Psycho Summary and Analysis of Meeting Norman Bates - The Shower Scene


Marion hurries out of the pouring rain and into the office of the Bates Motel, but nobody is there. She comes back outside and sees that the lights are on in the palatial house next door, and that there is a silhouette of a woman walking past the window. Marion gets back in her car and honks the horn until a man emerges from the house. This is Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Smiling, he tells Marion that there are 12 cabins and 12 vacancies; the Bates Motel doesn't get many visitors since the highway moved. Marion checks in, signing her name in the visitors' book as "Marie Samuels". Norman offers her Cabin 1 and then invites Marion to have dinner with him up at the house.

After Norman leaves, Marion unpacks her things in Cabin 1. She is still paranoid about the giant envelope of money in her purse, and thinks about where to hide it, eventually wrapping it in her newspaper. Suddenly, she hears the stern voice of an elderly female coming from the Bates home. This is Norman Bates's mother, who is refusing to let her son bring Marion to the house for dinner, accusing him of having a "cheap, erotic mind". Mrs. Bates's tone is harsh and mean as she demands that her son rescind his invitation to the female stranger. Through her cabin window, Marion watches Norman emerge from the house with a tray. She meets him outside the office, and he is clearly embarrassed about his mother's behavior. Marion apologizes for causing him trouble, and he simply explains that his mother is "not herself today." Marion invites Norman to bring the food into her bedroom, but he hesitates and suggests that they eat in the parlor behind the office instead. He leads Marion inside, and she takes note of the numerous stuffed birds hanging on the walls.

As Marion eats, Norman explains that taxidermy is his hobby, or perhaps more than that because he doesn't have much else to do. Norman doesn't have any friends, claiming "a boy's best friend is his mother". He shares his philosophy that all people are enclosed in their own private traps, from which they are always fruitlessly trying to escape. Norman's trap is living with and taking care of his overbearing mother. He confesses that he thinks about cursing his mother and leaving her behind, but he can't, because she is mentally ill. He explains that Mrs. Bates has dealt with a lot of grief in her life - first Norman's father died, leaving her to raise their son alone. Mrs. Bates eventually met a new man, but then he also died (and in a brutal manner, too). Now, she has nobody but Norman. Marion suggests that Norman take a trip to get away from his responsibilities, but he says that his mother is not strong enough to take care of herself. "If you love someone", he says, "you don't do that to them, even if you hate them."

Marion suggests that Norman put his mother "someplace", which Norman takes very personally. He bristles, arguing that his mother doesn't belong in a madhouse. Marion apologizes for upsetting him, but Norman continues his defensive rant. "It's not as if she were a maniac", he says - "she just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?" Marion replies, "sometimes just once is enough." She gets up and tells Norman that she's going to bed, because in the morning, she'll be driving back to Phoenix to try and entangle herself from her own "little trap".

After Marion has retired to her cabin, Norman, his smile gone, walks to the back of the parlor. Against a far wall, in the midst of all his stuffed birds, is a painting, which he moves. Behind the painting is a peephole. There is an extreme close-up of Norman's eye as he watches Marion undress and put on her robe. As soon as she is gone from sight, Norman quickly replaces the painting and, with a look of determination on his face, storms back to the house. Inside the grand residence, Norman stuffs his hands in his pockets, walks into the kitchen, and sits down at the table, clearly agitated. Back in her room, Marion adds up how much money she has spent of the $40,000. She rips up the sheet upon which she has added the figures and flushes the pieces down the toilet. Then, she closes the bathroom door, takes off her robe and slippers, and takes a shower.

As Marion bathes, a figure appears behind her, silhouetted in the translucent plastic curtain. Then, the shadow of an old woman inches closer and closer, and she rips the curtain aside. The attacker's face is obscured as she lifts her knife in the air and stabs Marion multiple times. Marion screams, but to no avail. Once her deed is done, the woman leaves, and Marion dies in the shower. The sequence ends with a close up of the bloody water rushing down the drain, which dissolves into Marion's glassy, dead eye. From there, the camera tracks back to show Marion's dead body, and the newspaper on her nightstand, and finally, captures the view outside her window of the Bates house, from which we can hear Norman shout, "Mother, oh God, Mother! Blood! Blood!"


