Norman Bates and his Mother

Psycho is a fascinating film that explores the inner-workings of a mental illness pertaining to a man whose sense of self is dominated by a mother figure. His mother had died long ago but the ‘ghost’ of her remained within Norman. He compensated for this death by going into episodes where he would take on her role. The role was a defensive mechanism towards what Norman felt as a threat towards himself through the perspective of an over-protective simulacrum of his mother.

At the end of Psycho 2, we find the truth. Normans real mother appears and we learn his dead mother was actually the real ones sister. Norman, showing no sign of distress and operating with an erie calm, strikes his real mother in the head with a shovel after she reveals the truth. Why would Norman kill his actual mother when, for what it seemed, he so desperately needed a mother figure in his life? This end scene provides a startling revelation.

For Norman, it was never about the reality of the mother, it was always about the fantasy. The mother signified the highest authority figure, who would look after and give orders to an insecure and scared little boy. The outside world was taught to be impure and dangerous by the mother figure, this led Norman to live a reclusive life that depended on the mother for safety. After her death, through the years, living alone in the house his mother once occupied, Norman created the perfect mother figure, the perfect bringer of peace and order in a world of chaos and evil. This imaginary mother figure engendered by the death of his former mother was the culmination of all that Norman desired in a paternal figure. The appearance of a living mother that would replace this imaginary matriarch is a stoppage of the fantasy.

Fantasy dissolves when coming face to face with reality, it no longer works because fantasy finds life within a realm of death (a void) where the virtuality of imagination is free to set itself up whatever it can possibly desire, unconstrained by any shortcoming of actual reality. The real mother that presented herself to Norman had to be killed and from her body and the actuality of her death; Norman found the sustenance to perpetuate the virtuality of fantasy. The mother lives on but only through death. She lives on in the all-encompassing spirit of Normans most primary desires. It was never about a mother, it was what a mother signified and the signification was suited so perfectly for him that he wouldn’t let the real sully it.

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sonnychasm

Literature, art, science, travel. Writing fiction, non-fiction, poetry. Always wrestling with language.

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