I recently read this novel for a class I have at Seton Hill University. I came into it knowing the basics of the story. I knew the truth about Norman Bates and had only seen the shower scene from the movie. So, the end was spoiled for me. But, honestly, how many people didn’t know what happens in this story?
I was disappointed that there wasn’t more content on Bates. But, for a short novel it did well. I’m intrigued on the grief aspect that drove Bates to continue to act as though his mother was alive. It’s just such a wonderful blend of what can happen mentally in a person to deal with situations in their life.
Last night, my wife and I were talking about the Life of Pi. She hasn’t read it but saw that it’s going to be a movie soon and asked about the premise. This is another example of what the mind can do in a person to help them deal with their experiences. I’m still inclined to believe that the boy in Life of Pi really was on the boat with a tiger. (SPOILER WARNING) But, it is suggested that he was actually on a lifeboat with a man who engaged in cannibalism and how the character chose to deal with that situation. Again, while I believe in the literal experiences of the character it is intriguing that the medical professionals at the end of the book could see the possibility of him creating a different situation to make what he experienced more acceptable.
So I compare Bates and Pi together and I’m even more fascinated about the human mind and potential. Bates didn’t like who his mother was dating so he killed them and then blocked that event from his memory and believed that his mother was still alive. Even if the character in Pi wasn’t really with a tiger, zebra, and baboon, he interpreted the other people as the animals as a defensive mechanism to deal with cannibalism in the man he associates as the tiger. All I can say is wow. Both characters were young when they faced these situations. But one was faced with life or death and managed to survive without losing his humanity while the other (Bates) just didn’t like who his mother was dating and clearly went off his rocker by killing numerous people.
What is it that really drives someone to that point? You get the feeling that Bates was very sheltered. His mother never liked what he read and he seems to only have able to read what he wanted after he had killed his mother. Yet, even sheltered, he was able to carry out murder. The kid in Pi lived in a zoo. He saw nature in a somewhat raw form. He watched the tiger kill and eat the zebra and baboon. But, having grown up around animals who kill for their food and all the potential disturbing images that would result, he didn’t go insane.
Ultimately, that is what intrigues me the most about killers in reality and fiction. How can two individuals go through traumatic events and one comes out “normal” but the other becomes a killer? It’s something I think about a lot as I create my own villains. What do I need to put them through to become the villain I need them to be? What do they have to experience to become a thief, killer, etc? There are so many variables that influence our decisions. That is what makes writing villains so fun and such a headache at the same time.