Hitchcock and Freudian Analysis in “Strangers on a Train”

Partway through Strangers on a Train, I realized Hitchcock had intended for his villain to be gay. I realized that Bruno was displaying traits As Robin Wood states, according to “heterosexist mythology: one is probably gay if one shows traces of effeminacy, had a close relationship with one’s mother, or hates and murders women.” (Wood 336) The second of these traits was most obvious for Bruno. He wore ties with his name embroidered on them to please his mother, whether she knew he was wearing them or not. In the first scene that his mother is in, she has just finished giving him a manicure, which comes across as feminine and intimate. Bruno also seems to have an Oedipus complex: attraction to his mother and hatred for his father.

The first scene with Bruno and his mother. In this shot, Hitchcock positions them as he would a couple.

However, due to censorship of the time, Hitchcock could not have an openly gay character in the film. Instead, he leaves “clues” for the audience to pick up on so they may figure out his intentions. What this means is that if a viewer is able to realize Bruno’s homosexuality, he or she has just done simple psychoanalysis of a character. As this film followed Spellbound, a film with obvious basis in Freud’s theories, fans likely would have started analyzing friends and characters on their own. One could argue that Hitchcock trusted his fans to be able to see the clues he was leaving for them in Bruno’s behavior.

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