American Psycho

American Psycho

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The Devil and Hell Symbol Analysis

The Devil and Hell Symbol Icon

The novel both begins and ends with quotes from famous works of literature involving the Devil and Hell. The red graffiti described in the opening line of the novel (“Abandon all hope ye who enter here”) is a quote from Dante’s Inferno, the first part of his epic poem, in which the poet Virgil guides Dante through Hell, and the text on the sign Bateman sees at the end of the novel, and the novel’s final words, (“This is not an exit”) is an allusion to Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist play No Exit, which depicts deceased people locked in a room together for eternity. Furthermore, not only can Bateman’s actions be seen as satanic, but the devil himself appears in the form of Bono during a hallucination Bateman has while at a U2 concert. By including this imagery, Ellis is drawing a comparison between Bateman’s world and hell, thus critiquing the dark underbelly of the shiny, elite Wall Street world.

The Devil and Hell Quotes in American Psycho

The American Psycho quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Devil and Hell. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Materialism and Consumption Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of American Psycho published in 1991.
April Fools Quotes

ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street and just as Timothy Price notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for Les Misérables on its side blocking his view…

Related Characters: Patrick Bateman (speaker), Timothy Price
Related Symbols: The Devil and Hell, Les Misérables
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage, which opens the novel, begins with a quote from Dante’s Inferno, an epic poem detailing the author’s journey through the circles of hell. This is the first instance of devil and hell imagery which appears throughout the novel, and serves to establish the dark, painful, and sadistic tone of the novel and its narrator, as well as connecting that notion directly to the Wall Street world in which Bateman lives – this is done by depicting these words directly on the walls of a bank. The graffiti scrawl and color of the words additionally evokes the image of blood, which will be prevalent throughout the novel as Bateman’s gruesome killing spree begins – this image will even be directly referenced later when Bateman uses real blood to scrawl a message on the wall of Paul Owen’s apartment.

Notably, the words are quickly covered by a bus advertisement for the musical “Les Misérables” – another first appearance of a recurring symbol. The musical, which dominated culture in the late 1980s and is primarily focused on class warfare and the plight of the poor in pre-revolutionary France, serves as a constant reminder of the novel’s dealings with capitalism, wealth, and class. Ellis emphasizes the “haves and have nots” juxtaposition of Bateman and his friends’ lifestyle as contrasted with that of the poor and homeless whom they often mock and mistreat.

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Concert Quotes

It hits me that we have something in common, that we share a bond… the audience disappears and the music slows down… everything getting clearer, my body alive and burning, on fire, and from nowhere a flash of white and blinding light envelopes me and I hear it, can actually feel, can even make out the letters of the message hovering above Bono’s head in orange wavy letters: “I … am … the … devil … and I am … just … like … you …”

Related Characters: Patrick Bateman (speaker), Bono
Related Symbols: The Devil and Hell
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of Bateman’s largest and most clearly spelled-out hallucinations in the novel. While at a U2 concert with a group of friends – a concert none of them are very interested in being at, though they, of course, have the most expensive front-row seats – he hallucinates a moment with lead singer Bono in which Bono reveals himself to be the devil. Not only is this another appearance of devil and hell imagery, a symbol which highlights both Bateman’s sadistic tendencies and his entrapment in his own private, isolated world of suffering, but it also reveals that Bateman perhaps feels that his violent actions and feelings are a twisted symbol of status, making him (as the devil is) the supreme ruler of the hell in which he lives.

This passage also foreshadows the many hallucinations Bateman will have later in the novel. His description of the room falling away and white light will be repeated at other moments when he retreats far into his own mind. That being said, Bateman relays this happening to the reader, not as a hallucination, but as fact. Though for now it is clear to the reader that what is happening is inside Bateman’s mind, discerning reality from imagination and truth from misconception or outright fiction will get increasingly difficult as things progress.

Chase, Manhattan Quotes

…and the sun, a planet on fire, gradually rises over Manhattan, another sunrise, and soon the night turns into day so fast it’s like some kind of optical illusion…

Related Characters: Patrick Bateman (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Devil and Hell
Page Number: 352
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel’s climactic scene – Bateman running and driving hijacked cars through the streets of Manhattan, shooting police officers and exploding police cars, huddling in his office surrounded by SWAT team and helicopters – he describes the rising sun as a fiery hellscape, an image of his own purgatory where he must continue his sadistic actions for eternity.

