Less Than Zero Analysis

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The character of the American hero that has traditionally dominated the American psyche is one that had been suggested in an essay by Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893. This was a hero who had been forged by a frontier existence, as America expanded westwards. Imbued with qualities of “…coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness;” this hero embodied a spirit of individualism, toughness and a drive for advancement (Turner, 1893, 9). Commonly featured in North American literature and films, this image of the American Hero remained dominant during the first part of the twentieth century. As the century progressed the figure of the American hero evolved and adapted to suit the challenges faced by the American nation. However…show more content…
Clay, the son of a wealthy Hollywood family, has just completed his first term at university on the East Coast. The author Bret Easton Ellis, also from Los Angeles, was little older than his character Clay when Less than Zero was published. Whilst there are undoubted similarities in their upbringings, Ellis refutes that Clay is his alter ego and said in a 2012 interview “I wasn’t as severely alienated as Clay…I enjoyed a lot of my life”(Goulian, 2012). This certainly distinguishes the author from Clay and his group of alienated, burned-out friends who appear unable to actually enjoy anything. These are a group of disenfranchised over-privileged young people, existing aimlessly in a haze of drugs and seeking temporary comfort in material possessions. The novel is written in the present tense and related from the perspective of Clay, who recounts the events in an emotionally cold, dead-pan narrative. These events are the experiences of Clay and his friends as they seek engagement in life through partying, shopping, sex and drug use. In Less than Zero, there is no central plot, no redemptive act and certainly no American hero to be discerned either in Clay or amongst his group of
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