Although it may seem that William Faulkner’s novel A Rose for Emily and Alfred Hitchcock’s horror movie Psycho have little in common, in reality, they share several important similarities. They have common themes.
First of all, the works are similar in their focus on loneliness. Emily Grierson, the protagonist of A Rose for Emily, has a rather reclusive lifestyle as she spends her life in an old mansion with a black servant, who “talked to no one, probably not even to her” (488). Without family and friends, Emily’s lifestyle is, as Faulkner portrays it, “dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse” (488). This quote has been used to show Emily’s psychological condition and her deteriorating mental stability. It is patently obvious that the woman lived haunted by the memories of the past in her large empty home. Similarly to Faulkner, Alfred Hitchcock explores the theme of human loneliness bordering with insanity in the character of Norman Bates in Psycho. His Victorian house and the Bates motel are located close to the old highway, where only lost travelers happen to stop for the night. From the very beginning, the audience finds out that the young man is unbearably lonely. This makes him invite Marion Crane for a supper in his old mansion. They eventually have a supper in a parlor that is right behind Norman’s office. To illustrate Norman Bates’ loneliness, the following dialogue can be used:
Marion Crane: Do you go out with friends?
Norman Bates: A boy’s best friend is his mother.
Next, the two works share the theme of perverted sexuality. In particular, Emily Grierson had a sexual affair first with a young man Homer and then with his corpse (which is suggested by a hair on the pillow). This weird attachment apparently developed from Emily’s unsatisfied Electra’s (Oedipal) desires, if to use Freudian terminology. Specifically, scholar Jack Scherting asserts that “The Oedipal desires expressed in Emily’s affair with Homer were never recognized by the people of Jefferson, and Emily herself was aware of them only as a subconscious thing” (404). Likewise, Norman Bates’ attachment to his mother’s corpse was the result of his perverted sexuality rooted in the Oedipal complex. In the film, Dr.Fred Richmond explains to Lila Crane, “His mother was a clinging, demanding woman, and for years the two of them lived as if there was no one else in the world. Then she met a man…and it seemed to Norman that she threw him over for this man” (Hitchcock). The fact that Norman killed his mother only to fully possess her (even if it is in the shape of a corpse) points out at the fact that he had a strong, sexuality-based, perverted attachment to his parent.
Finally, the stories revolve around the theme of a murder by a mentally disturbed person. Whereas there are no explicit mentions of Emily Grierson’s mental health condition in A Rose for Emily, this is suggested implicitly. In particular, the reader can draw conclusions about Emily’s insanity only following her death. Besides, the fact that the Baptist minister, as it is shown, has kept some secret, so that “he would never divulge what happened during the interview” (126). As for the murder itself, Emily poisoned her lover with arsenic, which some townspeople turned out to be aware of. Likewise, Norman Bates is an insane person, a real psychopath. The man murders his guest disguised as his deceased mother while the girl is having a shower in her cabin. He uses a knife to do this. Just like mentally disturbed Emily Grierson, he is pushed by a sexual desire to wards the victim. To illustrate, Dr. Fred Richmond explains, “When he met your sister, he was touched by her… aroused by her. He wanted her. That set off “the jealous mother” and “mother killed the girl!” (Hitchcock) Critics agree that in the film, Hitchcock referenced a series of popular characterizations of the psychopath (Genter 137).
In summary, both works share the theme of loneliness, as well as the themes of perverted sexuality and a murder committed by a mentally disturbed individual. While these are not the only common points, they are, without a doubt, the easiest to spot.
- Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily and Other Stories. Random House, 2012. Print.
- Genter, Robert. “We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes:” Alfred Hitchcock, American Psychoanalysis, and the Construction of the Cold War Psychopath.” Canadian Review of American Studies 40. 2 (2010): 133-158. Print.
- Hitchcock, Alfred, dir. Psycho. Perf. Anthony Perkins & Janet Leigh. Paramount, 1960. DVD.
- Scherting, Jack. Emily Grierson’s Oedipus Complex: Motif, Motive, and Meaning in Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily.” Studies in Short Fiction 17.4 (1980): 397-405. Print.