Patrick Bateman leads a monotonous life. This affects both his behavior and the way he communicates with the reader. In the novel’s second chapter, titled “Morning,” Bateman describes his fastidious and meticulous morning routine, involving exercise, multiple skin- and hair-care products, and a highly-organized breakfast. By introducing the reader to Bateman’s life in this way, Ellis sets up an understanding of our narrator as someone who lives a very specifically regimented life with day after day of identical, repeated routine. This monotony then extends into Bateman’s relationships and social life.
It is Bateman’s violence that, at first, interrupts the monotony of his life. Early in the novel, it comes by way of his fantasizing about a violent act while at dinner with Evelyn or his friends, and it later evolves into full-blown torture, murder, and cannibalism. It can be imagined, then, that one of the things leading Bateman down his spiral of violence is this very monotony that both he and the reader experience: Bateman has become entirely desensitized to life, and torture and murder are a cure for his numbness.
The revolving door of interchangeable people, restaurants, clothing, and events in Bateman’s life is, at first, difficult for the reader to follow, but by repeating these patterns continuously, Ellis demonstrates the insignificance of the details and allows the reader to become desensitized to this high volume of similar information and experience. The numbness to the monotony of Bateman’s life that Ellis creates for the reader is joined by an identically-created numbness to Bateman’s violent acts. Though the novel’s vivid and graphic depictions of sex, torture, and murder can be initially unsettling, the sheer volume and detail of these descriptions allows the reader to experience a desensitization to upsetting material. As the volume of graphic violence described and the intensity and perversion of the gore both increase, the reader grows more and more accustomed to the language and images. The methodical listing of violent acts thus becomes not unlike Bateman’s methodical descriptions of his daily hygiene routines or meticulously detailed descriptions of the clothes that everyone around him is wearing. Ellis creates an environment in which the reader can become as unfazed by intense sexual and physical violence as Bateman, and while the reader may not have the affection for and addiction to it that Bateman has, they are slowly and steadily brought down his spiral with him.
By creating a parallel between the numbing monotony of Bateman’s life contributing to his appetite for violence and the monotony of the descriptions of these violent acts numbing the reader to their upsetting nature, Ellis creates similar experiences for his novel’s narrator and his reader, leading the reader to contemplate that the violent acts of Patrick Bateman my be something we are each potentially capable of.
Monotony and Desensitization ThemeTracker
Monotony and Desensitization Quotes in American Psycho
Idly, I wonder if Evelyn would ever sleep with another woman if I brought her over to the brownstone… If they’d let me direct, tell them what to do, position them under hot halogen lamps… But what if I forced her at gunpoint? Threatened to cut them both up, maybe, if they didn’t comply?
And though it has been in no way a romantic evening, she embraces me and this time emanates a warmth I’m not familiar with. I am so used to imagining everything happening the way it occurs in movies, visualizing things falling somehow into the shape of events on a screen, that I almost hear the swelling of an orchestra, can almost hallucinate the camera panning low around us, fireworks bursting in slow motion overhead, the seventy-millimeter image of her lips parting and the subsequent murmur of “I want you” in Dolby sound.
I feel empty, hardly here at all, but even the arrival of the police seems insufficient reason to move and I stand with the crowd outside the penguin habitat… until finally I’m walking down Fifth Avenue, surprised by how little blood has stained my jacket, and I stop in a bookstore and buy a book and then at a Dove Bar stand on the corner of Fifty-sixth Street, where I buy a Dove bar – a coconut one – and I imagine a hole, widening in the sun…
…I’m hoping she realizes that this would have happened to her no matter what… if she would simply have not taken a cab with me to the Upper West Side, this all would have happened anyway. I would have still found her. This is the way the earth works.
I can already tell that it’s going to be a characteristically useless, senseless death, but then I’m used to the horror. It seems distilled, even now it fails to upset or bother me.
It’s an isolation ward that serves only to expose my own severely impaired capacity to feel. I am at its center, out of season, and no one ever asks me for any identification. I suddenly imagine Evelyn’s skeleton, twisted and crumbling, and this fills me with glee.
…while I grind the bone and fat and flesh into patties, and though it does sporadically penetrate how unacceptable some of what I’m doing actually is, I just remind myself that this thing, this girl, this meat, is nothing, is shit, and along with a Xanax (which I’m now taking half-hourly) this thought momentarily calms me and then I’m humming…
…it did not occur to me, ever, that people were good or that a man was capable of change or that the world can be a better place through one’s taking pleasure in a feeling or a look or a gesture, of receiving another person’s love or kindness. Nothing was affirmative, the term “generosity of spirit” applied to nothing, was a cliché, was some kind of bad joke. Sex is mathematics. Individuality no longer an issue. What does intelligence signify? Define reason?... Evil is its only purpose. God is not alive. Love cannot be trusted. Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found meaning in.. this was civilization as I saw it, colossal and jagged…
…there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.
Jeannette should be okay – she has her whole life in front of her (that is, if she doesn’t run into me). Besides, this girl’s favorite movie is Pretty in Pink and she thinks Sting is cool, so what is happening to her is, like, not totally undeserved and one shouldn’t feel bad for her. This is no time for the innocent.