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Literature / American Psycho

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"There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there's no real me, only an entity, something illusory."
Patrick Bateman

American Psycho is a novel by Bret Easton Ellis first published in 1991. It is a story about the archetypal '80s businessman: rich, shallow, unhappy, self-absorbed — and a sociopathic serial killer.

Patrick Bateman is a yuppie's yuppie. He works on Wall Street, has a pretty girlfriend, and spends most of his free time in trendy restaurants and clubs. However, he is also a psychotic killer who often hallucinates and murders people in increasingly horrific ways, often over the most trivial of provocations or for no reason whatsoever.

Most of the people in Patrick's life don't really know anything about him — but then again, he doesn't know anything about them, either. Most of the people he knows can't even be bothered to remember his name — but he isn't so sure about their names, either, so it all evens out. There is no one who listens to him; he confesses at least once a week, but no one seems to notice or indeed care. And Ellis explains that Patrick may not really be a serial killer. He may just be harmlessly insane. Or bored. Or even both. But he may also be speaking the absolute truth. It's up to the reader to decide.

The book also crosses over with Ellis's earlier novel The Rules of Attraction, but like everything else, it's of no consequence whatsoever. The main character Patrick Bateman also makes appearances in his later books Glamorama (1995) and Lunar Park (2005).

In addition to spawning a film and a musical, the novel also inspired the song and album title of the same name from The Misfits. Not to be confused with the song by Canadian rock band Treble Charger or the experimental track by John Zorn on Radio.


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  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The book was published in 1991 and is set in the late 1980s, during the tail end of Ronald Reagan's presidency (which ended in 1989).
  • The '80s: The story is set in the late-1980s with a substantial focus on the fashion, music, and lifestyle of yuppie culture of the decade.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Victims who get themselves intoxicated when meeting with Patrick for lunch dates are easily convinced to return with Patrick to his apartment without ever suspecting his ulterior motives, particularly Paul Owen and Patrick's ex-girlfriend, Bethany.
  • All Just a Dream: There is the possibility that the murders and other events recounted by Bateman only take place inside his head.
  • Always Someone Better: Patrick is driven to kill Paul Owen because Paul's own successes make Patrick feel deeply inadequate, and outside his own social circle, Patrick constantly looks up to and admires the wealth and lifestyle of Donald Trump, who Patrick would hope to meet one day.
  • AM/FM Characterization:
    • The opening chapter depicts Timothy Price as being so enamored with a 1960s pop song playing on the radio during a cab ride that he offers the driver more money to just to blast it at maximum volume, while other specific details about this scene, as narrated by Patrick, give hints of Patrick's own lack of music knowledge, despite his best aims to appear as such. Principally, Patrick makes separate references to the song title "Be My Baby" and "The Crystals blaring on the radio", but the song "Be My Baby" was popularized by The Ronettes and never covered by The Crystals.
    • The prevalence of the musical soundtrack for Les Misérables heard at numerous parties, dinners, and other social gatherings always leads to Patrick trying make small talk with his peers about it, first wondering aloud over whether they are hearing the "American or British" cast recording, then remarking that he finds the British recording to be "far superior".
    • When out in public, Patrick always mischaracterizes any music he hears that he doesn't care for, often demonstrated by giving an incorrect song title or wrong song lyrics, such as referring to a song played at Tunnel that he "thinks is called 'Love Triangle'" (most likely a reference to "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order) or hearing Bono of U2 singing, "Where the beat sounds the same" (The correct lyric and song title is "Where the Streets Have No Name")
  • Ambiguous Ending: What will happen to Patrick? Is he really a murderer, or is just crazy? We do not get an answer.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: In an early scene of dialogue, Bateman plays devil's advocate for political correctness when he calls out a colleague for claiming that a business rival is Jewish and was "spinning a menorah" in his office.
  • Appeal to Authority: In an early chapter, Patrick angrily rants at McDermott about the quality of the "red snapper pizza" served at a restaurant, which Patrick says is terrible because "the shithead chef who cooks here overbakes everything." A few chapters later, McDermott shows Patrick a news clipping quoting Donald Trump, who McDermott sarcastically hails as Patrick's "hero", saying that the same restaurant serves the best pizza in all of Manhattan. After reading this, Patrick quickly changes his earlier opinion.
    "Listen, if the pizza at Pastels is okay with Donny, it's okay with me."
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In one chapter, after murdering a dog and its owner in a typically gruesome fashion, Patrick goes to the supermarket and gets a rush out of buying bran cereal with an expired coupon.
  • Asshole Victim: Paul Owen was a colossal prick and Evelyn (not killed but definitely emotionally devastated) was a pretty horrid individual.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Patrick stomps a dog to death that belonged to a homeless man he previously stabbed. In a chapter in the book, he disembowels another dog, then shoots its owner; in a chapter set at the Central Park Zoo, he tosses a handful of change in the seals' water tank, just because he saw a table asking people not to do so (because they can become lodged in their stomachs).
  • Beneath the Mask: Publicly, Patrick is charming, mild-mannered, and likable to those in his circle of friends. Privately, Patrick is a violent sadist incapable of empathy, remorse, or compassion. He explicitly refers to his friendly facade as his "Mask of Sanity".
  • Berserk Button: Anything that gives Bateman the idea that he has/gets less than the absolute best or that there is someone in his social circles that might be better than him. For instance, the very thought that Patrick will not get a good table at a restaurant is enough to put him "on the verge of tears."
  • Billionaire Wristband: As part of the book's copious Costume Porn, several characters (generally high-earning account managers in prestigious Wall Street firms) are described as wearing luxury watches like Rolexes.
    Patrick: Don't touch the Rolex!
  • Black Comedy: Much of the violence and morbidity is punctuated by humor derived from Bateman's (and/or his peers) shallowness and materialism, like Bateman attempting to dispose of a dead body stuffed in an overnight bag, and Luis only wondering who designed the bag.
  • Book Ends:
    • The story begins with Bateman reading graffiti sprayed in red. The story ends with him reading a bar sign in red flanked by red curtains. As well as allusions to Hell: the book begins with a quote from Dante's Inferno, while the final words, "This is not an exit," are probably a reference to Sartre's play No Exit.
    • In the opening chapter, Patrick notices posters for Les Misérables. By the end of the penultimate chapter, these posters are replaced with ones for The Threepenny Opera. Both musicals offer criticism of the morals and lifestyles of the rich upper classes.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: In part of the work's satire in shaping Bateman as a product of 1980's American culture and values, as molded by its media and most prominent political figures, Patrick appropriates other popular phrases of the era for himself. Most notably, Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No", and, more humorously while turning away from the person he is speaking to, George H.W. Bush's "Read My Lips".
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Patrick, several times. It always goes unnoticed, by characters and, possibly, the reader.
    • "I sprinted over to Sixth Avenue, decided to be late for the office and took a cab back to my apartment where I put on a new suit (by Cerruti 1881), gave myself a pedicure and tortured to death a small dog I had bought earlier this week in a pet store on Lexington."
    • "My priorities before Christmas include the following: (1) to get an eight o'clock reservation on a Friday night at Dorsia with Courtney, (2) to get myself invited to the Trump Christmas party aboard their yacht, (3) to find out as much as humanly possible about Paul Owen's mysterious Fisher account, (4) to saw a hardbody's head off and Federal Express it to Robin Barker - the dumb bastard - over at Salomon Brothers and (5) to apologize to Evelyn without making it look like an apology."
