Learning check

1. Point of view

Describe what happens from the child’s point of view.


Learning check

2. Written assignment: interview and article


Work in groups of four. A is a journalist, B is the mother, C is the young boy, D is the woman the mother was speaking to.


a) A interviews the three women to get information for an article for a tabloid paper. (See Toolbox)

b) Help each other to write the article.

Agree on a catchy headline, an introductory paragraph and make sure that the body text is short and simple, including answers to what, who, where, when, why. Remember to include the personal angle. (Use about 400 words.)


Wider contexts

1. Psychological and literary context: the concept of evil. Comparison with other texts

Compare evil as it is described in “Killing Child at Zoo” with evil as it is described in some of the other texts you have read, e.g. E.A. Poe’s  “The Tell-Tale Heart”, p. 154 in Wider Contexts.


Wider contexts

2. Literary context: other media: the first English edition cover

Describe and comment on the first English edition cover of American Psycho. Does it capture the atmosphere of the excerpt and does it represent what seems to be characteristic of Patrick Bateman?


Cover of American Psycho


Wider contexts

3. Critical context: Reception of the novel American Psycho

a) Read the following excerpts of reviews.

b) Individually: choose the two comments you find most convincing and the one you find most surprising.

c) In pairs: discuss your choices.


Comment 1:

2For all the viscera and gore he [Patrick Bateman] spills, this Wall Street monster is not a flesh-and-blood character, nor is it a realistic world that his demented narrative creates. There are too many devices that transform it into a lifeless abstraction. There are the relentless fashion notes that identify the designer of every stitch of clothing nearly every character wears.” […] “As for the notorious sex and mutilation scenes: the relentless and horrifying energy that seems to have gone into their creation betrays the mind not of a leering sensualist or a cynical pornographer but rather of a cartoonist trying to animate Tales From the Crypt, the comic book of the 1950's that tried in its clumsy way to make black humor of human physicality.         

Since the people involved are unreal and the physiology of what is done to them impossible, it is not so difficult to conceive of their scenes as a Tom and Jerry cartoon with human body parts."


Christopher Lehmenn-Haupt, The New York Times, March 11, 1991


viscera indvolde

gore blod

demented vanvittig

relentless ubarmhjertig

leering lysten, sjofel


Comment 2:

"American Psycho vividly makes the case that society is responsible for creating the warped aspirations of people like Patrick Bateman. Bleak, funny and unsettling, this savagely clever satire forces us to confront issues we’d rather ignore. Even more relevant now than when published in 1991, American Psycho is essential reading."


Dan McNeil, 2004. http://www.laurahird.com/newreview/americanpsycho.html

warped forkvaklet



Comment 3:

"You ever seen a video nasty, all you sweet people who get upset because Bret Easton Ellis, in a novel of 399 pages devoted almost entirely to the obsessive consolations offered by a society, itself in the grip of a psychotic fit of sado-masochism, scattered throughout a novel delineating why the serial killer kills, actually describes the detail of the killings. Why have you got so squeamish all of a sudden?

Of all the things you ought to censor, should have censored – because we now live in a world so terrible, so full of 'Abandon Hope' scrawled blood red on our city walls, someone has to start crying 'enough' – why pick on wretched, brilliant Bret Easton Ellis? Young BEE? I'll tell you why. It's because there's always been someone in the other books to play lip service to respectability: to the myth that the world we now live in is still capable of affect. The serial killer gets discovered, punished, stopped. There are people around to throw up their hands in horror, who can still distinguish between what is psychotic and what is not. Justice is done. There is remorse. Just not in American Psycho. And we hate him for saying it. In American Psycho not so. Nobody cares. Slaughtered bodies lie undiscovered. The city has fallen apart. Nobody takes much notice. The police have other things to do. Those who are killed don't rate – they are the powerless, the poor, the wretched, the sick in mind, the sellers of flesh for money: their own and other people's."


Fay Weldon, “An honest American psycho”, The Guardian, 1991


delineate skitsere

squeamish som let får kvalme

to pay lip service to hykle respekt for

to be capable of affect i stand til at blive påvirket

remorse anger


Wider contexts

4. Literary context: postmodern literature

There is little agreement on how to define postmodern literature accurately. However, certain common features are acknowledged: one is amoral and normless social behaviour, another one is the description of society as fragmented, chaotic, disconnected and accidental. It is therefore also natural that some of the characters in postmodern literature show narcissistic traits such as excessive self-centredness, an obsession with appearances and a focus on immediate pleasure.


Find elements in “Killing Child at Zoo” that make it a postmodern text.


Wider contexts

5. Reception: controversy

When American Psycho was published, it caused a lot of controversy. Some critics opposed it because of its portrayal of extreme violence and murder.


Watch the clip from YouTube and in pairs find at least two arguments for and two against introducing censorship. Divide the class into two parts; a pro-censorship and an anti-censorship part. Place six chairs in the middle with three chairs on each side. The debate begins and the students take turns participating. When you have contributed with an argument, you vacate the chair and another student takes over.



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