American Psycho Book Summary - American Psycho Book explained in key points
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American Psycho summary

Bret Easton Ellis

A Violent Satire on Modern Capitalism and Corporate Greed

4.3 (51 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is a controversial novel that delves into the dark and twisted mind of a Wall Street yuppie turned serial killer.
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    American Psycho
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    The Cruel Cosmos of Wall Street Yuppies

    American Psycho begins with an allusion to another, much older work – Dante’s Inferno. In the Italian writer’s epic poem, the gates of Hell are inscribed with the phrase, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” In the opening scene of American Psycho, this phrase appears as graffiti scrawled along the side of a bank.

    It’s a fair warning to us as we enter the world of young investment banker Patrick Bateman. Bateman is in his mid-twenties and works at a Wall Street company called Pierce & Pierce. He’s handsome, successful, and incredibly jaded. His life is an endless montage of working out, fancy dinners, and sexual flings.

    In the opening scene, Bateman is in a cab on the way to dinner at his girlfriend's house. Next to him, his colleague Tim Price is rambling about his great qualities while casually disparaging women, homeless and gay people, and their immigrant cab driver. 

    Bateman’s girlfriend, Evelyn, who also works in finance, has prepared expensive sushi for the evening. Bateman suspects that she’s having an affair with Tim. But he’s more bothered by the young, unkempt artist pair Evelyn has invited. The evening culminates with Bateman giving a standard conservative speech on how to fix America: strengthening the middle class, preventing welfare abuse, and – ironically – curbing graphic depictions of sex and violence on TV.

    In the next chapters, we learn more about Bateman’s day-to-day life. He lives in a chic apartment on the Upper West Side, where he likes to listen to music and watch movies. He has a disciplined workout schedule and a multiple-step skincare routine. 

    Almost every night, he hangs out with his finance friends. They go to a bar called Harry’s, expensive restaurants, and nightclubs. They drink, smoke cigars, and do coke. Their topics of conversation never change. They consult Bateman on questions of business fashion; make jokes about homeless, Jewish, gay, and Black people; and comment crudely on attractive women, whom they call “hardbodies.” 

    Bateman appears to be both fully invested in and deeply bored with his yuppie lifestyle. In one iconic dinner scene, he tries to impress his colleagues with his new bone-colored business card – only to find himself in deep distress at realizing his colleagues’ business cards are even classier.

    ANALYSIS

    The first chapters of the novel introduce us to the world of Patrick Bateman. It’s a world of Wall Street yuppies – ruled by money, consumption, and superficiality. 

    Bateman’s first-person narration gives us insight into his system of values. He’s as obsessed with material possessions as with his own appearance. His great American idol is Donald Trump. And he can conceive of others – women in particular – only as objects for his own entertainment. 

    But disturbingly, all these traits are all shared by the people around him. Bateman’s colleagues appear just as cruel as he is – routinely offering sexist, racist, and classist observations. One of them casually talks about “blowing someone’s head off.” 

    Author Bret Easton Ellis is setting the stage: The transition between verbal and physical violence will be seamless.

    Bateman also reveals himself to be an unreliable narrator. He frequently confuses his finance buddies for one another (and is in turn frequently mistaken by them). And we get first hints at his murderous inclinations through occasional offhand remarks. For instance, he mentions a serrated knife in his pocket, and masturbating to a movie scene in which a woman is murdered. 

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    What is American Psycho about?

    American Psycho (1991) is a controversial cult novel that uses graphic violence to satirize modern capitalism and consumer culture. It follows the life of Patrick Bateman, a wealthy and handsome investment banker living in Manhattan in the 1980s. Beneath his polished exterior lies a psychopathic killer who preys on his victims without remorse. Bateman’s exploits quickly grow more and more extreme, and his mask of sanity starts to slip.

    American Psycho Review

    American Psycho (1991) is a chilling exploration of the dark side of human nature. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a unique perspective on the excesses and moral decay of 1980s Wall Street culture.
    • The novel's unsettling narrative challenges readers to confront their own beliefs and values.
    • Its provocative themes spark meaningful conversations and debates about society and individual responsibility.

    Dare to dive into the disturbing world of American Psycho and experience its lasting impact.

    Who should read American Psycho?

    • Fans of the the 2000 movie starring Christian Bale
    • Readers who enjoy Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, and William S. Burroughs
    • Anyone who enjoys dark humor

    About the Author

    Bret Easton Ellis is an American author and screenwriter known for provocative works of fiction like his nihilistic debut novel Less Than Zero (1985). He’s recognized for his dark, satirical writing style and potent critiques of contemporary culture and social mores. American Psycho is both his most famous and most controversial novel. In 2019, he published his first nonfiction book, White, taking on the failings of left liberalism.

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    American Psycho FAQs 

    What is the main message of American Psycho?

    American Psycho explores the dark side of human nature and the moral decay of 1980s Wall Street culture.

    How long does it take to read American Psycho?

    The estimated reading time for American Psycho is around 7 hours. The Blinkist summary takes about 15 minutes to read.

    Is American Psycho a good book? Is it worth reading?

    American Psycho is worth reading for its unique perspective and provocative themes.

    Who is the author of American Psycho?

    The author of American Psycho is Bret Easton Ellis.

    How many chapters are in American Psycho?

    American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis has 54 chapters.

    1. April Fools
    2. Morning
    3. Harry's
    4. Another Night
    5. Tunnel
    6. Birthday
    7. Girl
    8. Lunch
    9. Yale Club
    10. Killing Dog
    11. Dry Cleaners
    12. Christmas Party
    13. New Club
    14. Taxi Driver
    15. Hamptons
    16. Harry's Again
    17. Paul Owen
    18. Nell's
    19. Health Club
    20. Christmas Eve
    21. Christmas
    22. New Year's Eve
    23. New Year's Day
    24. Detective
    25. Smith & Wollensky
    26. Harry's
    27. Date
    28. Late August
    29. Another Date
    30. Video Store
    31. Summer
    32. Health Club
    33. Dinner
    34. Barneys
    35. Concert
    36. Office
    37. Cats
    38. Lunch
    39. October
    40. Health Club
    41. Costume Party
    42. Office
    43. End of the 1980s
    44. Health Club
    45. Office
    46. Dinner
    47. Health Club
    48. Office
    49. Health Club
    50. Office
    51. Dinner
    52. Health Club
    53. Office
    54. End of the World

    How many pages are in American Psycho?

    There are 399 pages in American Psycho.

    When was American Psycho published?

    American Psycho was published in 1991.

    What to read after American Psycho?

    If you're wondering what to read next after American Psycho, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott
    • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
    • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
    • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
    • Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale and Stan Redding
    • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
    • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
    • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson