All of Us Go a Little Crazy at Times

| | Comments (2)

In my post about Edgar Allan Poe, I discussed how psychological horror serves to reassure the reader that she is normal.  Dr. Arnzen pointed out in his response that we also "identify with the insane and 'go a little crazy' when we read".  In Psycho, Robert Bloch is highlighting that very point.


Norman Bates (who in the novel is much less creepy than Anthony Perkins--the description reads more like George Castanza) tells Mary Crane that "perhaps all of us go a little crazy at times" (Bloch 44).  It's particularly chilling for Mary to hear this, as she herself has just gone a little crazy and stolen $40,000 from her boss.


In one scene, Sam Loomis answers the door and "for a moment, the shock of recognition held him immobile; then he stepped forward and his arms closed around her...his mouth found hers, gratefully, greedily; and then she was stiffening, she was pulling away" (Bloch 83).  He can't even tell that it's not his own fiancĂ©e standing outside his store.  Norman Bates is not the only character in the novel dealing with self-denial and illusions.  Almost every character in the novel is forced to confront some aspect of themselves that they don't like, or do something they never imagined they were capable of doing.


Later, Sam is considering the fact that he doesn't really know the woman he thought he loved.  He starts to think about all the people in Fairvale he knows, "like old Tomkins, superintendent of schools...running away from his wife and family with a sixteen-year-old girl" (Bloch 102).  He goes on to list other examples, including a quiet man who worked as a clerk in his hardware store--a man whom he discovered had been discharged from the army for beating a chaplain.


Perhaps the most frightening thing of all is how any person is capable of almost any act, even those we would never consider.  Imagine the horror you might feel discovering your parents making out in the row behind you at the theater.  Whenever a person denies our perception of her, it's terrifying--and the most terrifying thing is discovering we, ourselves, are capable of something we never imagined.


In a party conversation once, I heard a woman talking about how angry she'd become when another driver cut her off on the road.  She stated that if she would have had a gun, she would have shot the person.  I'm not sure what was more chilling--the fact that she was willing to admit this (and no alcohol was involved at that point), or how several others admitted that they had felt the same way at some point.  Psychological horror may attempt to explain those impulses, but it also points out that abnormal though they may be, they are more common than we want to admit.


Works Cited


Bloch, Robert. Psycho. New York: Warner Books, 1982.



Not true. Many of us go a lot of crazy all of the time.

Mike Arnzen said:

LOL, Natalie!

The brain is brittle, and control (over self, over others, over thoughts, over nature) is often a self-satisfying ruse. That's the lesson of a lot of horror fiction, I think -- and the release we feel from it is the root of the thrill.

But then what do we make of the moral lessons of the horror stories? What IS the lesson of PSYCHO in this regard? That we're all a little crazy? Does that imply that Norman's behaviors are "only human"?

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.