American Psycho | Study Guide

Bret Easton Ellis

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American Psycho | Symbols


American Express Platinum Card

Credit cards are an important status symbol in the novel. Patrick Bateman enjoys pulling out his American Express Platinum Card, a luxury credit card only issued to those with excellent credit and very high income. He makes sure others see the card if they appear to not notice. At one point he even waves a waiter away to allow extra time for others to take note of the card. The card represents Bateman's membership in an elite group of wealthy people. Other people in the novel have platinum cards, too, though some only have the American Express Gold Card, a lower-tier but still quite exclusive card. This suggests that even among the elite, there is an internal pecking order—one in which members are constantly trying to climb higher.

The credit cards are often used for a second purpose—snorting cocaine. This is a reminder that the high-flying lifestyle of the elite Wall Street set has a dark side of drug abuse and promiscuity.

Business Cards

At dinner at Pastels, Patrick Bateman and his friends show off their new business cards. They ooh and aah over the colors, edges, and thicknesses of the cardstock; the textures; and the lettering. There is a sense they are ranking the cards and by extension the men the cards belong to. The cards are evaluated by their appearance, with a focus on the materials and colors that indicate the owner's taste and wealth. They are described in much the same fashion- and trend-conscious terms as are people's clothing and accessories. The cards represent the material worth and materialism of the men. Thus, the men's focus on the cards' relative luxuriousness represents the way they compare themselves to one another in other ways. They judge and rank one another based on their ability to achieve a certain appearance of wealth and taste.


Throughout the novel, characters see themselves and others in mirrors. There are many examples. In the first chapter alone, Bateman smiles at his own reflection in the mirror at Evelyn's home as he greets Vanden, and Tim and Evelyn insult and flirt with each other while looking at their reflections in a mirror. Bateman has even insisted his mother's nursing home hang a mirror in her room so he can view himself in it. The mirrors are a reminder of the fact that everyone in Bateman's social circle is obsessed with appearances. They take special care to present a perfect appearance. They spend large amounts of money on products meant to craft the perfect appearance. They seem to care only about appearance when it comes to romantic and sexual relationships. Mirrors represent the materialism and shallowness of the characters. In addition, the fact that whole conversations are held while looking at the other people in a mirror suggests the characters only see reflections of one another. They are each one step removed from reality by their fixation on outward appearance and so can never truly know each other. This heightens the sense of isolation and alienation that seems to drive Bateman's psychosis.

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