Parallelism of character and concept in American Psycho and Cosmopolis

Term Paper, 2006

16 Pages, Grade: 1,7



I Introduction

II The character of Patrick Bateman

III The character of Eric Packer

IV Comparison of the two characters

V Bibliography

I Introduction

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and Cosmpolis by Don De Lillo both are stories that depict the decadence of their time, hinting at social, moral and political issues that are of importance in their respective times.

In both books New York as the world centre of capitalism serves as a stage for two main characters who are shapen by the enormous amounts of money they have at their disposal. The characters and their interaction with society are the central points in both books. While Don De Lillo’s Cosmopolis deals at a time no clearly defined, which is probably supposed to be the post modern world of the early 2000s, Bret Easton Ellis’ book is set in the booming New York of the 80s where people who work on Wall Street are treated like pop stars and many of them well known as heroes of capitalism (e.g. Warren Buffet and Donald Trump). The book by Bret Easton Ellis takes us into this decadent cocain addicted world, that basically revolves the hunger for parties and sex.

The book by Don De Lillo presents a totally different atmosphere. The atmosphere is rather shapen by fear of those that have come too short in the capitalist world and the security needs of those who work on wall street who have by now become anonymous figures, that may only be identified by their stretch limousines. The world of Cosmopolis has become darker and more dangerous; wild parties are no longer celebrated, just as get togethers of business people don’t seem to happen in public, mainly for security reasons. The pace of the world has also changed as computers and video transmit news from all over the world into cars that have become indistinguishable from offices.

Yet both books have a lot in common in terms of the topics they deal with and the kinds of characters they portrait. While Cosmopolis only draws a kind of gloomy atmosphere, American Psycho is also one of the funniest books I have ever read and has been turned into a fantastic movie, with which I have compared some of the scenes.

II The Character of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

American Psycho is set in the stock-market fueled economy, cocaine addicted investment banking world of mid to late 80s New York. AIDS is an issue in the book, but only a minor one, since those that are white, male and rich cannot get the disease since it it according to van Patten, one of the investment banking yuppies dealing with mergers and acquisitions who is in Patrick Bateman’s peer group, states that there is only a zero-zero-zero point zero-one percentage of getting the virus.

The story is accompanied by the “hip to be square” attitude of everybody that surrounds Patrick – everybody is rich, everybody is good looking and everybody has a great body[1]. This leads to a certain uniformity of all high class wall street people that all share the same interests, the same clothes, vacation spots etc. and that are thus easily mistaken for each other, leading to an unability to make out the individual. In this world everything is valued according to its price (haircuts, apartments)[2], its rarity (e.g. the Dorsia’s restaurant where it is almost impossible to get a reservation) or the fame of people (e.g. the Pizza place with bad pizza that suddenly becomes a lot better in the light of having been chosen as number one pizzeria by Donald Trump,)[3]. In Patrick’s world a Pizza can cost 90 $ or a couple of cups of coffee can amount to 300 $, but nobody cares[4]. Everything is concentrated on superficial things such as these prices – and only in the light of this superficiality the character of Patrick Bateman makes any sense.

The main character and narrator, Patrick Bateman, is a young and succesful investment banker who works for the reknown investment broker Pierce & Pierce. It remains unknown to the reader of the book and to the audience of the movie how Patrick managed to get his job at Pierce & Pierce and we never really see Patrick working seriously in his office (e.g. in one scene he is visited by a private detective and after his remark “I know how busy you guys can get” he cleans his table of Sports Illustrated magazines and the ever present Walk-Man)[5], but even even though this is the case he still claims in conversation with Merelyn, one of the girls he sees and has sex with, that he cannot take the time off, when she asks him to marry her[6]. At a later point in the book in a conversation with Bethany, another person Patrick is “dating”, it is hinted at the fact that Bateman’s family owns Pierce & Pierce and that Patrick does not have to work for a living anyhow[7]. The only reason why Patrick Batemann works for Pierce & Pierce is also stated by him in the course of his dialogue with Bethany: “Because I want to fit in !”[8]. Even though this scene is altered in the movie, it much more drastically displays due to its earlier placement in the movie Bateman’s struggle between acceptance in the yuppy society and his deviant private life. Even though money does not matter much to Bateman as he gets almost everything he wants, except the things money won’t buy (e.g. fame as represented by Tom Cruise, who lives in the same apartment house and whom he meets but does not really make decent conversation with because Tom Cruise is not interested in him or the table reservation at Dorsia’s which Bateman struggles to get throughout the book). Money and the power of money yet is an issue in the book, where almost nothing is not buyable and even the blood stained apartment is cleaned without questioning since it is a service that is paid for.

