Monstrous Mothers: The Mother/Son Relationships in “North by Northwest” and “Psycho”


North by Northwest and Psycho, though seemingly very different films, contain a number of common Hitchcockian themes, such as the presence of a mother-figure whose sanity and moral integrity is questionable at best. This paper discusses the similarities and differences of the mothers in these classic films, as well as the connections to Hitchcock’s childhood present in both films. The personalities and actions of both the sons and the mothers are analyzed in the context of their own films, then compared to those of their counterparts from the other picture. Additionally, the relationships between the mothers and sons are investigated, revealing the dysfunctionality of their relationships. In North by Northwest, the mother is excessively controlling and superficial, while in Psycho, the mother is merely a murderous side effect of the antagonist’s growing insanity. These maladjusted bonds, as well as the antagonistic nature of both mothers (though each expresses this trait in a vastly different way than the other), are compared with the similarly abnormal relationship which Hitchcock supposedly shared with his own mother during his childhood.

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