'You Better Have Change for a Fifty'

'American Psycho' - Chapter One

'You Better Have Change for a Fifty'
Patrick Bateman - American Psycho (2000) - Mary Harron

It is worth pointing out that I have seen the film adaptation of this book multiple times and therefore I am approaching its key ideas and messages from a slightly different perspective than someone to whom the book is completely new. With that out of the way, I'll begin.

'If we followed every impulse, we'd be killing one another' - Miss Manners (Judith Martin)

I think that the aim of this first chapter is to highlight just how morally awful these characters are from the point-of-view of our main character, Patrick Bateman. The wealth and social status of the two characters we are first introduced to (Timothy Price and Patrick Bateman) are made abundantly clear very quickly and often. Price is quoted early on saying, "I hate to complain—I really do—about the trash, the garbage, the disease." In other words, poor people problems. Issues that the likes of Bateman and Price would never have to consider were it not for their obligatory mentions in the papers. Price himself can't help but point out as many poor people as he can count during their short cab journey. A total of 30 homeless people are counted as well as the poignant metaphor of "black and bloated pigeons" fighting over scraps of food on the pavement, clearly a reference to the way in which these socialites view the poor. At this point, we approach the moment from which this post's title is borrowed. "The driver, black, not American" receives the motto of all Wall Street stereotypes; "You better have change for a fifty." Price will be an interesting character, I'm sure.

Also in this opening chapter I was introduced to the clone-like nature of men working on Wall Street. On three separate occasions a brief physical description of Wall Street men is given and on each occasion, it is almost word for word identical. "Slicked-back hair, suspenders, horn-rimmed glasses." It is the inspiration behind the image I have chosen for this post. The fact that there can be an industry in which there is a character description which seems to fit above 90 percent of its employees is an indication that said industry breeds "fucking evil [psychopaths]"; a term given by Patrick Bateman, to Patrick Bateman. We're given a handful of names of characters that we do not actually meet in this chapter, rather Bateman and Price mistake other men for names such as Paul Owen, Luis Carruthers, and Tommy Powell. All of these mistakes are made due to Price and Bateman spotting people that fit the aforementioned description of "slicked-back hair, suspenders, horn-rimmed glasses."

A motif of this chapter that never ceased to be entertaining is the name-dropping of designer brands throughout. "Versace... Armani... d'Orsay... Krizia... Ralph Lauren" are all noted by Bateman with seamless precision. It is his attention to these things that allude to the idea that he as well as his socialite comrades all have a highly skewed view of their priorities in life. All they care about is the designer brands they sport and the reservations that they're able to make with their name, their suit, and their job. Their own image nears the top of their list of priorities; both Price and Bateman lose their train of thought at the sight of their own reflection on more than one occasion. The mother-of-all examples takes the shape of "'Hi. Pat Bateman,' I say, offering my hand, noticing my reflection in a mirror hung on the wall—and smiling at how good I look."

This first chapter has been like a support group for psychotic Wall Street individuals and I fucking love it.

book reviews
Sam Cheesman
Sam Cheesman
Read next: Run Necromancer
Sam Cheesman

First year university student.

See all posts by Sam Cheesman