SPOILER ALERT: The following article includes spoilers for the movie “Psycho (1960)”.

TRIGGER WARNING: Psycho has been widely recognized for its violence and disturbing themes.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho is based on a book written by Robert Bloch that takes place in the fictional town of Fairvale, California. The movie starts with a clerk named Marion working in a real estate agency. 


After closing a significant sale one day, Marion’s boss entrusts her with depositing a hefty sum, forty thousand dollars, before the weekend. But the weight of her boyfriend’s debt loomed large. It was their only obstacle to a happy future, a future that seemed so close yet far out of reach. In a moment of clouded judgment, Marion makes a life-altering decision. Embezzling the money, she slips away in her sister’s car.


Exhausted from the long drive and after a terrifying brush with sleep deprivation, Marion finds herself on a stormy night at the Bates Motel, the only night stay off a major highway. She checks in with Norman Bates, the motel’s sole proprietor. He leads her to a cabin close to the office, and proceeds to offer her dinner.


Besides the taxidermied birds behind the front desk, Norman has an air of unease and awkwardness. Marion felt like she was being watched as she sat down for dinner. As she observes Norman watching her from the doorway, her uneasiness grows. Worse still, when he approaches her, he says something strange about the way she eats, stating that she “ate like a bird.” Norman also mentions his annoyance towards his mother in passing, and to that Marion asks him why he doesn’t put her ‘someplace’, implying that she should be institutionalized. The seemingly harmless comment triggers a surge of possessiveness and rage within him. 

Later that night, as a storm rages outside, the encounter with Norman and the stolen money gnaws at Marion. She decides to return before the loss of the money is noticed by her boss. With her guilt of theft gone, she takes a symbolic shower, as if cleansing herself. Marion’s unsuspecting shower became the scene of a horrific act, a silhouette of an old woman is shown against the shower curtain holding a large knife, we hear sounds of stabbing and see blood flowing down the drain. Marion was murdered by Norman in cold blood, forever silenced by the driving rain.

But, it wasn’t another personality of his who committed the act. The film cleverly portrays the murder through quick cuts and sound effects, leaving the audience to imagine the violence and later revealing it was Norman who attacked Marion.


‘Mother’ could not stand the existence of Marion as she could potentially break Norman away from her control. Whenever he fancied a woman, this unhealthy attachment to his mother’s image overpowered him, leading to him killing them. Just as in the case of Marion and two other women before her.


Norman’s mental state is complex. While the film explores themes of a fractured personality, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) wasn’t a widely recognized diagnosis at the time the movie was made (1960). The concept behind Norman’s mental state is more likely psychosis with a strong fixation on his mother.


Let us take a deeper look at why his disorder developed, and what circumstances would lead to the creation of such a horrifying and harmful personality.


One significant reason that Norman appears to have developed issues, is a result of growing up with a controlling and manipulative mother. The death of his father at a young age may have increased his dependence on his mother, leading to an unhealthy attachment and a blurred sense of boundaries between them. 


Also, Norman’s isolation and lack of social interaction, especially during his years of growth, contributed to his stunted emotional development and inability to form healthy relationships. His secluded life at the Bates Motel, combined with his mother’s overbearing presence, created a breeding ground for his distorted perceptions of reality.


Further, the trauma of discovering his mother’s affair and ensuing murder-suicide may have been the breaking point for Norman. The guilt and conflicting emotions he experienced could have triggered his identity disorder, resulting in the creation of his alternate persona, ‘Mother’.


Norman’s occupation as a motel proprietor serves as a chilling reminder that a seemingly normal life can mask a terrifying inner world. Mental disorders are real conditions, and although they do not justify horrible crimes, they do provide an insight into the complexities of a criminal’s mind.


The question remains: how do we stop someone like Norman from hurting again? Sadly, there’s no easy answer. Mental disorders are complex, and treatment takes time. People with such disorders need psychiatric care, not punishment.


Psycho shattered the illusion of safety and normalcy, forever changing how audiences perceived motel rooms, mothers, and even the seemingly innocuous act of taking a shower. It remains a chilling masterpiece that continues to spark conversations about the depths of human psychology decades after its release.

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