“American Psycho” is a 2000 crime thriller film directed by Mary Harron and starring Christian Bale. The film is based on the 1991 novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis.
The story follows the life of a wealthy, young Wall Street investment banker named Patrick Bateman (played by Bale) who is also a serial killer.
The film explores themes of materialism, masculinity, and violence, and has been praised for its dark humor and satire. It received generally positive reviews from critics upon its release and has since gained a cult following.
The novel begins with “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” and ends with “This is not an exit”. Both are references to famous fictional depictions of hell – respectively, Dante’s Inferno and No Exit.
But what did he mean ?
In understanding American Psycho, it is crucial to recognize that what we read is a representation of Patrick Bateman’s reality, which is a blend of his perceptions and objective reality. I argue that at some point in the novel or prior to the novel, Bateman has suffered a severe mental breakdown and is cognizant of this as much as one can be aware and accepting of such an event.
It’s also noteworthy that the last line of the book is “This is not an Exit” which is ironic (Bret Easton Ellis is known for his use of irony) and serves as a reminder to the readers that we cannot leave the novel, just as Bateman cannot and will never leave his mind or the 1980s culture. It’s as if Bateman is finally acknowledging to himself and the readers that he is imprisoned in his own psychosis.
The sign “This is not an Exit” in the ending scene of American Psycho (2000) symbolizes the entrapment of the protagonist, Patrick Bateman, in his lifestyle, psychosis, and the 1980s culture. He has fully embraced the upper-class consumerism, but now realizes that he is trapped in it and cannot escape. The cycle of consumerism continues, but Bateman’s newfound awareness renders him powerless to change his fate.
What’s next ?
The “This is not an Exit” sign at the end of the novel serves as both a literal and metaphorical representation of Patrick Bateman’s entrapment, he cannot leave and there is no way out. Even if he desires to, he is unable to escape, similar to the character Bryce in Tunnel, who briefly manages to flee but ultimately returns and the incident is not referred to again, as if it never occurred.
Both American Psycho and Less Than Zero novels depict characters who are trapped in their respective lifestyles and cycles, and at some point, they experience a mental breakdown, which allows them to recognize the senselessness and purposelessness of their way of life. However, they are hesitant to make changes as it entails a significant level of uncertainty and the possibility of discomfort or even pain. Changing their lifestyle would be a difficult process.