their own superficial existence and focused on the surface that everything else is ignored. The only character that has any redeeming qualities is Bateman’s secretary, Jean. In the book, she states she wants to better herself, and she frequently shows genuine concern for Bateman. While describing Jean, Bateman frequently states that she is in love with him, and that he will “probably end up marrying her someday”. She is even impressed by his failed attempt to attain reservations at the extremely popular, high-end restaurant Dorsia. Other women just scoff at him if he cannot get a reservation there.
Why create a character such as Jean if this is just a satire on a superficial Wall Street society? Jean is not like the other vapid characters in the book, and Bateman responds to Jean differently. She is the one character that lies outside of the superficial life that Bateman is entrenched. In spite of himself, he shows sincere concern for her. In the book, the scene at Nowheres Restaurant shows an internal struggle within Bateman. Something caring and human is creeping to the surface through the dark emptiness inside him. He worries that he admits to wanting “decapitated coffee” in front of Jean. This type of slip of the tongue does not bother him when he is around the other characters. He actually revels in it! In addition, he seems relieved that the small Filofax she owns in not a designer one. He imagines...

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