An Analysis of the Differences Between the Novel and Movie Adaptation of Psycho

Psycho by Robert Bloch and Alfred Hitchcock

The movie “Psycho” by Alfred Hitchcock is based on the 1959 novel of the same name by an American writer Robert Bloch. The two works are inspired by the crimes, featuring horror scenes, with the film having some minor deviations. Reading the novel, therefore, is like watching the Hitchcock version of the film and vice versa. In deliberating on the merits of the novel versus the movie or vice versa, seeing the movie and reading the book do not come out as mutually exclusive.

The movie is inarguably an all-time classic (Psycho, 1960).

In the film version of the story, Hitchcock creates suspense by employing the use of camera angles, frantic repetition of scenes, and dramatic silences. The novel Psycho is however comprised of internal dialogue, with the narrative perspective frequently shifting from one character to the other. According to the book, each character is brought out as having a cross to bear, hence revealing their vulnerabilities.

Reading the book is, therefore, significant in enhancing the viewer’s appreciation for Robert Bloch as a writer and Alfred Hitchcock as a moviemaker. The suspense created in the film through the use of camera tricks, and repetition may not make sense if the viewer does not have an idea about the novel from which the narration is lifted. The novel is thus useful in clarifying the complex psychological issues revolving around specific characters such as Norman and Mary.

The characters’ vulnerabilities are made very clear in the book as the reader gets to hear their internal voices talk them into a final decision.

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For instance, Mary had lived a typical life but talks herself into a scheme that tends to be the solution to all her problems. As the story flows, the reader develops an interest in ching her plan, growing dissonance in her conscious, but eventually losing confidence in her plan. The narration brings out Norman’s life to be over normawhichl although he managed to conduct himself in a socially acceptable manner at the motel. The description of the characters’ vulnerabilities in the novel is thus brought out by the dramatic silences in the film that is done out of the same book.

The adaptation of the novel Psycho in the movie Psycho successfully brings the rights to Psycho for the main purpose of leaving the audience in a state of confusion about how the story ended. Historically, the movie maker Hitchcock was named the master of suspense due to the tension that the film created immediately after its release. The shower scene that demonstrates the murder of the character Marion Crane by Norman comes out as successful in leaving the audience in suspense in the same novel (Bloch, 2010).

The novel Psycho sheds more light on the relationship between the character Norman, and his mother, as well as the relationship between Mary Crane, Sam Loomis, and the sister of Mary, Lila Crane. The book shows a very disturbing picture of the troubled Norman, leading to a deep understanding of the narration better than the film ever could. The movie, on the other hand, captures enough of Norman’s broken mind to set the mood of the movie, which is indeed a thriller. Viewers of the film do not get to understand why Norman decides to behave in a particular manner until the very end of the movie. The mind of the character is clearly explained, thus ending the mystery of not knowing, which keeps the viewer attracted to the film to the end.

Readers and viewers of the book and movie respectively get a different picture of the narration due to the difference in the insight into the relationships between the major characters. While Robert Bloch writes about three sides of the character Norman in the novel, the film only majors on two and slightly touches on the third side. The book discusses the three personalities of the same character whereby he is at one point referred to as the boy Norman. The character best suits him because he is a little boy who is sincerely needy and obedient to his mother. The humble side of Norman is regularly noted by his mother in the story, making it his weakest personality. The individuality of the character Norman is, however, overlooked in the film Psycho (Psycho, 1960).

The other character of Norman is the one regarding him as the mother of Norman. The character seems to be seriously tormenting Norman every time the personality is achieved. Unfortunately, Norman is unable to let go of the traits throughout the novel. The final character of Norman is the grown-up Norman, who appears to be rationalizing Norman Bates. While in the adult personality, Norman strives to maintain a normal lifestyle while also struggling to cover up the other two traits that make him very vulnerable. The film does not major in defining the adult character of Norman, most probably because of the lack of timThethe film slightly touched on the intelligent and rationalizing personality so that the audience can justify everything that happens themselves.

