Less than Zero Essay

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Tabitha McIntosh-Byrd is an English literature instructor at the University of Pennsylvania. In the following essay she discusses the commodification of images and desire in Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero.

In Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, the central character defines himself as a passive observer of prewar Germany by using the words, "I am a camera with its shutter open." Like the narrator of that tale, Less Than Zero's narrator, Clay, positions himself as a detached observer of Los Angeles life. He and his peers are "cameras with their shutters open"—dispassionate commentators of what they see. His episodic visits to his psychiatrist bring no emotional insight, since the psychiatrist is as limited to external observation as his clients are. Rather, Clay describes a self and a world that contains no interiority—no experience or sense of itself beyond accessible surfaces. The camera view is symbiotic with...

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This section contains 2,020 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Less than Zero Study Guide
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Less than Zero from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.