Psycho by Robert Bloch

*Spoiler Alert* (obviously)

The bits I knew about Psycho before reading the novel came from various places. My stepsister who watches Bates Motel, my stepfather commenting on how good of a movie it was, and catching little pieces of the film Hitchcock starring Anthony Hopkins. I thought I was essentially able to piece the story together based on those things, and honestly expected it to just be another reading for school. But I consumed it in one sitting (haven’t done that in a while).

Now, of course it’s not exactly a long novel, but the point is that the immersion factor was there right away. Bloch did an excellent job making Norman Bates appear ordinary at first. Since I knew the name and that he was going to be our “psycho,” I was intrigued to see if he had yet to reach that mental state, or if he was simply a good POV player. It soon appeared to be the latter, and I highly commend Bloch for being able to execute Norman’s POV so well. He expertly meshed what the doctors eventually diagnosed as multiple personalities together. Though I suspected this once or twice, it wasn’t until the ending explanation that I was able to look back and see a more obvious differentiation between the personalities.

Although I was somewhat familiar with the story through friends and popular culture, I was unaware that Norman’s mother was dead the whole time. It wasn’t until about a third of the way through that I glanced at the back of the book and saw “she’s been dead for the past twenty years.” And I wish I hadn’t read that blurb, because I can see how much more of a plot twist the reveal would have been without it. Perhaps there were hints that I missed that would have clued me in to the dead mother situation earlier on, but because Bloch was so immersive with his writing, I didn’t want or feel the need to pick at and dissect it.

I must comment on the character of Lila, because she struck me as the reason why this book was written, other than the frightening factor of being a horror novel. From the moment she realizes that her sister is missing, Lila becomes the main source of fuel in solving the mystery. The moment where she decides to ignore Sam’s direction to go to the police, and instead breaks into Norman’s house, is a telling one. It takes place at the very beginning of chapter 15 (pg. 153), and includes many internal thoughts that we hadn’t gotten from her before. She’s angry, and makes the crucial point that she is really the only one determined to find out what happened to her sister. Both Sam and Sheriff Chambers choose to err on the side of caution, continuously telling her to wait and be patient. And Detective Arbogast was simply looking for the lost money, not Mary. This made me think of how kidnappings weren’t often given the attention they deserved until recently, and how many chose to look the other way, pretending that everything was peachy keen. Mary, although she was murdered, was lucky in that she had someone willing to search for her until the crime was solved. I don’t know if Bloch meant this to be the main take away, but it’d be difficult to convince me that he was unaware of it.

Lila also gets my utmost respect for showing a great maturity for her age. She could have held anger for Norman Bates for the rest of her life, as many people would, but instead felt a sense of sympathy for him and the mental state he was in for most of his life. I applaud Bloch, again, for shedding light on an issue that wasn’t often talked about (in this case mental illness), especially for the time this book was written.

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One thought on “Psycho by Robert Bloch

  1. Yes! Someone who shares my fondness of Lila! Aside from Bates, Lila was probably my favorite character. I feel like she’s the dessert that people either love or hate. (I’ve heard flan is like that, though I’ve never tried it myself). It seems readers either think Lila is the damsel in distress who has the man save her in the end, or think she’s the bad-ass lady of her time. I agree with the latter. Lila was the only one who did anything to get to Mary. She was the one theorizing and hypothesizing. As I said over in my blog post, she almost had me believing Mary could be alive despite the fact that her murder is one of the first things we read. I think a glaring theme in Psycho is misdirection. Is the book a mystery or horror novel or both? We already know (basically) whodunnit, but maybe the purpose of the book isn’t whodunnit? but, who ‘s the psycho, and could it be more than one character?

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