The Rules of Attraction

The Rules of Attraction

Infobox Book |
name = The Rules of Attraction

author = Bret Easton Ellis
language = English
publisher = Simon & Schuster
pub_date = September 1987
media_type = Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
pages = 283 pp hardcover, 288 pp paperback
isbn = ISBN 978-0671622343

"The Rules of Attraction" is a novel by Bret Easton Ellis published in 1987 and made into a film by the same name in 2002.

Plot summary

The novel is written in the first-person, from the point of view of multiple characters. The main narrators are three students: Paul, Sean and Lauren. A number of other characters also provide first-hand accounts throughout the story, which takes place at the fictional Camden College. The three main characters (who rarely attend class) end up in a love triangle within a burning calendar of drug runs, Dress to Get Screwed and End of the World parties.

The story begins midway through a sentence in order to give the effect that it begins somewhere closer to the middle, rather than at a true beginning. Another interpretation is that the story has neither a beginning nor an ending, which signifies the endless cycle of debauchery in which the characters of the novel engage. This is sometimes mistaken by readers as a typo or the result of a missing page, but in truth it was purposely done by Ellis. The novel also ends in a similar fashion, with the last sentence cut off before it ends.


ean Bateman

Sean is a twenty-one-year-old student from a wealthy family. He is very promiscuous and a heavy substance abuser, as well as a drug dealer in the employ of Rupert Guest. He becomes romantically involved with Lauren, a relationship he considers to be true love. It is also implied that Sean is bisexual, as he apparently becomes involved in a sexual relationship with Paul Denton. However, whether these encounters are real or simply a product of Paul's imagination is left ambiguous.

Sean is very bitter and cynical, and is prone to self-loathing. He is also somewhat suicidal, as evidenced in a scene in which he attempts to commit suicide first by hanging, then by overdose, and then by slashing his wrist with a dull razor after a falling out with Lauren. A major subplot in the novel is Sean's debt to Rupert, a violent townie drug dealer who often threatens to kill him.

The character is the brother of the notorious Patrick Bateman and has also appeared in Ellis's other novels, "American Psycho", "The Informers" and "Glamorama".

Lauren Hynde

Lauren is a painter and poet who sleeps with many boys on campus, all the while pining for Victor, her boyfriend who left Camden and headed to Europe. She is often depressed and very emotional.

At the beginning of the novel, it is revealed that Lauren lost her virginity at a party during her freshman year at Camden, where she got so intoxicated that she passed out and was raped by two boys while unconscious. She becomes romantically involved with Sean Bateman halfway through the book, even though she holds Sean in contempt and considers the relationship nothing but a way to pass the time before Victor comes back from Europe. She was also in a relationship with Paul before the events of the book take place.

The character reappears as a main character in "Glamorama", in which she becomes reacquainted with Victor after having become a successful actress with mysterious political connections.

Paul Denton

Paul is a young bisexual man who used to date Lauren. He is attracted to Sean and claims that in bed Sean is "crazed, an untamed animal, it was almost scary"; these accounts are entirely absent from Sean's entries. The details of this relationship remain ambiguous. Paul also had relationships with two other important characters, Mitchell and Richard (Dick). Paul is highly intelligent and cynical, but is not above obscuring these facts in the course of seduction. Several characters in the book remark upon his physical attractiveness, brought out by Roman features and soft blond hair. Paul's relationship with his mother, Eve, is complex; she yearns to reach out to him but is led towards iciness by Paul's flippancy, which in turn feeds their animosity.

He also appears in "American Psycho" as a friend of Paul Owen, where he has a brief encounter with Patrick Bateman who feels he recognizes him.

Other characters

*Victor Johnson – Lauren's boyfriend. Victor took the term off to backpack through Europe. During his time in Europe, he sleeps with many people and abuses many drugs. His entries consist of long diatribes listing his adventures. Lauren yearns for him, anxiously awaiting his return, and when he does come back to New Hampshire, he cannot remember her.
He is the main character in Ellis' later novel, "Glamorama".
*Clay – The protagonist of "Less Than Zero", aka "the guy from L.A.", who narrates one chapter of the novel. His trademark lines begin "People are afraid to..." Still unhappy, while at Camden, Clay ironically longs to return home to L.A.; he had wished the reverse in "Less Than Zero".
*Rupert – A violent drug dealer and Sean's supplier. A major subplot in the book is Sean's debt to him.
*Dick – An old friend of Paul Denton's who attends Sarah Lawrence College. They are friends with benefits.
*Patrick Bateman – Sean's older brother, an investment banker who is much more focused and successful than Sean. The brothers loathe each other for their very different outlooks on and approaches to life. He makes a brief appearance in the novel and returns as the protagonist of Ellis's follow-up novel, "American Psycho", in which it is revealed that he is possibly a psychopathic serial killer and rapist.
*Sean's Admirer – An unnamed student who sends Sean anonymous love letters. Her entries in the book are all italicized letters to Sean. She hopes to reveal herself to Sean at the Dressed To Get Screwed Party midway through the book, but when she sees him leave with Lauren, she is heartbroken and commits suicide in a bathtub by slashing her wrists.
*Bertrand – Sean's roommate, whom he despises. He pines for Lauren and narrates one section of the book entirely in French.

Camden College

Camden College is a fictional liberal arts college in northeastern New Hampshire. In many ways, Camden mirrors Ellis's alma mater, Bennington College, and Hampden College, the setting of Donna Tartt's novel "The Secret History". Both books contain cross-references to each other's story lines and characters. Tartt mentions the suicide of a freshman girl in passing, while Ellis repeatedly mentions a group of classics majors who "dress like undertakers" and are suspected of staging pagan rituals and slaying farmers in the countryside. There is also mention of a "nice girl from Rockaway" in one of Lauren's narrations. This is possibly Alex from Jill Eisenstadt's novel "From Rockaway", who attended Camden College in the novel.


"The Rules of Attraction" was adapted into a film of the same name in 2002. It was directed by Roger Avary and starred James Van Der Beek as Sean, Shannyn Sossamon as Lauren, Ian Somerhalder as Paul, and Kip Pardue as Victor.

Publication details

*1998, USA, Vintage Books (ISBN 0-679-78148-X), pub date ? June 1998, paperback

ee also

*1987 in literature
*2002 in film

External links

*imdb title|id=0292644|title=The Rules of Attraction
* [ "The Rules of Attraction" at Yahoo Movies]

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