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Bateman once thinks, "By the time you finish reading this sentence, a Boeing jetliner will take off or land somewhere in the world."
  • Breather Episode: Some of the most intense chapters in the book, such as the first murder described directly in detail or Patrick's shootout with the police, are immediately followed by something mundane like a music critique or a list of gadgets Patrick had ordered. Although, considering the gruesomeness of the intense chapters and the ridiculous nature of the more mundane ones, the effect is often less this and more Mood Whiplash.
  • Broken Ace: Patrick outwardly appears wealthy, handsome, and successful, but Beneath the Mask he's a soulless, deeply disturbed man with an empty life.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Every time Patrick finds a woman attractive, he mentions that she has "big tits." When his favorite talk show features a woman who had breast reduction surgery, he calls one of his associates (who is also watching), and they spend the rest of the segment ridiculing her.
  • The Cameo:
    • Patrick meets his brother Sean, who was one of the three main characters in Bret Easton Ellis's previous novel, The Rules of Attraction, for dinner in one chapter. They do not get along well with each other.
    • Another of the three leads of The Rules of Attraction, Paul Denton, makes a much briefer appearance, where he doesn't even say anything, but Patrick notes that he's staring at him like he seems familiar. Most likely Patrick seems familiar to Paul because he looks similar to his brother.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: In keeping with Patrick Bateman being an Unreliable Narrator, numerous instances are described by Bateman as if they were something happening in a movie.
    • He occasionally may describe a brief action before a dramatic moment, such as before he commits violence, as occurring in "slow motion".
    • In the middle of murders, he sometimes refers to the demeaning things he tells his victims as "lines" which he speaks.
    • In the opening chapter, Patrick uses film editing terms, like "dissolve" and "smash cut," when transitioning to different parts of Evelyn's dinner party.
    • Hearing Madonna's "Like a Prayer" during a nervous breakdown causes Patrick to see the actions of everyone around him as moving in synch to the song, like in a music video.
    • In the middle of Patrick's lunch date with Bethany, after the waiter brings them their drinks, Patrick calls this the beginning of "Scene Two."
    • The climatic police chase near the end of the book plays out like an over-the-top 1980's action movie, which momentarily switches to a third-person perspective and which Patrick remembers as "the chase scene" in a later chapter.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': No one suspects Patrick of anything, even after he confesses everything.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Patrick's and his associates' entire existences revolve around being shallow consumers of high class commercial products like designer clothes, expensive watches, fancy electronics, and getting reservations in highly fashionable restaurants. For Patrick, this emphasis on commercial consumption not only compels him to murder people out of jealousy for having more or better stuff than he does, like Paul Owen, but also causes him to see other people as products for his personal consumption, first realized through his penchant for prostitutes and escorts and later taken to a metaphorical extreme when he turns to cannibalism.
  • Cassandra Truth: There are times when Bateman openly confesses his crimes to people, who either don't believe him, mishear him, or think he's joking.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "I have to return some videotapes."
    • Sean Bateman's "Rock 'n' roll. Deal with it.", which also is a Shout-Out to Bret Easton Ellis's previous novel, The Rules of Attraction. His brother Patrick makes it clear he's too familiar with the phrase ("I know, I know, rock 'n' roll, deal with it, right?"), although he misquotes it in the end of the book ("Rocking and a rolling.").
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Whenever anybody around Patrick is speaking about something that puts him at unease (or if he is feeling uneasy about things on his own mind), Patrick frequently evokes his idol Donald Trump (or his first wife, Ivana) in efforts to put himself back in control.
    • When meeting Paul Owen for lunch, as Paul complains about the restaurant being nearly empty and Patrick is on edge knowing he hopes to convince Paul to come back to his apartment, Patrick exclaims he sees Ivana Trump in the restaurant with them.
    • During a limo ride with his mistress Courtney, Patrick tries to ignore Courtney's drugged state while wondering aloud if Donald Trump's limo is beside theirs in traffic.
    • When nervously meeting his ex-girlfriend Bethany for lunch, Patrick makes up a story about recently returning to New York after a flight on the Trump Shuttle.
    • When meeting his brother Sean for his birthday at Dorsia, jealous that his brother was able to get a table, Patrick outright lies about personally knowing Donald Trump, having plans to attend a party of his, and being able to introduce him to Sean.
    • When Detective Kimball visits Bateman's office, Patrick successfully derails the conversation about Paul Owen's disappearance by directing the detective's attention to the copy of Donald Trump's book The Art of the Deal on top of his desk and asking Kimball if he's read it.
  • Character Filibuster: There are entire chapters where Patrick stops telling the story altogether, in order to launch into long essay-like rants about pop singers he likes, such as Phil Collins and Whitney Houston. His interminably long word diarrhea about banal pop acts like Huey Lewis and the News demonstrate how shallow a person he is.
  • Continuity Nod: Taking place in the same universe as most of Bret Easton Ellis's novels, there are subtle references to events and characters from other books. Most humorously, Patrick, when buying a tie for his brother Sean, pleases himself by imagining Sean attempting to hang himself with it. Sean actually does try to hang himself using a tie from Patrick in Ellis's earlier novel, The Rules of Attraction. Patrick also notes that Sean, who was occasionally described as having a unibrow in the previous book, must be plucking his eyebrows, seeing that "he no longer has only one".
  • Cool House: Timothy Price has a place out in the Hamptons.
  • Costume Porn: Bateman frequently details what he and his colleagues/friends are wearing, and their brand names. The author, Bret Easton Ellis, actually subverted this, albeit very covertly. Apparently he knew that the readers of the book would almost certainly be unable to accurately picture the outfits that Patrick describes and would assume the men just look like GQ models and the women look like celebrities doing publicity but in fact the clothes they were described as wearing would actually look "clownish" in real life.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Bateman uses blood of two prostitutes to write the words "I AM BACK" and draw a picture on a wall in Paul Owen's apartment.
  • Crapsack World: Almost every character, with the exception of Jean, is an absolutely odious, shallow, and self-centered individual, lacking in anything even remotely like a redeeming feature. They pretend to be conscious of tragic news stories and global crises (murders, drugs, mafia, nazis, AIDS, homelessness, Sri Lanka, et. al.) but don't really care about any issues strongly enough to do anything to fix them.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The 'Lunch With Bethany', 'Girl' and second 'Girls' chapter make for particularly grim reading.
  • Damned By a Fool's Praise: The music Bateman talks about is an example of this. Ellis didn't like any of the music Bateman liked; he used it because "it seemed to reflect a certain kind of mass-taste" Bateman wanted to be a part of. He later came to regret associating Huey Lewis and the News with Bateman.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Bateman admits that Timothy (his "best friend") is the only person he finds interesting.
  • Decoy Protagonist: It's only for a very short time, but if you'd read only the first few pages of the novel, you'd think the protagonist is Tim Price.
