Is there a reason why the book American Psycho makes constant references to Les Miserables?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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On one level, the book's mention of Les Miserables is contextual.  In the setting of the work, Les Miserables is "the rage," extremely popular at the time.  There are specific indications of this.  When Patrick collapses out of nausea, he ends up "leaning against a poster for Les Misérables at a bus stop."  At different restaurants, a muzak version of the Les Miserables production is heard.  In different dinner conversations, discussions of "American or British cast" productions of the musical is evident.  This helps to reflect the sense of "being in" that is such a part of Bateman's existence.  Les Miserables is nothing more than an extension of the consumerist and self- centered existence that dominates the social world to which Bateman belongs.  On another level, I think that there could be a significance in which Les Miserables is symbolic of the "miserable" group of people to which Bateman belongs.  While this group holds economic and social power, something that was lacking in Hugo's conception, they lack moral and transcendent understanding, something that Hugo imparted to his collection of "miserables."  It is here where the use of Les Miserables is one to indicating both a possession of everything and nothing, reflective of how Ellis views the culture of which Bateman is representative.


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