While there are differences in the relationships between the principles characters in the novel and the film, both the two pieces of literary works, have successfully managed to portray the troubled and messy correlation between Norman Bates and the mother. The appearance of the character Marion Crane probably brings a change to the behavior of Norman Bates. Marion Crane is the center of distress since Norman’s attraction to her makes him so ashamed that he murders her as his mother. Norman is in a state of a dilemma because the beauty of Marion Crane fascinates him, but his attraction to her also annoys him. The novel states Norman to be motivated by the fact that Marion is probably flaunting herself in front of the bathroom mirror so that he gets tormented. He is however quite sure that the lady is aware of the hole in the wall that made her secretly search for his tenants. The film does not major in one whole issue of spying on tenants, but Norman briefly watches Marion Crane through the same hole in the wall, although his attraction is still clearly shown.

The character Norman Bates is described in the novel as a middle-aged, overweight, and bald man who puts on glasses. The appearance of the same character brings the viewers and readers into a state of confusion as it is very tough to believe that the character portrayed in the film is the same person reported on the pages of the novel. Although the character may not be brought out in the movie as described in the book, the intended meaning of the narration still reaches the viewers of the movie. The use of various cinematic techniques helps in achieving the meaning intended by the director (Psycho, 1960).

The styles used and the storytelling techniques in both the film and the novel bring out their uniqueness to the viewers and readers. The technique that is put to use by the author of the book is that of giving a detailed examination of all the characters, describing their background stories in detail The same intimacy in describing the characters lacks in the film although the movie is at the level of a thriller due to the edge it gives the story. Hitchcock’s terrifying thriller proves to be a result of genius film-making as a consequence of the incredible shots and the created suspense. The iconic scenes in the movie, as well as the superb acting, induces the horror bit of it; hence the unique styling to the viewers.

The emotions of the audience are the crucial point in any work of literature. In Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho, the emotions are evoked by gripping situations that in turn stem from the fundamental structure of the motion picture. The film does not employ the full use of dialogue in bringing out the main content, although dialogue plays a minor part in its development. The discussion forms part of the film taking a short lead in building up the characters, but Hitchcock does not rely on it for the flow of the movie. The filmmaker makes efficient use of things and objects in the movie instead of using the un-cinematic habit of relying too much on dialogue. The novel Psycho, on the other hand, relies on the use of dialogue as a technique for creating an emotional impact in the story.

Hitchcock uses the point of view of minding the audience in his film which is an adaptation of the novel “Psycho”.The filmmaker values the importance of how each scene is going to affect the viewer. Through that, he ensures that the content engages the viewers and reels them in. Moreover, he uses the characters to tease the viewers and pull them along desperately wanting more. Again, the film director uses the point of view that people are attracted to the theatres to engage themselves for long hours with images on a screen. Viewers indeed do it to have fun, similar to how people may use rollers to be thrown at a great speed in the streets. The filmmaker of Psycho seemingly utilized the point of view of capturing a large audience by putting the storyline in the novel “Psycho” into practice as in the movie. The narration in the book could not probably capture the attention of the listener or reader as compared to the description of tina’s film.

Theatre audiences will always have the perception that they are safe since the impact of watching a variety of genres will never be felt directly on them. The audience will always walk out and resume their normal lives when the film session is done. The more fun the audiences have, the quicker they will come back begging for more. Unlike the novel thawhichly gives a picture of the characters and the happening, the film is developed specifically to attract a lot of audiences. Historically, the novel Psycho did not get into the market as quickly as the movie about the same did. The film got its way through into the market due to the unique cinema styles, although it is an adaptation of a book with the same narration. There were slight changes in the naming of characters, but the content of the narrative remains the same.

Additionally, the point of view that narration should be kept simple is brought out differently in the movie and novel “Psycho”. The film keeps the story simple thus avoiding a lot of memorization for the viewers. In the novel, the story is not simple due to the background information about each character that is provided before the reader can understand the main story. Hitchcock ensures the use of a simplistic, linear story that the audience can quickly follow.

His screenplay is streamlined to offer maximum dramatic impact as opposed to the abstract stories in the novel (Psycho, 1960).

In conclusion, the adaptation of the novel “Psycho” into the film with the same name is significant in highlighting similarities and differences in the netlike and the narrators of the two pieces of literature. The movie is created from the point of view of attracting a larger audience since it is a modification of the initial book done by Robert Bloch about the same story.


  1. Bloch, R. (2010). Psycho. New York: Overlook Press. Psycho. (1960). United StatThenetlikestate es.

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An Analysis of the Differences Between the Novel and Movie Adaptation of Psycho. (2022, Jun 16). Retrieved from

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