  • Description Porn: Patrick describes everything, including his surroundings, what everyone wears, what they eat, what products they use, the murders he commits, and his own daily routines.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Bateman murders several prostitutes and escort girls in the book.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Bateman also targets homeless people just as often as prostitutes. A beggar named Al, in particular, is presented to readers as Patrick's first victim. Al is suggested to have survived his encounter with Patrick and reappears later in the second half.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Several of Bateman's victims, Paul Owen in particular, are killed out of jealousy or vengeance over incredibly petty grievances.
  • Double Tap: After Patrick kills a man on the street by slashing his throat, he takes out his gun and shoots him twice in the face, just to be sure.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: An in-universe example. Patrick pretends to be offended by a racist joke one of his associates tells, though he's actually a virulent racist.
  • Dumb Blonde: Evelyn and Courtney, primarily. Also, three models (Libby, Daisy and Caron) Patrick and his associates mingle with in a nightclub. When they're asked to name any of the planets, two guess the Moon, and the third one guesses Comet. This is deconstructed with one of the models lamenting this and saddened by how Bateman sees her as nothing but a brainless squeeze, suggesting there is more to her character, but she doesn't mind because she thinks Patrick is actually a nice person.
  • Eat Dirt, Cheap: While vacationing in the Hamptons, Patrick claims to enjoy going out on evening strolls on the beach, digging up baby crabs and eating handfuls of sand.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The very first words of the novel are 'ABANDON ALL HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE', which right of the bat lets the reader know what they're in for.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Three characters who Bateman does not kill are Evelyn, his fiancee; Jean, his secretary; and Luis, his gay associate, all of whom are in love with him. Notable, as Bateman finds Evelyn incredibly annoying, but never considers murdering her, and he was actually about to kill Luis, until he revealed he was gay and in love with Bateman. Even though Bateman is disgusted by this he still does not kill Luis. Also inverted in the book, where Bateman kills a small boy but doesn't find it evil enough.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: Patrick, while looking for someone to kill, passes a street juggler and mentions that if he had been a mime, he would already have been dead.
  • Evidence Dungeon: Patrick Bateman uses both his apartment and appropriates Paul Owen's apartment after killing him to commit most of his murders. In his apartment, there is a head in the fridge and numerous implements of murder and torture. In Paul Owen's apartment, there are two bodies hanging on hooks in a closet, another on the bathroom floor and a room with 'Die Yuppie Scum' scrawled on the walls. Subverted as the ending implies that Bateman may be having psychotic delusions about his murders. As he is an incredibly unreliable narrator, it calls into question everything we've seen and whether the 'evidence' was really there.
  • Evil Is Petty: Patrick kills people for such things as having fancier business cards than he does. During a visit to a zoo, he also mentions trying to harm the seals solely because they bring joy to other people.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: Bateman could be caught, but no one cares to catch him.
  • Fan Hater: In-story example. Patrick mentions that no one should feel sympathy for Jeanette whom he's forcing into getting an abortion due to the fact that her favorite movie is Pretty in Pink and "she thinks Sting is cool."invoked
  • Fictional Fan, Real Celebrity: Patrick Bateman is infatuated with Donald Trump. In Patrick's view, Trump's public image defines the positive features of a life of supreme wealth, luxury, and extravagance which Patrick wants for himself. However, Patrick's own pursuits of such a lavish, materialistic lifestyle leave him a Broken Ace leading a meaningless existence—hollow, sentimentally empty, alienated, morally bankrupt, and purely evil.
  • Finger in the Mail: When Patrick Bateman is listing his priorities before Christmas, one of them is "saw a hardbody's head off and Federal Express it to Robin Barker - the dumb bastard - over at Salomon Brothers". Later, he mentions that he almost got caught at a Federal Express "trying to send the mother of one of the girls I killed last week what might be a dried-up, brown heart."
  • Flashback: When Bateman is eating with Bethany, he reminisces an event where he killed a female student when he still was in the university.
  • Food Porn: As with all variety of Description Porn, this is subverted. The descriptions of food dishes range from bizarre (peanut butter soup) to inedible (brioche with maple syrup and cotton). Some of the strangest dishes are seemingly imagined products of Patrick's own psychosis and warped memories ("a big plate of endive with clam sauce").
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Patrick goes to a Halloween party dressed as a mass murderer, complete with real human blood on his suit. He comes in 2nd in the party's costume contest, which really upsets him.
  • Foreshadowing: After killing Paul and visiting his apartment, Patrick records a message on his dead colleague's answering machine while impersonating as Paul Owen and saying he's in London. When Bateman is ready to confess his crimes to his lawyer, Harold Carnes, his murder of Paul being among them, the lawyer rebuts his claims by saying that he had dinner with Paul in London, twice, just ten days ago.

  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Patrick has an extreme hatred for homosexual males (whom he derides as "faggots") but is deeply aroused by lesbian sex. If he's not going to lengths to pay prostitutes and/or drug women just to watch them get it on, he's often seeking it out in pornographic videos. In one instance late in the book, Patrick relates to the reader that, when the topic of his favorite daytime talk show turns out to be "Teenage Lesbians," he finds the program "so erotic" that it causes him to miss a business meeting.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Ellis has stated that long before he came up with the "serial killer on Wall Street" concept, the novel was inspired by his own sense of isolation, disaffection and loneliness while living in New York in the 1980s. A significant theme of the novel is how it is partly Bateman's isolation from other people that drives him to insanity.
  • Gorn: Just like clothes, food, sex, and everything else that's important in Patrick's life, violence and bloodshed is described in lengthy (and, occasionally, absurd) detail. The horrific violence was the subject of much debate when the novel was published.
  • Gun Porn: Patrick sometimes describes firearms he has or likes in detail, for example in the chapter named "Taking an Uzi to the Gym". Occasionally, the details Patrick provides are inaccurate and make his narration more logically inconsistent, such as when he claims to take out a ".357 Magnum" (a revolver) and somehow screws a silencer into it (which is made for semi-automatic handguns; revolvers cannot be silenced with this kind of attachment) and later adding that he ejects and replaces an ammo "clip" from the gun (which cannot be done with a revolver).
  • Harassing Phone Call: Patrick makes a bunch of obscene phone calls to women to amuse himself:
    "I'm a corporate raider," I whispered lasciviously into the cordless phone. "I orchestrate hostile takeovers. What do you think of that?" and I would pause before making sucking noises, freakish piglike grunts, and then ask, "Huh, bitch?"
  • Hate Sink:
    • Patrick Bateman, a soulless corporatist who butchers people for both fun and to vent his own superiority complex. Even if he isn't actually killing anybody, he's fantasizing about it.
    • Patrick's coworkers aren't much better, given that they spend their entire pagetime talking about superficial nonsense while spewing sexist remarks.
  • Haute Cuisine Is Weird: Many of the dishes Patrick and his friends order at fancy restaurants feature strange or exotic ingredients, bizarre combinations, and even outright inedible materials. While much of this depiction of food plays into the story's satire and criticism of wealthy, upper class excess, some foods described by Patrick appear to be further evidence of his own insanity, such as a mental breakdown described in the novel as being exacerbated by Patrick not remembering what he ate for lunch ("Did I order the partridge sandwich on brioche with green tomatoes, or a big plate of endive with clam sauce? Oh god, I can't remember...").
  • Hide the Evidence: Bateman does so little, if any, productive work at his office, and when Detective Kimball visits him at work and remarks, "I know how busy you guys can get," Patrick suddenly notices his still-running Walkman on top of a small stack of skin mags on his desk, which he quickly tries to slip into his top drawer.