As he describes this sunrise, Bateman reveals his own knowledge that his understanding of time is nearly hallucinatory. Describing the change of day as an “optical illusion,” he not only states explicitly that the timeline of events he relays to the reader is untrustworthy, but that the passage of time (and, thus, events) in the novel may entirely be a trick, not as they seem, an “optical illusion.” In this moment, Bateman essentially confirms for the reader that he is an unreliable narrator and he knows it, casting the entirety of the novel thus far and to come into a shadow of mystery, confusion, and doubt.

At Harry’s Quotes

“Well, though I know I should have done that instead of not doing it, I’m twenty-seven for Christ sakes and this is, uh, how life presents itself in a bar or in a club in New York, maybe anywhere, at the end of the century and how people, you know, me, behave, and this is what being Patrick means to me, I guess, so, well, yup, uh…” and this is followed by a sigh, then a slight shrug and another sigh, and above one of the doors covered by red velvet drapes in Harry’s is a sign and on the sign in letters that match the drapes’ color are the words THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.

Related Characters: Patrick Bateman (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Devil and Hell
Page Number: 399
Explanation and Analysis:

Bateman finds himself out to drinks with his friends, talking about clothing and women and business; it’s as if the events of the entire novel have never happened and we’re right back where we started. Bateman attempts to make an intelligent speech about what it means to be him, at his age, in the age he’s living. But he fumbles. He’s lost his way with words, and is grasping at an explanation for the situation and life and world in which he’s found himself. Trying to make a universal statement, he realizes that he is unlike anyone else around him; he is completely alone.

The final words of the novel, the red text of the sign on the wall, bookends the graffiti from the opening of the novel with a final reference to the devil and hell, this time via an allusion to the Sartre play “No Exit,” in which four people are trapped in a metaphorical purgatory. With this, it is essentially confirmed that Bateman’s fate is sealed; though things around him may have changed and his actions and feelings intensified and become fanciful, he is doomed to, at his core, remain the same. No matter how much he may try to dissociate, revert into his mind, or lash out with sex, drugs, and violence, he cannot escape Patrick Bateman.

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The Devil and Hell Symbol Timeline in American Psycho

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Devil and Hell appears in American Psycho. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
April Fools
Materialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Vice and Violence Theme Icon
The novel begins with a quote from Dante’s Inferno, “ Abandon all hope ye who enter here ”, seen scrawled along the side of a bank in red graffiti letters. Suddenly, a... (full context)
Office
Materialism and Consumption Theme Icon
...While they ride, Bateman notices that the music playing in the elevator sounds like “ Sympathy for the Devil .” (full context)
Lunch
Materialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Monotony and Desensitization Theme Icon
Vice and Violence Theme Icon
...starts interjecting to tell Armstrong he’s an “asshole” and that his life “is a living hell,” but Armstrong doesn’t even notice. This continues until the chapter ends abruptly in the middle... (full context)
Concert
Vice and Violence Theme Icon
The Truth Theme Icon
...Bateman’s senses, as a message appears, written in space above Bono’s head: “I… am… the… devil… and I am… just… like…you.” (full context)
Materialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Vice and Violence Theme Icon
...normal, though Bateman still feels that he has received this important, personal message from the devil and finds that he has a pulsing erection. He tries to pick up a conversation... (full context)
Birthday, Brothers
Materialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Identity and Isolation Theme Icon
The Truth Theme Icon
...from his apartment or if he should go purchase more. He’s interrupted by Sean saying, “Damien,” but he’s misheard; Sean is really complementing his tan. Bateman pays the bill and the... (full context)
Smith & Wollensky
Materialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Identity and Isolation Theme Icon
Monotony and Desensitization Theme Icon
Vice and Violence Theme Icon
...first time the brightly painted walls and listening intently to the sounds of Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft” floating through the restaurant. (full context)
At Harry’s
Materialism and Consumption Theme Icon
Identity and Isolation Theme Icon
Monotony and Desensitization Theme Icon
Vice and Violence Theme Icon
...Just as he’s leaving, Bateman spots a sign hanging on the wall. It reads: “ This is not an exit .” (full context)