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“Less Than Zero” by Bret Ellis: The Voice of a New Generation Essay

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Updated: Oct 14th, 2021

Less Than Zero is a novel by 21-year-old Bret Ellis which was written in 1985 and which rocked the literary world due to its fascinating as an also horrific depiction of the lifestyle of the degenerative and wealthy teenagers shown as being obsessed with the violent debaucheries and mood-altering drugs. In consequence, Ellis began to be looked upon as the voice of a new generation and critics started calling the book “the first MTV novel” since it was bifurcated into different scenes in the same way as the MTV channel has fragments of short videos, and also that the characters in the novel often refer to artists and songs. Songs play an important role in the novel such as the song by Elvis Costello which is the title and conjures an out of the joint world, is infused by the media, and results in the creation of chaos amongst the players in the novel.

The main character in the novel is Clay, who is a young and rich college student and has recently returned to his hometown Los Angeles to spend the winter break. The novel shows most of his time being spent on activities such as going to parties and indulging in drug abuse with his friends. While in Los Angeles during this short stay he has several issues at hand. Clay has to decide whether to continue his relationship afresh with Blair, his long-time friend and while pondering over this issue, he continues to have one-night flings with male and female friends, which does not allow him to give much thought to the relationship with Blair. Clay is also portrayed as making attempts to renew his friendship with his best friend Julian who has by this time got into drug abuse and prostitution. While witnessing such drastic developments he very soon loses faith in the friends that he was engaged within the ravaging party circles and drug abuse sessions. Three main instances played a major role in the transformation of Clay as portrayed in the novel. Firstly he was very dejected at the sight of his friend Julian selling himself to a businessman to fund expenses on the excessive drugs and heroin addiction, he is disturbed by the lack of positive critical response from his friends in seeing a drug abuse film, and finally, he is very angry at seeing his friends behave shamelessly in being attracted to a 12-year-old girl who was tied naked to the poles of his friend’s bed. Clay has been portrayed in the novel as being adversely affected by the repeated bouts of abuse regarding drugs and the sexual fantasies of the people of his age group. The combined effect of such happenings leads to his being highly demoralized and the novel portrays him as leaving Los Angeles probably for good and never to return as indicated by the ending in the novel.

The novel has created a lot of significance for the culture in American cities and has been criticized for the blatant portrayal of the extremities of sexual permissiveness and drug abuse in attempting to generalize the issue as being omnipotent amongst all youngsters during the time. The book has its fans which is evident from the fact that to this day the author continues to get positive responses from youngsters after they have read his book.

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IvyPanda. "“Less Than Zero” by Bret Ellis: The Voice of a New Generation." October 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/less-than-zero-by-bret-ellis-the-voice-of-a-new-generation/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "“Less Than Zero” by Bret Ellis: The Voice of a New Generation." October 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/less-than-zero-by-bret-ellis-the-voice-of-a-new-generation/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '“Less Than Zero” by Bret Ellis: The Voice of a New Generation'. 14 October.

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