  • Hookers and Blow: Part of Patrick's exceptionally decadent lifestyle.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Early in the narrative, Bateman publicly puts forth to his peers that it is on themselves to work towards solving social crises, such as providing food and shelter for the homeless, opposing racial discrimination, supporting civil rights and equal rights for women, and return to traditional moral values. However, privately, Bateman is an ardent bigot without ethics who only feels disgust for the poor.
      • In the book, as Bateman lays this all out, he even tries to openly support both sides of divisive social issues, such as stressing a need to "change abortion laws to protect the life of the unborn while also maintaining a woman's right to choose," which is further contradicted later in the book in separate scenes where Bateman forces women who he sleeps with to get abortions even performing several of them himself against their will.
    • Patrick shows open disdain for people who smoke cigarettes, while he himself enjoys smoking cigars. Patrick loudly complains about being seated next to smokers at a restaurant (hoping the "nicotine addicts" hear him and feel guilty about their habit) when meeting with his ex-girlfriend Bethany. Later, when torturing Bethany back at his apartment, Patrick momentarily pauses to show her a cigar and gloat that he still smokes them, in spite of telling her earlier that he had quit.
    • Patrick chides his colleagues for making anti-semitic comments about another one of their co-workers and confusing words like "menorah" and "dreidel", but, while suffering some kind of mental breakdown, Patrick wanders into a kosher deli and repeatedly tries to order a cheeseburger and milkshake, failing to understand the waitress when she explains that they don't serve anything with dairy products and believing the waitress to be the one who is having a problem. When the manager approaches Patrick, he stands up and shouts anti-semitic slurs and insults before storming out back onto the street.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • At one point Patrick and several of his guy friends are appalled that their dates only seem to be able to meaningfully converse about clothes.
    • And then there's this little gem:
    "What are all these T-shirts I've been seeing?" she asks. "All over the city? Have you seen them? Silkience Equals Death? Are people having problems with their conditioners or something? Am I missing something? What were we talking about?"
    "No, that's absolutely wrong. It's Science Equals Death." I sigh, close my eyes. "Jesus, Evelyn. Only you could confuse that and a hair product."note 
    • And:
    If she likes me only for my muscles, the heft of my cock, then she's a shallow bitch. But a physically superior, near-perfect-looking shallow bitch, and that can override anything, except maybe bad breath or yellow teeth, either of which is a real deal-breaker.
    • Patrick incorrectly attributes a quote from serial killer Edmund Kemper to Ed Gein before growing very upset with Craig McDermott for mistakenly calling Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre "Featherhead".
  • I Call Him "Mister Happy": When a private investigator asks Patrick about Paul Owen, Patrick thinks to himself: "How could I describe Paul Owen to this guy? Boasting, arrogant, cheerful dickhead who constantly weaseled his way out of checks at Nell's? That I'm heir to the unfortunate information that his penis had a name and that name was Michael?"
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: "I have to return some videotapes." Patrick uses other, more outlandish excuses too; for example, he once tells to Courtney that "I'm going to... Noj's. I'm buying coke from Noj." She protests that Noj is not a drug dealer but the chef at the Deck Chairs.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Bateman eats the brain and part of the insides of one of his victims, and later bursts into tears while cooking another... because he thinks he's doing it wrong and can't cook.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: As much as Bateman tries to present himself as possessing immense knowledge and informed opinions in appreciation of pop culture, music, movies, TV, and other trivia, he does occasionally get things wrong, although this isn't always made glaringly obvious:
    • There's a scene where Bateman references a quote which he attributes to infamous murderer Ed Gein. In actuality, the quote in question was said by another serial killer, Edmund Kemper.
    • A character points out that he hung his cherished, original David Onica painting upside-down.
    • Patrick frequently refers to the depiction of "Eponine's" face on posters for the Broadway musical Les Misérables. The actual character appearing in the promotional posters is Cosette.
    • In the first chapter, Patrick refers to "The Crystals still blaring on the radio" while Timothy Price is trying to enjoy the 60's pop song "Be My Baby" being played at maximum volume in the middle of a cab ride, but the song is actually performed by The Ronettes.
    • Inversely, at Pastels, Patrick mentions The Ronnettes singing "Then He Kissed Me," which is actually sung by The Crystals.
    • He identifies the saddest song he knows as " 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' by The Beatles". It's actually by The Rolling Stones. It also humorously demonstrates complete ignorance of the uplifting, reassuring quality of the song's pop hook that explains, "You get what you need."
    • Inversely, Patrick names the happiest song he knows as Bruce Springsteen's "Brilliant Disguise", whose lyrics actually paint a troubling image of a narrator expressing confusion, doubt, and anxiety over whether his lover holds any true feelings for him beneath her mask.
    • At a U2 concert, Patrick and his friends aren't sure which one is "The Ledge".
    • He attempts to compliment Tom Cruise while sharing an elevator by telling him how much he liked the actor in the movie "Bartender". Tom Cruise corrects Patrick on the film's actual title—Cocktail.
    • Patrick kills a street performer with a .357 Magnum revolver, somehow managing to attach a suppressor to it, but the suppressor doesn't do anything and a police car passing by immediately responds to the loud gunshot. Unless specifically designed for them, revolvers can't be suppressed.
    • He describes Genesis' ...And Then There Were Three... as referring to Peter Gabriel's departure, when it was actually about Steve Hackett leaving. Gabriel left Genesis a few albums earlier.
    • Bateman says Whitney Houston's debut album had four number one singles on it when it only had three.
    • Timothy Price makes the claim when trying to sound world conscious that "Sikhs are killing tons of Israelis" in Sri Lanka. Neither Israelis nor Sikhs have any sizable presence in Sri Lanka in either a military or civilian capacity.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Luis Carruthers is in love with Bateman, who is not only straight but a virulent homophobe as well.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Patrick and his peers refer to women who meet their standard of objectified physical beauty as "hardbodies".
    • For the first half of the novel, he can never call his secretary 'Jean.' No, it's always 'Jean, my secretary, who is in love with me.'
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: While on his way to Evelyn's Christmas Eve party, after one of Bateman's associates alarms him of the growing influence of Japan and Japanese business in New York City and America, Bateman feels compelled to murder the first Japanese bike messenger he sees and dump the hot food his victim was delivering on top of his body, only to discover in doing so that his victim was actually carrying Chinese food. Realizing he had made a "mistake" in "killing the wrong type of Asian," Bateman then attempts to "amend" the situation by leaving a threatening note for the Jewish woman that the food was being delivered to before halfheartedly telling his victim, "Uh, sorry."
  • Ironic Hell: Assuming Patrick really is a murderer, he'll likely never be caught. But that doesn't matter, because his life is already punishment enough. He's surrounded by people he hates, but doesn't know how to live away from them; he can't get anyone to stop him, because nobody hears what he says; even killing people isn't any fun, because everyone is so interchangeable that when one of them dies, nobody notices - and what's the point of a murder nobody knows about?
