The Diagnosis of Norman Bates

Post 4

            Norman Bates, portrayed by Anthony Perkins, radiates a child-like quality – the simplicity of the language and tone of voice he uses, the way he seeks approval and attempts to please the people he comes in contact with, even the bag of sweets that he always carries, give Norman the appearance of a man who has not grown to full maturity.  These signifiers reinforce the idea that Norman does not have a true sense of “self” and that he suffers from an underdeveloped ego (Lacan 2).  In life, Mrs. Bates controlled her son to such an extent that he was unable to function without her direction.  When Mrs. Bates found a man to share her life, Norman became overwhelmed with jealousy.  During Norman’s conversation with Marion he states that “a son is a poor substitute for a lover,” a line that he probably heard from his mother (Psycho).  As the film progresses, the audience becomes privy to the information that Norman murdered his mother and her lover.  Norman cannot exist without his mother.  She is the voice inside his head that tells him what to do and how to behave.

            During the final scene of the film, Dr. Fred Richmond, played by Simon Oakland, provides an explanation of the mental illness that beleaguers Norman.  Norman is not just a murderer but a “dangerously disturbed” man with a personality disorder (Psycho).  The audience is told that after the death of his father, Norman’s mother became a “clinging, demanding woman” that relied heavily on Norman and as she became completely dependent on him so Norman became equally dependent on her.  The death of Norma Bates, especially at his hands, is too much for his psyche to bear therefore it results in a mental conflict.  As Dr. Richmond puts it, Norman’s “mind housed two personalities and the dominant personality won the conflict.” (Psycho).  Norman steals his mother’s remains and preserves them like the stuffed animals in his rooms.  He begins to think and speak for her, eventually, he completely transforms into his mother by dressing in her clothes and dawning a wig similar to her hairstyle. “Norman was never all Norman but often only Mother” (Psycho).

            Norman’s personality is “fragmented” (Lacan 4).  During the developmental stages of his growth and maturity he fails to achieve the “Ideal –I so he is unable to develop an ego that can withstand the control and demands made by Mother (Lacan 2).  This prevents him from “coming-into-being” (Lacan 2-3).  Norman is incapable of living autonomously away from his mother’s influence and control even after her death.  Norma Bates made Norman completely dependent, even the name signifies that Norman was only an extension of his mother.   In the end, Norman’s personality is completely shattered as the dominant “Mother” half of his personality takes over.  So, how does this all relate back to the murder of Marion?  Dr. Richmond explains at the end of the movie.  Norman concludes that because he is so extremely jealous of his mother, his mother must have the same feelings about him.  Norman is attracted and aroused by Marion and the mother half of his personality cannot deal with Norman’s desire therefore Marion must be eliminated.  It is never about the money; it is “a crime of passion” (Psycho).

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