The musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables opened on Broadway in 1987 and instantly became a smash success. The show was everywhere, with its logo and music being seen and heard around New York and the rest of the country. It was, for a time, very difficult to get a ticket to, as going to see the show was the hot new thing for all New York elites and other theatergoers to do. The show, its poster, and its music appear incredibly often throughout the novel (until its popularity seems to be usurped by a fictitious production of The Threepenny Opera in the last two chapters). That Bateman and his friends all know and have seen the musical shows their status as wealthy enough to get a ticket and their connection to popular culture, while simultaneously grounding them in the real pop culture of the time period.
The musical itself is a melodramatic tale about the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris. While the causes of the actual 1832 rebellion were complex, the musical largely portrays it as an uprising of the poor against their oppressors. The musical is, then, primarily about class struggle, “the haves and the have-nots,” and the tensions created when the gap between the most wealthy and the poorest members of a society begins to greatly increase – just what was happening in New York in the 1980s. The reader is reminded of this parallel between the musical’s content and American Psycho’s own dealings with class each of the many times the musical is referenced. The fact that it is the wealthy characters of the novel who love and attend Les Misérables as a kind of status symbol without ever coming close to absorbing its themes about inequality and inhumanity only heightens the irony of the symbol.
Les Misérables Quotes in American Psycho
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…
While walking back to the highway, I stop, choke back a sob, my throat tightens. “I just want to…” Facing the skyline, through all the baby talk, I murmur, “keep the game going.” As I stand, frozen in my position, an old woman emerges behind a Threepenny Opera poster at a deserted bus stop and she’s homeless and begging, hobbling over, her face covered with sores that look like bugs, holding out a shaking red hand. “Oh will you please go away?” I sigh. She tells me to get a haircut.