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Inverted with Bateman's return to the torture chamber he set up in Paul Owen's apartment, which has inexplicably been repainted from top to bottom, erasing any trace that he was ever there.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Bateman says he attended Harvard.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Many references are made to characters enjoying Japanese electronics (Patrick's prized TV set, VCR, stereo system, walkman, and home video cameras, for instance, are all made by Toshiba, Sansui, Panasonic, and Sony—with electronic components from NEC) and food (The opening of the book features Evelyn and Courtney co-hosting a dinner party where guests dine on sushi and sake). Meanwhile, everyone voices resentment over growing Japanese influence in American culture:
    • Luis Carruthers is said to dislike the Japanese because of this. In the chapter "Concert," he admits and explains his hatred:
      Luis Carruthers: "They save more than we do and they don't innovate much, but they sure in the fuck know how to take, steal, our innovations, improve on them, then ram them down our fucking throats!"
    • Another character says this in the chapter "Christmas Party:"
      Charles Murphy: "They've bought the Empire State Building and Nell's. Nell's, can you believe it, Bateman?"
    • In the chapter "New Club" and near the end of the film:
      Harold Carnes: "The Japanese will own most of this country by the end of the '90s."
  • Jerkass: Every person Patrick surrounds himself with, except Jean, is every bit as shallow, self-centered, and materialistic as he is. His male associates, especially, are frequently sexist, casually racist, or both.
  • Karma Houdini: Patrick actually confesses (earnestly) all the horrible things he's done to his lawyer, and still nothing comes of it. Of course, that's assuming he did do all the things he describes.
  • Kick the Dog: Patrick disobeys the signs at the zoo saying not to throw coins in the seals' enclosure (because they can choke on them) out of spite for the enjoyment the seals give other visitors.
  • Kill the Poor: Patrick feels nothing but ill will and contempt for the lower classes, as do his friends, although they, unlike Patrick, don't go out and stab them for fun.
  • Known by the Postal Address: Patrick Bateman lives at 55 West 81st Street, Upper West Side on the 11th floor of the American Gardens.
  • Lack of Imagination: Patrick Bateman has no imagination to speak of. Much of the reason he fails to stand out from a crowd and resorts to murder to try to define himself is that the murder is (probably) the only thing he does that nobody in his social circle does; they all wear the same clothes, go to the same restaurants, watch the same movies, listen to the same music, and really seem to have no hobbies or ambitions apart from keeping up with the latest fad.
  • Lame Comeback: When someone calls Patrick a "fucking yuppie," he responds, "Hey... You may think I'm a really disgusting yuppie but I'm not, really."
  • Love Dodecahedron: Patrick Bateman is engaged to wed Evelyn Williams, who is believed to be having an affair with Patrick's best friend, Timothy Price. Meanwhile, Patrick is having an affair with Evelyn's best friend, Courtney Rawlinson, who is engaged to Patrick's business associate, Luis Carruthers, who is also secretly in love with Patrick.

  • Madness Mantra: In an early chapter at a restaurant, McDermott's persistence in wanting everyone to order a "red snapper pizza" leads to him chanting for the menu item over and over while everyone else at the table is focused talking about other inane issues. Bateman lampshades this by thinking "McDermott has found a mantra for the evening."
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: By the end of the story, it's clear that all of Patrick's evil and depravity have afforded him nothing. He's still as lonely and miserable and empty as he was at the beginning, and no one gives a shit about him.
  • Mind Screw: Since he's an Unreliable Narrator, it's very hard to tell just how much of Patrick's actions were real, if any.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: A variant - at one point in the novel Bateman and several of his colleagues are sitting in a restaurant checking out a hot girl at another table. Tim Price uninterestedly points out that one of her knees is bigger than the other. All three of them notice this and promptly lose all interest in her.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Bateman is about to kill his associate, Luis, by strangling him from behind, but Luis mistakes this as Bateman coming onto him, causing him to reveal that he's gay and in love with Bateman.
  • Mistaken Identity: Throughout the story, characters address each other by the wrong name. Bateman himself is called Marcus Halberstam, MacLoy, Davis, Smith and Paul Owen, among others. Craig McDermott is addressed as Baxter at one point. This is a part of the social commentary in the story; these yuppies are so self-centered they can't even remember each others' names. Or, more to the point, they all look exactly like one another and engage in the exact same activities to a point where everyone is interchangeable, no one else can tell anybody apart from anybody else, and no one can even realize when one of their own associates and so-called "friends" is murdered...maybe.
  • Monster Clown: Patrick rents a movie about one. The tagline reads, "Some clowns make you laugh, but Bobo will make you die and then he'll eat your body".
  • The Movie Buff: Bateman is an avid fan of horror films and gory B-movies, which he often rents on VHS. His favorite video rental is Body Double, and his associates grow tired with him always talking about movie killers like Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which causes Patrick much annoyance when they also mistakenly call the character "Featherhead").
  • Multiple Narrative Modes: Some chapters are told in third-person perspective, as opposed to the first-person narrative of the rest of the novel.
  • My Card: Early on, there's a scene where several stockbrokers compare business cards.
  • Nepotism: Bateman's father "practically owns" P&P. See One-Hour Work Week.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Patrick and his associates are absolutely horrible to waiters and other people who do services for them (dry cleaners, housemaids, etc.).
  • No Ending: The novel ends with the words "This is not an exit" (on a sign that Patrick reads). The chapters also often end abruptly, and one even ends in mid-sentence. Also inverted in the book, as some chapters begin abruptly.
  • No Fame, No Wealth, No Service: Patrick and his peers have trouble getting reservations at Dorsia, presumably because it's always booked up by those even richer and more connected.
  • Nobody Poops: Bathroom stalls at nightclubs and restaurants are seemingly used exclusively for snorting lines of cocaine and nothing else.
    Club Patron: [Leaning over adjacent bathroom stall] Will you keep it down? I'm trying to do drugs!
  • Noodle Implements: The "sex toys" Patrick uses on Christie and Sabrina: a nail gun, a sharpened coat hanger, a rusty butter knife, matches, a half-smoked cigar and a carton of Italian seasoning salt.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Patrick often confesses his sociopathic tendencies to friends and associates. They are either not listening or don't care.
  • Oblivious Mockery: Harold Carnes mistakes Bateman for someone named Davis, and tells him that Patrick Bateman is "a bloody ass-kisser" and "a brown-nosing goody-goody".
  • One-Hour Work Week: Patrick's job is very high-paying, with a cushy office, but he doesn't seem to do any actual work there and has a lot of free time on his hands. He frequently arrives late to his office, cuts out early, or does both, while he prioritizes shopping errands, lunch meetings, or feeding his more personal obsessions back at his apartment. Whenever Patrick actually is at his office, his time is still spent watching TV, listening to music on his walkman, doing crossword puzzles, lifting weights, and doing any number of other unrelated activities. Famously, when Patrick and all his associates attend a business meeting, the entire time is spent showing off their business cards, and later, when Patrick attempts to look busy when visited by Detective Kimball, all Patrick can think to do is pick up his phone receiver and ramble on about men's fashion and proper tipping etiquette, rather than pretend to actually be in the middle of business. When his secretary looks through his day planner, it's almost empty save for lunch dates. It's mentioned that it's his dad's company.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Prostitutes "Christie" and "Sabrina" are given their names by Patrick with instruction to only answer to those names when in his presence.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Jean is the only character to show little to no regard for material desires and actually seems to care about the people around her.
