'Drink Some Champagne, Flirt with a Hardbody, Find Some Blow'
'American Psycho' - Chapter Five
For the first time so far, this chapter really belongs to Price in that we see a completely different side to him and so, a completely different side to the Wall Street socialite "stereotype" that we’ve been shown in the first four chapters. Don’t get me wrong, this chapter is still riddled with all the things you’d expect to find in a New York nightclub filled with rich, white businessmen, that being tuxedos, expensive drinks, a "Chandelier Room," and of course, cocaine.
Firstly,/ however, we’re shown one of the unique qualities that a cosmopolitan city like New York possesses. This is that poverty and wealth exist and reside within such a close proximity of each other. "All of the men outside Tunnel tonight are for some reason wearing tuxedos, except for a middle-aged homeless bum who sits by a dumpster, only a few feet away from the ropes." You might expect that the proprietor of the club might take issue with this, but I think it speaks volumes that all of the people entering this club can look through his desperate eyes with such ease, to the point at which he’s not even there. Our main characters, however, take a different approach, as "Van Patten waves a crisp one-dollar bull in front of the homeless man’s face." To my surprise, Van Patten actually has a mere one-dollar bill.
As the four men walk into the club after Price tips the bouncers on their entry, they notice "three hardbodies" whom, to Bateman, seem as if "they’re definitely paying attention to the four of [them]." While McDermott, Van Patten, and Bateman "repay the compliment," Price acts oddly out of character by "[ignoring] them and [saying] something rude." This is quite the red flag to me, perhaps Price isn’t feeling like his normal self. A dismissal of such "hardbodies," as Bateman puts it, might suggest a lot of built up stress on Price’s part. Price’s justification of his dismissal comes with fairly xenophobic undertones. When McDermott blurts out that "those girls were very hot," Price responds: "Yeah, if you speak Farsi." Now I can’t quite work out what his exact meaning is behind this, but I think it’s safe to say he considers himself as a white westerner to be higher in class and standards than an Eastern European.
Price’s restlessness is a symptom of his craving for "some Bolivian marching powder" as he so eloquently puts it. It is at this point that he and Bateman walk into "the Chandelier Room" which sounds like the cocaine room to me, given the shared connotations between a chandelier and cocaine, those being a high price and the wealth of those who typically purchase either. It’s at this point that we are shown the scope of the coke habit that exists within the Wall Street world. Bateman notices businessmen from no less than eight huge business firms in this one room. The obvious ideas of the significance of drugs in a novel arise in this chapter as well. Drugs are used in literature as a device for characters to change their perception of the world around them, even if it’s just for a moment. Narcotics can also represent a temporary escape for our characters, which is made even clearer as Price approaches a man whom we learn is a good route through which to score some coke. Price halts, noticing "twin train tracks which tonight are lit garishly in preppy greens and pinks." To me this symbolises an escape route from the Wall Street lifestyle as well as the connotations of green being fresh starts and new beginnings, etc. "Price gazes longingly at the tracks as if they suggest some kind of freedom." I had to re-read this part of the chapter as I honestly didn’t peg Price for the kind of character to have second thoughts about his so-called lavish, luxury lifestyle. Perhaps Ellis wants to further remind us of how unfulfilling this life might be. Ellis sums up the incessant lifestyle that these men lead in "the music is one long, unending song that overlaps with other, separate songs connected by a dull thumping beat," a beautiful metaphor that combines the tedium of repetition as well as the New York nightlife.
In his pursuit of substance, Price finally loses his cool. “Listen. We need drugs.”’ I start to consider the possibility that Price wants to consume his substance in an attempt to get away from his current lifestyle, or even to ignore the feeling that he wants to escape at all. One aspect that might be driving Price to want to flee is highlighted soon after this, with an exchange so ridiculously tedious in execution.
“A gram.” Price shouts to Ted.
“Hey,” Madison says, introducing his friend, “this is You.”
“A Gram.” Price presses cash into Madison’s hand. “You? What?”
“No,” Madison shouts, “Hugh.”
Any social environment where this kind of exchange is like a frequent occurrence is enough to make me want to escape and never come back. Later in the chapter, Price’s frustration rises to the point of screaming to Bateman’s confusion that he’s "Leaving. Disappearing, " only to return soon after this.
Amid all of Price’s signs of a breakdown, Ellis throws in some more hints at some of Bateman’s hedonistic thoughts. At the beginning of the chapter, Bateman is reminded of a disagreement he had with McDermott in the previous chapter about the style of pizza at Pastels. "I have a knife with a serrated blade in my Valentino jacket and I’m tempted to gut McDermott with it right here in the entranceway, maybe slice his face open, sever his spine." Bateman moves on from this in a frighteningly swift style, perhaps in a way that we are to forget about and dismiss. Ellis also lays more groundwork for the idea of Bateman indulging in these heinous acts later on in the evening when his drinks vouchers are refused at the bar. Bateman audibly says, “You are a fucking ugly bitch I want to stab to death and play around with your blood” while the barmaid has her back turned and the club’s music is so loud that his comment becomes inaudible. And yet again, Bateman moves on so nonchalantly, we are left second guessing ourselves as to whether we read correctly. Ellis is showing us signs that will resurface more clearly later, I believe.
Price’s evening of meltdown reaches its peak at the end of the chapter, as Bateman turns to see him "perched on the rails, trying to balance himself" while the "smoke machine is going like crazy… enveloping him." This suggests that Price feels smothered and trapped, trying to balance his life of business, affairs, narcotics, reservations, designer suits, and more narcotics. Eventually price shouts, "Goodbye! Fuckheads!" before he "hops over the railing and leaps onto the tracks and starts running." To me this seems like something that will become episodical for Price. Although he acts as the alpha of his little group, the stress of his high-class life might get to him the most. I also doubt that this scene will cause Bateman, McDermott, or Van Patten to raise any kind of concern for Price’s general well-being.
This chapter has shown us the frailty of this kind of lifestyle, with a reference to brutal murder every now and then, and my opinion on these characters remains the same. They are still fucking awful people.