It is a common view among Psychologists, especially Sigmund Freud, that many psychological pathologies arise from the society-dictated repression of instincts and desires. Indeed, in its constitution the patriarchal society of which we live consists of a plethora of psyche crushing, trapping both men and women into constructed roles with little escape. Such roles include circulation from those of the family institution, to that of marriage and back to the family. However, in Psycho, Hitchcock guides the audience on a journey into the private lives of its characters, Norman Bates and Marion Crane, revealing secret instincts that, while suppressed in public, allow themselves to escape in the privacy of the household. In discussing the space of the uncanny, an area where repressed desires return and haunt, Freud elucidates that the trauma of repressed desires turns the space of the home, a space of the familiar and concealed, into that of the uncanny. In the Bates household, fueled said transformation is Norman’s Oedipal complex. Failing to repress his sexual desire to fornicate with his mother causing an intense jealousy over her lover, Norman murders both the man and his mother. However, the mother persists, inhabiting Normans mind causing a split personality. In fact, another oedipal complex forms, yet in reverse and from the mother’s perspective. Jealous of the young women whom Norman is sexually attracted to, the mother commands Norman to kill them to ensure she’s his sole object of desire. Norman, trapped within this oedipal cycle and immense guilt, shown visually through the numerous stuffed birds, bird a slang term for women, that stare down at him through the film.
Due to his split in personality, Norman exists simultaneously both as aggressor, through his mother’s half, but also as victim. Norman’s last name Bates, a homophone for bait, reflects his aggressive side, as he baits Marion Crane, Crane being a species of bird, into her murder in his hands. Yet, Norman also inhabits Marion’s position. In fact, Marion and Norman are almost anagrams, mirror images of each other. Both characters, driven by guilt stemmed from pleasing the law of the mother and performing their societal roles, allow their id to influence them to commit crimes, Marion stealing the money and Norman murdering his mother. While Marion’s superego exists, through imagined dialogue from her boss and Sam imagining their unflattering reactions towards her as a criminal, Norman remains fractured. As Hitchcock shows us, Norman, sounding like no man, or one who is neither a man or a woman, is an example of the damage the patriarchal order can do to a man. Indeed, it is easy to identify with Norman through his shy, boyish personality. When Norman cleans up Marions murder, the audience wants him to successfully hide the evidence, wants the car to sink all the way. Through the character of Norman Bates, Hitchcock wishes to expose the psychological effects of living in the wasteland left by patriarchal society, one in which one wriggles and squirms, like a worm trapped under a boot, until they are killed, Marion, or possessed, Norman.