    • Played With concerning Bethany, Patrick's ex-girlfriend. She shows the attributes above and seems like a genuinely intelligent person...that is, until Patrick gets her drunk and lures her back to his apartment, where he kills her.
  • Pet the Dog: Patrick almost has a moment like this, but then it's ruined. At one point, he notices a pretty homeless girl sitting on the steps of a building with a coffee cup. As he states, his nastiness vanishes, and he honestly wants to do something kind, so he drops a dollar into the cup. Then he realizes that the girl wasn't homeless but a college student, and the cup was full of coffee.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Apart from being a sadistic serial killer, Patrick is also racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, elitist and homophobic (though so are most of his associates, except the serial killer part).
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: Deconstructed. In place of an authentic, cultivated human personality, Patrick Bateman constantly strives to be recognized by his peers (as well as the reader/audience) for his knowledge and appreciation of music, art, and pop culture, but his grasp and understanding of the art and media that he consumes is reduced to what material is made the most appealing to the widest audiences and Lowest Common Denominatornote , such as dismissing early Genesis albums with Peter Gabriel (and his "lame solo career") as being "too artsy, too intellectual" and favoring the more commercially-driven direction of the group after Phil Collins became the group's frontman. Other assessments he makes of popular singers and bands are frequently off-the-mark and factually wrong, like being convinced that Whitney Houston is a jazz singer or believing "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is a song by The Beatles. He often speaks of owning what's described as the original version of "Sunrise with Broken Plates" by artist David Onica (while discreetly boasting of the high cost he paid to obtain it), only for his ex-girlfriend to later point out to him that he hung it upside down. All of this only serves to further demonstrate Patrick's emptiness, shallowness, and delusions about having "good taste."
  • Popular Is Dumb: Bateman's associates are highly powerful and successful people who are oblivious to current events or even basic scientific knowledge.
  • Pun: Patrick has filled a crossword puzzle with words "meat" and "bone". He then asks Jean, his secretary who is in love with him, out for dinner while erasing one of the M's.
  • Quality by Popular Vote: In-Universe. Patrick and his yuppie friends' appreciation of music, art, and culture is so far driven by popularity and mainstream appeal that the early, more radical, avant-garde work made by their favorite artists before they became commercialized is generally discarded for not fitting with their norms:
    • Most significantly, Patrick dismisses the early progressive rock albums by Genesis as "too artsy, too intellectual," and he couldn't begin to appreciate their music until after Phil Collins became a greater presence and took the band in a different direction, and Huey Lewis and the News was "too new wave" for Patrick's liking until the release of their third album, Sports, found greater commercial appeal.
    • One of the last things Paul Owen says in a drunken stupor before Patrick murders him with an axe is, "...I used to hate Iggy Pop, but now that he's so commercial I like him a lot better..."
  • Raincoat of Horror: Patrick Bateman wears a clear plastic raincoat over his suit, to prevent it from being stained with blood.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Casual mentions are made in the story of Patrick having committed rape, with his murders also tending to get quite graphic with sexual violence. While it's deeply questionable by the end if he actually killed anyone, the former is perhaps the one crime he could have realistically committed.
  • Reference Overdosed: Bateman makes references to brands, trademarks, products and pop culture almost all the time. Justified because he's very shallow and materialistic.
  • Rule of Three: The three chapters in which Bateman describes an 80s pop act in minute detail. Emphasized by Ellis, who mentioned in an interview that the novel's editor wanted to cut out two of these chapters, as he was of the opinion that they'd lose their impact through repetition. Ellis countered that the fact that the motif is repeated is what makes them work: one such chapter sounds merely like the writings of a slightly obsessive fan, but three sounds downright psychotic.
  • Running Gag
    • "I have to return some videotapes."
    • Bateman can never get that reservation at Dorsia.
    • Patrick's obsession with "The Patty Winters Show" and the bizarre subjects of the episodes he watches.
    • When Patrick doesn't want to answer a phone call, he imitates an answering machine – unsuccessfully.
    • At several points Patrick and various people in his social circle trail off in the middle of conversation, not actually having a discussion end-goal or really knowing anything about topics, mostly just having wanted to put the focus on themselves while sometimes realizing that the audience (generally) isn't listening.
    • When passing poor people asking for money, Bateman and his friends pretend they're giving them dollars and pull out their hands at the last moment.
    • Timothy Price's friends sometimes say "Price [...] You're priceless."
    • Bateman and his peers never seeming to recognize each other. Patrick often describes other people he sees as somebody who "looks like" a named person (In one instance, even claiming to spot a penguin at the Central Park Zoo as looking like his friend, Craig McDermott), and every so often somebody passes Patrick by and calls him by the wrong name.

  • Sanity Slippage: As the book goes on, Patrick's descriptions of the mundane parts of his life become peppered with increasingly bizarre details.
  • Satire: A common theme in the story.
    • On 1980s consumerism, greed, and materialism:
      • Bateman gives lengthy descriptions about meals, clothes and gadgets. In the book, to add more humor and make the satire more pointy, some of these costumes would actually look clownish and some foods would in fact be inedible in real life.
      • Bateman's descriptions sound like commercials, with emphasis on positive traits of the products, such as clothes, gadgets and music albums.
      • Not only does Bateman consume products, he also consumes people by using, raping, killing, and even eating them, before he finally disposes of what's left of them.
      • The name of Pierce & Pierce, the company Bateman works for, alludes to the aggressiveness and greed of the era as well as Bateman's life as a serial killer (and human consumer).
      • The omnipresence of brands and Bateman's over-the-top obsession with them.
      • Character descriptions are mostly about their clothes and accessories - not their personalities.
      • The competition between Bateman and his associates is taken to the extreme: Who has the best business card? Who can get a reservation at Dorsia?
      • The first half of the chapter "Rat" is written like a shopping list which has ridiculously detailed descriptions of the items.
    • On social conformity, fads, and trends:
      • Characters look the same (probably because they all follow trends and try to get the best clothes, haircuts, etc.) to such extent that they often confuse each other, most notably Paul Owen always mistakes Patrick Bateman for Marcus Halberstam.
      • While trying to fit in, Bateman also wants to retain his uniqueness, and to reach this goal, he even tries to confess the murders he committed. This doesn't work, as hinted by the "This is not an exit" sign and his final monologue showing his acceptance of his own fate in the end.
      • Bateman's masks and ice packs he wears in mornings reflect putting on a mask and giving up on one's own personality when trying to fit in. This is also symbolized by the masked-looking yuppie on the cover of the book and Bateman thinking there's no real him, only an idea.
      • In some scenes where Bateman doesn't act conformist, "Hip to be Square" is ironically referred to or played.
    • On narcissism:
      • Bateman is obsessed with his appearance, which is shown in the book as over-the-top costume, morning-routine and exercise descriptions.
      • Characters don't pay much attention to discussions, and when they do, they - especially Bateman - try to direct the conversations to be about themselves. Not listening to other people is taken to such extremes that no-one really cares even when Bateman talks about murders and executions (They mishear him, don't take him seriously, don't hear him at all, or simply ignore him.).
