BOOK CORNER: PSYCHO by Robert Bloch

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Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

Psycho was written in the year 1959 by American author Robert Bloch. The book is so-so-so-so very scary that one might even feel scared, in meeting its author.  The novel is widely recognized, as Bloch’s, most illustrious work. So intensely written, that even while narrating it to you now, I get a feeling as if someone is standing behind me.

    The book was later adapted into Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal 1960 film of the same name, and was loosely adapted into the Bates Motel television series of (2013-2017). Bloch later wrote two sequels, which are unrelated to any of the film sequels.

    The novel tells the story of Norman Bates, caretaker of an isolated motel who struggles under his domineering Mother and gets embroiled in a series of murders. 

     Norman Bates is the main protagonist of this novel, who traces his struggles with insanity, particularly, split personality disorder. In the novel, Norman is described, as in mid-forties, overweight, pale, and balding. As a child, Norman had an extremely dysfunctional, even abusive relationship, with his Mother that forever changed his ability to relate normally in society. As an adult, Norman lives alone with his Mother and runs the Bates Motel. When the novel opens, Norman is reading about the Oedipus Situation or Complex with the hope of understanding more about his strange relationship with his Mother. It’s clear that Norman’s relationship with his Mother has deeply affected the way he views all women, particularly women, to whom he is sexually attracted. Norman drinks as an excuse to block the strange voices in his head—arguably his Mother’s voice—telling him that he’s not good enough, and reminding him that he’s impotent.

    All in all ‘Psycho’ is a horror story of Norman Bates, and his strange relationship with his Mother, and the motel he runs on the side of a deserted highway.

    The novel opens with an image of a forty-year-old Norman Bates reading in his office. His Mother approaches and chides him for reading filthy material. The two get into a vicious fight is when the Mother lambasts Norman. He is too weak, and too afraid to stand up to her. She challenges everything of Norman, from his social skills to his sexual predilections while he silently takes the abuse. In his head, however, he imagines the release he would feel if he killed his Mother, but the buzzer ringing at the front door breaks him from his thoughts. Someone needs a room in the motel.

    Its a woman who needs a room. Mary Crane, has just driven across several states in the pouring rain. Norman doesn’t know that Mary Crane has stolen $40,000 from her real estate boss. She hopes to meet Sam Loomis, her fiancé with whom she’s been having a long distance relationship, and with this money she wants to settle his debts, and start a married life together. After getting lost on the highway, Mary pulls into the Bates Motel and asks for a room. Norman, who has clearly never interacted with young women, shyly asks Mary, up to the house for dinner. She accepts, but when she hears of the horrific, and seemingly abusive, relationship that Norman has with his Mother, she gently suggests that Norman put her in an institution. This idea outrages Norman, who shouts and screams that his Mother is normal: “She’s not crazy!” Mary quietly excuses herself, and returns to her motel room, and vows to return the money she’s stolen so that she doesn’t end up being tortured by guilt. Moments later, an old woman enters Mary’s room while she’s in the shower and beheads her.

    In the moments before Mary was murdered, Norman had been watching her undress through a peephole in his office. He was drinking at that time, and passed out in his chair. He awoke to find Mary’s corpse and immediately suspected his Mother to be the murderer. He momentarily considers letting Mother go to the prison, but the thought of being separated from her is too much for him. He knows he must protect her, help cover up her crimes. Norman methodically cleans up the murder scene, just as he remembers cleaning up the scene with Mother and “Uncle Joe” all those years ago. He deposits Mary’s corpse and the car into the sinkhole behind the motel and assumes he has got away with the murder. Meanwhile, Mary’s old boss, Mr. Lowery, hires a private detective to track Mary in order to recover his $40,000 that she had stolen. The detective, Mr. Arbogast, traces Mary to the motel and now stands knocking at the door, demanding to speak with Norman, or his Mother. Moments later, the same mysterious figure, who appears to be an old woman, attacks Arbogast and slits his throat. Norman deposits Arbogast’s body and the car in the same sinkhole.

    Unfortunately for Norman, Mary Crane’s little sister Lila by now had grown suspicious of her sister’s disappearance. She meets up with Sam Loomis to search for her. They too trace Mary back to the Bates Motel, Lila is now convinced that something terrible has happened to Mary in the motel only.

    She notifies the local sheriff, but he insists that she is wrong. He tells her that Norman Bates is harmless, and that his mother has been dead for years now (after she poisoned herself and her lover, “Uncle Joe”). Unconvinced, Lila arranges for Sam Loomis to distract Norman while she explores the house searching for clues. Although Sam does his best to distract Norman, he drops his guard when Norman smashes a whisky bottle over Sam’s head, knocking him unconscious. Meanwhile, as Lila explores the house, she finds a tiny shrivelled woman whom she assumes is Mrs. Bates. But as she approaches, she discovers that the woman is actually a taxidermal corpse or you could say a stuffed corpse. Norman appears behind Lila, dressed in his mother’s clothes and speaking in a high, affected voice saying, “I am Norma Bates.” He raises a butcher knife and pounces on Lila, but Sam, who wakes up from his stupor well on time, manages to wrestle Norman away from her and hold him there until he is arrested. In the weeks that follow, it is discovered that Norman only had murdered his mother and her lover, “Uncle Joe.” To mask the guilt he felt over the murders, Norman developed a split personality in which Mother became his alternate self. At the trial, Norman is found to be insane and is institutionalized or you could say imprisoned in a house prison for life.

Synopsis by Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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