The brief but significant interaction between Norman Bates and Marion Crane reveals, amongst other things, how much they have in common. For one, both of them can only indulge their desires in secret but, as a result, struggle to maintain a moral facade for the public. Marion is carrying on an affair with Sam, even though, as she tells him, "we pay, too, those who meet in hotel rooms." Stealing Cassidy's money is Marion's desperate attempt to avoid the stigma of being an unmarried woman in an illicit physical relationship. In some part of her decision-making process, she came to the conclusion that being a thief is better than being a woman "who meets in hotel rooms", which says a lot about the society in which Psycho takes place.

Then, "Mrs. Bates" loudly espouses the exact puritanical mindset from which Marion is trying to escape; she scolds Norman for having invited a strange, single girl for supper. "As if men don't desire strangers!" she shouts, "Ugh, I refuse to speak of disgusting things because they disgust me!" Considering his living situation, then (or at least what it appears to be at this point in the film), Norman has good reason to struggle with how to express his sexual desires in a healthy way. He cannot look into Marion's room when she invites him inside; he hesitates to even say the word "bathroom". He can only satisfy his attraction to Marion by watching her undress through a peephole. Norman's overall squeamishness about his sexuality would have been somewhat relatable to Psycho's 1960 audience, which is exactly why Hitchcock purposely pushed the envelope. Critic Stephen Rebello points out, "the script is shot through with obvious delight in skewering America's sacred cows - virginity, cleanliness, privacy, masculinity, sex, mother love, marriage, the reliance on pills, the sanctity of family... and the bathroom" (Rebello 46). It is interesting to note that Psycho marks the first time a toilet flushing was ever seen onscreen in an American film.

This section starts the transition of the audience's sympathy from Marion to Norman. The scene in which Norman watches Marion undress is entirely subjective; we see Marion from Norman's point of view, and his eyes are our own. He quickly becomes uncomfortable and looks away, giving us relief, as well. This moment helps to give some depth to Norman's character - he is a conflicted man who wants to believe that his best friend is his mother, yet he cannot figure out how to indulge his (very normal) sexual impulses. At this point, we feel sorry for Norman, just as Marion does. He has been trapped since birth, yet tries to remain as cheerful and polite as possible (or so we think). He comes across as selfless, politely apologizing for his brash, angry mother, who has no interest in her son's happiness. To this end, Hitchcock's decision to cast sweet and handsome heartthrob Anthony Perkins was vital to Psycho's success - the Norman Bates character in Bloch's novel was older, bald, and overweight. Just as Hitchcock takes great pains to ensure the audience aligns with Marion in the first half, he knew he would have to allow them to transfer their allegiance to Norman after Marion's murder removes her from the narrative.

The "shower scene" is likely one of the most famous scenes in American film history and much has been written about it. It contains 75 cuts within 45 seconds; it took Hitchcock and his crew 6 days to shoot, as there were 78 camera setups to complete. This particular scene is the reason Hitchcock wanted to make Psycho in the first place. He purposefully cast Janet Leigh, an established celebrity, because he knew that it would be that much more shocking when he killed off her character midway through the film. The shower scene is also why Hitchcock wouldn't allow viewers to enter the movie theater after the film had started to roll, because they might come in expecting to see Janet Leigh and miss out on the shocking revelation of her death. "I was directing the viewers", Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut. "You might say I was playing them like an organ." In addition, the shower scene reveals that everything that comes before it - Marion stealing the money and running away - has been a red herring. The audience no longer knows whom to follow; there is a vacuum. After Marion's slaughter, even the camera seems to be uncertain about what to do next, meandering from her glassy-eyed corpse on the ground, through her room, to the newspaper containing the money, still lying on the nightstand, and finally, to the window where we hear Norman's screams.

The irony of the shower scene is that Marion has just decided to give back the money when "Mrs. Bates" kills her. Norman's inability to achieve salvation from his private island has driven Marion to reconsider her actions, as she still has the opportunity to get out of her trap. She has effectively snapped out of her madness and has decided to (pun intended) come clean, which is what the shower represents. The bathroom is blindingly white, echoing Marion's white bra and slip from her tryst with Sam and reminding the audience of her duality; this character still has the potential to come back from the dark side. The shower, then, begins like a baptism, removing the corruption from her mind and returning her to a state of purity. Indeed, she is left naked on the white floor as her blood circles the drain; this image reminds the viewer that in death, Marion's guilt or innocence no longer matters.