Even though we are almost 30 years on since American Psycho was published, Patrick Bateman continues to be a popular figure. How does Bateman and other themes of opulence, insecurity, and finding deeper meaning in one’s life still resonate today?
What drives Patrick Bateman to kill (or to fantasize about killing)? What does he get out of it? In the last 30-50 pages of the novel, most or all of the explicit violence ends. How do these pages help to explain the reasons for Bateman’s violent acts (or fantasies)?
American Psycho is, at least in part, a parody of the manners of affluent young professionals in NYC. What is one moment you found funny and why? If you found not a single moment amusing, why do you think that is? A failure in the novel? Your incapacity to see the humor? The general offensiveness of much of the language and action in the book?
As a book, The Silence of the Lambs, a best-seller, won wide critical praise. The movie, released in 1991, was also a resounding commercial and critical success, winning seven academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Sound. It also generated heated protest from gay rights activists at many theaters and outside the auditorium on the night it accumulated Oscars. Jame Gumb outraged the protesters. In more recent years, the film has continued to be both canonized and criticized. As you read the book and/or watched the movie, how did you understand Jame Gumb and the politics of sexuality in The Silence of the Lambs? Do you think the book and movie differ in their understanding or depiction of Gumb? Is the character an anti-gay (or anti-trans) stereotype or something more or different?
Last time, we just started to think about the ways in which Lecter offers us a particular imagining of the Psychiatrist, perhaps born in part from the anti-psychiatry movement of the 60s and 70s. Chilton also offers a portrait of the professionally trained therapist. How would you say one or both of these doctors presents the profession to readers of the novel?
We’ll talk, of course, about Hannibal Lecter and the asylum he inhabits, but how would you characterize the world outside of the asylum in 1986 as Harris portrays it? Name and describe one or two of the most salient features (emotional, physical, or cultural) that seem to define life in this fictional world. Where’s the passage where this feature came into view?
In class on Tuesday, at least one person said that Girl, Interrupted read like young-adult fiction more than memoir. Was that your experience of the book? Why? What are the fictional-seeming elements of the book, or what drove you toward reading it as memoir?
Though not initially aimed at an adolescent and post-adolescent audience, Kaysen’s memoir became very popular with a “young adult” reading demographic. What are the central features of adolescence in American culture? How do you think the book understands this period in life? Is the young Kaysen unusual (pathological) or typical?
In previous posts on Cuckoo’s Nest, people thought carefully about what it means to experience the novel’s events as narrated by Bromden, who has experienced a range of emotional trauma and possibly some kind of brain damage–or at least fogginess–from shock treatments. At the same time, he has a well-articulated view of what the psychiatric hospital is designed to do, the way in which it’s part of the “combine”. How does another character seem to see the role of the hospital in the larger world? You could think of Ratched, McMurphy, one of several other patients, or even the aides who work on the ward.
I’m curious to know everyone’s thoughts on Chief Bromden as an unreliable narrator and whether we as readers are inclined to believe his version of reality. By pretending to be deaf and dumb he alerts the reader to the fact that he is capable of lying, but we also get the sense that in his personal account of his time in the ward he is being as honest as possible. Things get complicated as his accounts of the fog in Part I get more and more preposterous, culminating in the scene of the floating chairs starting on page 115; when Nurse Ratchet turns the dial and slows down time on page 68; and when Bromden has the dream about the furnaces on page 77. He believes he is seeing and experiencing all of these things, but the behavior of the other characters—the night watchman telling him he’s having a bad dream, or the other patients making fun of him for drifting off during a meeting—suggests that these are all incidents that occur solely in Bromden’s mind. I think the narrative is more effective this way though; it is the reality of his hallucinations that most vividly convey his suffering in the ward, more so than if the story were told from a purely objective point of view from a narrator we can depend on. Which leads me to the question of: what constitutes reality? Obviously that’s too broad a question to answer in a blog post but it’s curious, isn’t it, that the more time we spend in Bromden’s head the less sure we are of what reality is and how it correlates to perceived insanity, severe mental illness… or even more common diagnoses like depression and anxiety.