    • Even the work's title can be seen as a Take That! to greed, narcissism, materialism, hedonism, and consumerism. In this interpretation, the "American" refers to the American society and the "Psycho" to the (exaggerated) behavior of people in it.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times: Patrick mentions that he has rented Body Double 37 times. One chapter follows his train of thought at a video rental store as he picks the movie out "as if he'd been programmed." He also pretends to ignore "the horrified reaction" of a store employee who recognizes Bateman upon being handed the movie box when renting it out for what would be the 38th time. He sometimes likes to describe some of the film's more violent moments to both the reader and other characters throughout the story. "The power drill scene" is Patrick's favorite part.
  • Scenery Porn: Just as all other things Patrick details at length, Patrick describes his lavish surroundings in dry Walls of Text, including everything from the decor at the restaurants he visits to the furnishings in his and his associates' apartments. Deconstructed, in that rather than being appealing to the reader, the lengthy, detailed descriptions make both Patrick and the world that surrounds him seem shallow and materialistic. Also, as with the frequent descriptions of food and clothes, much of the decor would look incredibly tacky or silly to anyone in real life (Evelyn serves exotically-flavored sorbets at her dinner party in margarita glasses!?).
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Long drawn out conversations about shallow topics, with the Business Card scene being the most famous.
    • A phone conversation between multiple people about where to make dinner reservations is drawn out over a complete chapter.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Patrick Bateman. Probably.
    • Some details in the book suggest a possibility that there may be one or more other serial killers on the loose and acting independently of—but very similar to—Bateman. In the first chapter, for instance, Patrick details a story in a day's newspaper about the disappearances of two people aboard a yacht belonging to a New York socialite who are believed to have been attacked with a machete and dumped off the boat; Patrick seems to have nothing to do with this. Later, Detective Kimball makes explicit reference to "a young stockbroker" in New Jersey who had been arrested and charged with murder and using corpses in "performing voodoo rituals".
    • Patrick is obsessed with real serial killers like Ted Bundy or Ed Gein, to the point that his friends complain that he always brings them up in conversations.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    "Oh god," Timothy moans. "I am so sick of hearing Camden-girl problems. Oh my boyfriend, I love him but he loves someone else and oh how I longed for him and he ignored me and blahblah blahblahblah—god, how boring..."
  • Self-Plagiarism: A couple of passages from Less Than Zero show up almost exactly word-for-word in American Psycho.
  • Serious Business: Things that most people would find irrelevant or trivial are blown out of proportion all over; for example, Paul Owen is murdered over a business deal that nobody even knows the details of (as well as for having a better business card than Bateman's and for being able to get a reservation at a popular restaurant).
  • Sexy Secretary: What Patrick wants Jean to be. In her first appearance, Patrick dislikes her clothes so much that he tells her to never wear them again, insisting that she wear dresses or skirts with high heels.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Patrick becomes increasingly insane and homicidal and a lot of people die at his hands, culminating in him confessing to his lawyer... but in the end, no one believes him, and the book and film end as they begin, with him making boring small talk with boring, self-absorbed people. Patrick himself even concludes, "There has been no reason for me to tell you any of this. This confession has meant nothing..."
  • Shout-Out:
    • The book begins with Bateman reading the words "Abandon all hope ye who enter here"—a reference to Dante's The Inferno.
    • The book ends with Bateman reading a sign that says "This is not an Exit"—a reference to No Exit.
    • All interpretations of the work include references to the Broadway production of Les Misérables. Significantly, Patrick's secretary, Jean, being the most "normal" and moral of all the story's characters, shares her name with Jean Valjean, the redeeming moral protagonist of Les Mis. However, the play itself is repeatedly referenced to establish it as yet another popular commercial product and extension of the consumerist and self-centered lifestyle to which Patrick adheres, irrespective of the work's intended artistic message (which paints a contrast with the wealth, immorality, and emptiness exhibited by Patrick and his peers). Worth noting that the original Broadway run of Les Mis through the late 1980's was so popular and tickets were in such high demand that theatergoers had to pay several hundred—even several thousand—dollars to get in to see it, making the show most accessible to a wealthy clientele who can afford to spend excessive cash (and vie for seats just like other characters in American Psycho itself would try to get a table at Dorsia). Other, more direct, references to the musical include:
      • In the opening chapter of the book, Patrick spots a poster for the musical at a bus stop with the word "DYKE" scrawled across Cossette'snote  face. In a later chapter, when Patrick collapses out of nausea, he ends up leaning against the same poster.
      • In various places and different parties and social gatherings, Patrick keeps hearing music from the production soundtrack, which regularly leads to Patrick beginning light conversations with colleagues, asking whether it's the "American or British" cast recording being played (no one else ever knows) before boasting that he personally finds the British recording to be "far superior" (no one else ever cares). In one instance, Patrick hears a "muzak version" of the soundtrack.
      • The show's playbill is brought up variously as a sort of fashion accessory when Patrick describes strangers' clothes and appearances and as discarded refuse left in the back of New York City cabs.
    • In the early chapter "Morning Routine", Patrick describes his suit for the day as "an eighties drape from Alan Flusser". The same suits were worn by Michael Douglas's character, Gordon Gekko, in Wall Street.
    • Patrick inquires at his video store about movies starring actress Jami Gertz. Jami Gertz played Blair in the movie adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis's first book, Less Than Zero (Ellis's later novel, Imperial Bedrooms, also confirms that this movie adaptation exists within his Shared Universe).
    • Bateman recalls the abuse and rape of a woman named Alison Poole, who is a character from fellow Brat-Packer Jay McInerney's novel Story of My Life.
    • At one point, Patrick is watching an interview on The Patty Winters Show with a woman who has multiple personalities. The personality currently talking refers to itself as "Lambchop", which is one of the personalities in the 1987 book When Rabbit Howls.
    • The rat torture idea originates from an author's note at the end of The 120 Days of Sodom.
  • Show Within a Show: Frequent references are made to a daytime talk show called The Patty Winters Show. Patrick often brings up the show's topic of the day which ranges from more straight-forward things, such as "Autism" or "Salad Bars," to more bizarre subjects, like a new sport called "Dwarf Tossing," "a boy who fell in love with a box of soap," and "UFOs That Kill." On occasion, the show seems to be tailored just for Patrick and his specific interests, such as an episode divided between an interview with his idol, Donald Trump, and "Women Who Were Tortured." Later interviewees, such as Bigfoot, whom Patrick found to be "surprisingly articulate and charming", and a Cheerio again make us question Patrick's sanity.
  • Slashers Prefer Blondes: So do Patrick's presumably non-murderous friends.
  • Slipping a Mickey: In a few instances, Patrick spikes his victims' drinks to make it easier for him to have his way with people. He drops tabs of Ecstasy in a wine bottle to help convince Elizabeth and prostitute Christie to have sex with each other.
  • Snooty Haute Cuisine: Patrick Bateman and his colleagues repeatedly sing praises of the nouvelle cuisine that they eat to flaunt their wealth and social status. In one instance in the book, Luis Carruthers describes business clients from out of New York City as "total hicks" for ordering "the boudin blanc, the roasted chicken, and the cheesecake" because it sounds so ordinary, in comparison to the fairly ridiculous fare they regularly eat, and Patrick finds this weird:
    Patrick: What sauce or fruits were on the roasted chicken? What shapes was it cut into?
    Luis: None, Patrick. It was... roasted.
    Patrick: And the cheesecake, what flavor? Was it heated? Ricotta cheesecake? Goat cheese? Were there flowers or cilantro in it?
