Contemporary American society can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be a frightening thing. Scholars have even argued that at no time in the history of western man have so many people felt in conflict with their own society.1 In Bright Lights, Big City the "hero" searches through the modern urban jungle for love and understanding.2 In Less Than Zero, the southern California region takes on a life an impetus of its own, propelling the characteristics into an abyss of excessive materialism and selfdestruction.3 And, in Anywhere But Here life is good only if it is different; excitement and personal joy are available somewhere, but where?4
Through these three novels, this paper will investigate the manner by which innocence is lost, by which society itself acts as an antisocializing agent, and in which "the culture of narcissism" removes what it purportedly promises. In the same manner, some broader questions about the quality of life
1 See Leftan Stavrianos, The Promise of the Coming Dark Ages, (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1976). Stavrianos argues that society as a whole lacks cohesion and the belief systems that give its members at least a marginal feeling of security. In this way, as adolescents grow to adulthood, they are often swept away by the very society they aspire to join.
2 Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City, (New York: Vintage Books, 1984).
3 Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero, (New York: Penguin Books, 1985).
4 Mona Simpson, Anywhere But Here, (New York: Vintage Books, 1986). in a modern, capitalistic society will be addressed, focusing on the topics of alienation, emotional deprivation, and lack of time or too much materialistic stimulation. Moreover, personalities seem to often be at the mercy of society. In modern times we are continually bombarded with messages from the media which promulgate into our own sense of identity. Advertising, for example, professes to tell society the way i...