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Why does the boy-next-door raise objections about the racist remarks that his yippie friends make in the introductory chapters? Bateman does it twice in quick succession as if to show the reader that he stands out, is separated from his social circle:

“You spin a dreidel, Preston,” I say calmly, “not a menorah. You spin a dreidel.”
“Oh my god, Bateman, do you want me to go over to the bar and ask Freddy to fry you up some fucking potato pancakes?” Preston asks, truly alarmed. “Some… latkes?”
“No,” I say. “Just cool it with the anti-Semitic remarks.”

And again, see his reaction to the racist anecdote about Pearl Bailey:

Van Patten gives him high-five. Even Price laughs.
“Oh Christ,” I say. “That’s awful.”
"Why?" Preston says. “It’s funny. It’s humor.”
“Yeah, Bateman,” McDermott says. “Cheer up.”
“Oh I forgot. Bateman’s dating someone from the ACLU,” Price says. “What bothers you about that?”
“It’s not funny,” I say. “It’s racist.”
“Bateman, you are some kind of morose bastard,” Preston says. “You should stop reading all those Ted Bundy biographies.”

What's the purpose of this description, considering how utterly despicable and cynical he appears to be later in the story?

1

What's the purpose of this description, considering how utterly despicable and cynical he appears to be later in the story?

Two purposes:

1) Bateman didn't start utterly despicable and cynical. There might have been goodness in his heart that got twisted and lost later.

2) Even evil has standards trope (warning, tvtropes link!). He might be cynical, he might be despicable, but he is not racist.

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