Patrick Bateman obviously not only tries to fit in but also tries to be better than everybody else, as we can see whenever his ego is scraped. This happens for example when colleagues of his present their cards after Patrick had started showing off with his cards and some of them are presumably even better, in terms of taste of colouring and type as well as price that Patrick “cannot believe that Price [one of his colleagues] likes van Pattens card better” than his[9]. As a consequence Patrick become “unexpectedly depressed that [he] started this”[10]. In the movie where this scene is altered a little the almost non-existing difference between the cards and thus the meaninglessness of this whole card business becomes even more obvious and Patricks reaction the more absurd[11]. In another instance Patrick goes out with his girlfriend Courtney and meets two other friends at a restaurant when the waiter asks whether they had been at the Onica exhibition which he has to deny. But in order to make up for that and impress the friends he kicks Courtney legs making her follow suit telling the two that Patrick actually owns an Onica, the pricing of which Patrick exxagerates with 50,000 $ by the factor of four[12]. Many more minor things are extremely important to Patrick. Among the most important of these are probably the fear of not getting decent reservations at hip and expensive restaurants, which leads to one of Patricks standard saying whenever he drinks with his colleagues and friends[13] and the ever reoccuring question of where they want to eat comes up: “I am not going anywhere, unless we have a reservation someplace”[14]. Patrick is in one scene even willing to pay extra money to the waiter in order to make him calm down or even kick out a number of tourists that annoy him and the others around him[15]. Patrick has many more obsessions that are somehow symptomatic for people of the society he is a member of. Getting a haircut at one of the most expensive haircutters in town is one of the many obsessions that involve the beauty of his body and hiding his age. After all only an expensive haircut is a good haircut since a haircut that is cheap is admittedly bad[16]. Apart from his haircut Patrick is also obsessed with the beauty of his body (“You know you can always be in better shape”)[17] and face which hide his self destructive way of live as Patrick himself admits “I feel like shit but look great.”[18].

One of the other obsessions of Patrick are clothing and brand names of all kinds of furniture and decoration. He is able to tell what clothes people that surround him are wearing and where they bought them[19]. Apart from his own beauty and all kinds of material things like clothing, stereos and furniture Patrick is also somehow obsessed with drugs and sex, which are addictions he obviously shares with his colleagues. Patrick has to return video tapes all the time - almost all of which are porn movies. Patrick is also just as obsessed of “hardbodys” as his colleagues and rates every girl he sees according to the size of their breasts and the beauty of their bodys. The girls that are acceptable for him have to be just as flawless and beautiful as he is which becomes obvious in one restaurant scene where he and his colleagues have a look at one of the waitresses who does not interest them anymore as soon as they recognize an almost unrecognizable flaw constituted by the fact that one of her knees is “almost imperceptibly thicker”[20]. Patrick somehow has a disturbed relationship to women. For once his mother is never mentioned in the entire book, even though his father is. Then he does not have a steady relationship with anyone in the book and does not treat any of the women with respect, which becomes obvious in the derogative way he speaks about women on all occasions, but also in the way he has sex with women. All women he has sex with are treated in an inferiorating way and most of them,unless they are not “too ugly to rape”[21] a are ultimatively tortured and killed in the most brutal ways[22].


[1] Easton Ellis, p. 22

[2] Easton Ellis, p. 20

[3] Easton Ellis, p. 106

[4] Easton Ellis, p. 346

[5] Easton Ellis, p. 258

[6] American Psycho, 0:09:23

[7] Easton Ellis, p. 227-228

[8] American Psycho, 0:09:33; Easton Ellis, p. 228

[9] Easton Ellis, p. 43

[10] Easton Ellis, p. 43

[11] American Psycho, 0:17:46-0:19:16

[12] Easton Ellis, p. 94-95

[13] Easton Ellis, p. 123; American Psycho : 0:09:43-0:10:00; Easton Ellis, p. 37

[14] Easton Ellis, e.g. p. 380

[15] Easton Ellis, p. 45

[16] Easton Ellis, p. 20

[17] Easton Ellis, p. 23

[18] Easton Ellis, p. 103

[19] Easton Ellis. e.g. p. 29

[20] Easton Ellis, p. 46

[21] Easton Ellis, p. 205

[22] e.g. Easton Ellis, p. 167, p. 169

Excerpt out of 16 pages


Parallelism of character and concept in American Psycho and Cosmopolis
University of Wuppertal
Issues in American Society - Literary Negotiations
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Parallelism, American, Psycho, Cosmopolis, Issues, American, Society, Literary, Negotiations
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Timm Gehrmann (Author), 2006, Parallelism of character and concept in American Psycho and Cosmopolis, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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