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Violence in the Novel American Psycho

The novel American Psycho, by Brett Easton Ellis, has raised a great deal of controversy because of its graphic depictions of violence. The story is about an investment banker named Patrick Bateman who is secretly a psychotic murderer. Using the techniques of "black humor," Ellis describes many of Bateman's tortures and slayings in intricate detail. Despite Bateman's daring escapades, he is never caught. In fact, some of the black humor of the novel centers around Bateman's frequent confessions which are utterly ignored by his friends. In one passage, for example, Bateman looks an acquaintance right in the face and admits that he has killed and tortured many people. However, perhaps because the confession is shockingly unbelievable, the information goes unacknowledged.

Many people, both before and after publication of American Psycho, have been disturbed by the book. It has been argued that the violence is purely gratuitous and that there is no redeeming social value to the work as a whole. Originally, the book was scheduled to be published by Simon and Schuster. However, the head of the company, Richard Snyder, decided at the last minute not to publish it. Because of contract obligations, Ellis was able to keep the $300,000 advance that he received from Simon and Schuster for writing the novel. Soon after being dropped by Simon and Schuster, Sonny Mehta, the president of Vintage Books, decided to pick up the work and publish it. Ignoring the charges that the novel lacked artistic value, Mehta claimed that Ellis "is a significant writer writing in a documentary manner about a particular segment of American society."

Of course, not everyone has agreed with Mehta's point of view. In particular, feminists have been outraged at the fact that American Psycho graphically depicts the torturing and murder of women. In most cases these depictions take the reader step-by-step through the process. In the words of John Le...

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Violence in the Novel American Psycho. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:12, August 15, 2020, from