    Luis: It was just... regular.
  • Snuff Film: Patrick sometimes films himself torturing women to death. He once shows one of these videos to a woman before killing her.
  • The Sociopath: Patrick Bateman's entire personality is a sham to look good in front of other self-absorbed yuppies, which he achieves by obsessive grooming and droning on about superficial claptrap. On the inside, he's a sadist who hates everybody, especially himself, and brutally murders people for fun. Even with the implication that none of the murders are happening, all it changes is that he has incredibly graphic fantasies instead of outright deeds.
  • Straw Nihilist: Patrick believes that ultimately, everything is meaningless. "everything I have been taught: principles, distinctions, choices, morals, compromises, knowledge, unity, prayer - all of it was wrong, without any final purpose. All it came down to was: die or adapt."
  • Take That!:
    Earlier in the night after dropping Jeanette off I stopped at M.K. for a fund-raiser that had something to do with Dan Quayle, who even I don't like.
  • Technology Porn: Bateman and his friends' detailed descriptions of the latest gadgets of the 1980s. Most details Patrick gives products emphasize commercial or designer names and brands, when applicable, which can often feel like a shallow substitution for actual substantive description; when more description is provided for items beyond a simple brand name, it often reads like advertising language from a shopping magazine or TV commercial, listing positive traits and product specifications.
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: Patrick and Jean do this on a date. Jean sees an island, a puppy dog, Alaska and a tulip. Patrick sees a Gucci money clip, an ax, a woman cut in two and "a large puffy white puddle of blood" (but he doesn't tell this to Jean).
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: While Patrick is superficial and phony, no one notices how facile his persona is. Even his obsessive grooming habits go unnoticed, since he blends right in with the rest of the self-absorbed yuppie crowd. In fact, Patrick is constantly mistaken for other people in his circle.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: At high class restaurants and lavish dinner parties, food that is brought to the characters is often left untouched. This is done to emphasize the extremely materialistic and wasteful natures of the characters.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The topic of one episode of The Patty Winters Show is Nazis, which Patrick says he "got a real charge out of." One of the Nazi guests is described by as having juggled grapefruits "in a rare display of humor." Patrick, delighted by this, "sat up in bed and clapped."
  • Three-Way Sex: Patrick does it with call girls several times.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Patrick Bateman is clearly insane and has bizarre hallucinations (i.e. a Cheerio interviewed on a talk show, himself stalked by a park bench, an ATM machine ordering him, "FEED ME A STRAY CAT") which he believes to be true. It's also ambiguous whether he committed the brutal (and, occasionally, preposterous) murders that occur. Right at the end, another character insists that Paul Owen is alive.
  • Toilet Humour: At one point Patrick tricks Evelyn into eating part of a chocolate-sauce-covered urinal cake by passing it off as a fancy treat from Godiva.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Bateman thinks about his history as a killer:
    My rages at Harvard were less violent than the ones now.
  • Torture Cellar: Properly, Torture Apartment. He uses Paul Owen's place for this after killing him.
  • Torture Porn: In-universe example, Patrick is particularly fond of these sorts of movies.
  • Totally Radical: In a club, after doing coke in the bathroom, Patrick comes out to see that quite a few young punks have come in, and a few black people. He attempts to convince them that he's "hip" and not just some boring yuppie. Hilarity Ensues.
    I stick out my hand at a crooked angle, trying to mimic a rapper. "Hey," I say. "I'm fresh. The freshest, y'know— like, uh, def— the deffest." I take a sip of champagne. "You know— def."
    To prove this I spot a black guy with dreadlocks and I walk up to him and exclaim "Rasta Man!" and hold out my hand, anticipating a high-five.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Bateman orders several dozen scotches, always J&B, through the course of the book.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Bateman gets in an elevator with Tom Cruise and attempts to make small talk with him. The conversation is extremely awkward. This is based on a real event: Ellis lived in the same apartment building as Tom Cruise for some time.
  • Understatement: When Bateman calls his lawyer and confesses his murders to the lawyer's answering machine, he concludes it with:
    "Uh, I'm a pretty sick guy".
  • Unreliable Narrator: It's difficult to take Patrick at his word when he obviously experiences surreal hallucinations, occasionally sees his own actions and behaviors as if they are occurring in a work of fiction he might regularly enjoy, and other characters even dispute his accounts of events.
  • Villain Protagonist: The story is told from the perspective of a deranged, Ax-Crazy Serial Killer. Even if a reader/audience believes Patrick is just imagining his crimes, he is still unlikeable, self-centered, elitist, racist, and shallow.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Patrick confesses his crimes to his lawyer, Harold Carnes, only to find out that he thinks it's a joke, even mistaking his client for someone else while unknowingly trashing him right in front of his face, he grows increasingly frustrated at Harold's defiance as he tries to convince him that his confession is genuine. Patrick then makes one final attempt by telling him that he killed Paul and liked it, only for Harold to say that that's impossible, with Bateman reaching his boiling point demanding to know why. Harold tells him it's because he had dinner with him twice ten days earlier, leaving Bateman in stunned shock as he's left alone while quietly going back to his friend group.
  • Wall of Text: Whilst such excessive description in a novel is normally unnecessary and undesirable, the fact that the novel is from Bateman's perspective actually serves to exaggerate his consumerist nature and his obsession over trivial, insignificant details.
  • Watering Down: Tim Price complains about how the cocaine they've been sold is "a fucking milligram of... Nutrasweet."
  • Wham Line: Two instances:
    Real estate agent: There was no ad in the Times. I think you should go now.
    • Then a little later...
    Carnes: ...I had dinner with Paul Owen... twice... in London... just ten days ago.
  • Wicked Pretentious: Patrick has an incessant habit — in narrative and dialogue — of describing something at length and then haughtily opining on it, even though the things he fixates on are usually deeply banal, and his opinions or conclusions are dull, misinformed, and bigoted. In some ways this is his supreme ego talking, making him think he's above everyone, and thus the ultimate arbiter of taste or judge of human nature; in other ways, it's how he feigns having a human personality — pretending he always knows what the hell he's talking about, just like everyone else around him. The one thing he seems to know well enough to speak genuinely eloquently on is what a monster he is.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Patrick stabs a small boy to death just to see if he'd enjoy it. He doesn't... because he doesn't find it evil enough:
    How useless, how extraordinarily painless, it is to take a child's life... It's so much worse (and more pleasurable) taking the life of someone who has hit his or her prime, who has the beginnings of a full history, a spouse, a network of friends, a career, whose death will upset far more people whose capacity for grief is limitless than a child's would, perhaps ruin many more lives than just the meaningless, puny death of this boy.
    • Although, there is a sense of dark Irony in how Patrick rationalizes these feelings, because nobody around him ever does notice or mourn the deaths of his other victims, yet the boy he kills is grieved by the child's distraught mother.
  • You Are What You Hate: Bateman despises his friends because they represent parts of himself that he hates and remind him of what he doesn't have.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Sean, Patrick's younger brother and only sibling, surpasses his brother at least in getting reservations in upscale restaurants or clubs. He also seems more sane than his older brother.
  • Yuppie: Patrick Bateman is the archetypal affluent yuppie. He's rich, works on Wall Street, has a pretty girlfriend, and spends most of his life in trendy restaurants and clubs.