Patrick Bateman is a fictional character, the antihero and narrator of the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, and its film adaptation. He is a low-achieving Vice-president for Mergers and Acquisitions at his father's Wall Street company. He and his fellow V.P.s constantly engage in banal conversations, abuse drugs, and show an obsession with dining at exclusive restaurants. He also lives a double life where he may, or may not be, one of the most vicious serial killers ever. Throughout his story, he commits repeated brutal murders and shows a penchant for sadism. Both behaviors are motivating reasons as to why he feels the need to tell us his story. That is, he senses that he is "only an entity, something illusory" and he harbors a deep desire to connect with others, to "fit in". His fear that he is not fitting in is subverted by his peers however, as we begin to realize that, at every social level, he is surrounded by oblivious people who are equally as devoid of morality and empathy as he is. Thus, as his listeners, we become confused about whether he is an unreliable narrator experiencing hallucinations, or if he truly is psychotic. The veracity of his story is left in doubt. Bateman has also briefly appeared in other Ellis novels.
PROFILE[edit | edit source]
When he is first introduced in Ellis' novel, young investment banker Patrick Bateman's "mask of sanity" is about to slip, according to his own admission. Bateman works as a specialist in mergers and acquisitions at the fictional Wall Streetinvestment firm of Pierce & Pierce (also Sherman McCoy's firm in The Bonfire of the Vanities) and lives at 55 West 81st Street, Upper West Side in the American Gardens Building (where he is a neighbor of actor Tom Cruise). In his "secret life", however, Bateman is a serial killer who murders a variety of people, from colleagues, to the homeless, toprostitutes. His crimes, including rape, torture, murder, necrophilia and cannibalism, are described in graphic detail in the novel.
Bateman comes from a wealthy family. His parents have a house on Long Island, and he mentions a summer house in Newport. His parents divorced sometime earlier, while his mother became sick and now resides at a sanatorium. His father, who first appeared in Ellis' preceding novel The Rules of Attraction, grew up on an estate in Connecticut, and now owns an apartment in the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan, although he was apparently dying in the previous novel and, unlike his ex-wife, is mentioned only in past tense during the novel. His younger brother Sean attends Camden College (and is a protagonist of The Rules of Attraction). Bateman attended Phillips Exeter Academy for prep school. He graduated from Harvard University in 1984, and Harvard Business School two years later and moved to New York City.
PERSONALITY[edit | edit source]
As written by Ellis, Bateman is the ultimate stereotype of yuppie greed: rich, shallow, and addicted to sex, drugs, and conspicuous consumption. All of his friends look alike to him, to the point that he often confuses one for another, and they often confuse him for other people. Bateman takes delight in obsessively detailing virtually every single feature of his always designer clothes, workout routine, business cards, alcoholic drinks, as well as his elaborate high-end stereo and home theater sound system. He is engaged to an equally rich, shallow woman named Evelyn Richards. They can't stand each other, but they stay together for the sake of their social lives. He has a mistress on the side (the fiancee of a gay colleague whom he holds in great contempt and who makes repeated, hapless sexual advances towards Bateman) and has regular liaisons with prostitutes and women he encounters at clubs, many of whom end up being his victims. The one woman (and possibly the one person) in his life he has anything approaching feelings for is his secretary, Jean. He just cannot bring himself to seduce, rape or kill her, perhaps because she is the only person in his life who is not completely shallow. He casually acknowledges her as "Jean, my secretary who is in love with me" and introduces her in the narration as someone whom he "will probably end up married to someday".
Bateman kills many of his victims because they make him feel inadequate, usually by having better taste than he does. His friends mock him as the "boy next door", his own lawyer refers to him as a "bloody ass-kisser... a brown-nosing goody-goody", and he is often dismissed as "yuppie trash" by people outside his social circle.
Bateman often expresses doubts regarding his own sanity and he has periodic attacks of psychosis, during which he hallucinates. Bateman is therefore anunreliable narrator. He often experiences feelings of depersonalization. In his own words, "although I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel my flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there." Although Bateman often claims that he is devoid of emotion, he also describes experiencing moments of extreme rage, panic or grief – being on the "verge of tears" – often over trivial inconveniences such as remembering to return videotapes or trying to obtain dinner reservations. In the middle of dismembering a victim, he breaks down, sobbing that he "just wants to be loved". He takes psychotropics, like Xanax, to control these emotions.
Bateman compensates for these insecurities through obsessive vanity and personal grooming, with unwavering attention to detail. He dresses in and uses the most fashionable, expensive clothing and accessories possible (e.g. Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino suits, Oliver Peoples glasses and Jean Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta leather goods) as a means of effecting some "control" over his otherwise chaotic life. Likewise, he categorizes people by what they wear and how they look because they are more easily "understood" in terms of labels and stereotypes. Bateman's apartment also is firmly controlled in terms of look and taste, with the latest music, food, and art.
Bateman kills more or less indiscriminately, with no preferred type of victim and no consistent or preferred method of killing. Throughout the novel, he kills men, women, animals, and - on one instance - a child. He kills women mostly for sadistic sexual pleasure, often during or just after sex, and is also a prolific rapist. He kills men because they anger or annoy him, and the child just to see if he would enjoy it (he did not).
Periodically, he matter-of-factly confesses his crimes to his friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers ("I like to dissect girls, did you know I'm utterly insane") just to see if they are actually listening to him. They either are not or they think that he is joking. In the movie's climactic scene, Bateman calls his lawyer and leaves a lengthy, detailed message confessing all of his crimes. He later runs into his lawyer, who mistakes him for someone else and dismisses the confession as a joke, also claiming to have had dinner with one of his victims after Bateman had supposedly killed him, leaving the supposed reality of Bateman's acts open to audience interpretation.