In Robin Wood’s Hitchcock’s Films Revisited, she comments on the Richard Hannay’s “particular version of masculinity” as she illuminates the psychoanalytic subtext in his behaviour. By examing his interactions with ‘the Father,’ the bullet and his pipe, Wood explores the Freudian implications of his props and discusses how they reflect on his masculinity.
In his encounter with the clergyman on the Flying Scotsman, Wood notes that he avoids identification and thus ‘castration’ or the loss of his masculinity. Were the clergyman to identify him, as the audience suspects he may in the film, Hannay would be stripped of his power of shrouded identity, just as he would lose his identity through castration. In the same way, he is saved from the bullet by Margaret’s inadvertent gift of the hymnbook. This reinforces his role as the dominant man who keeps his woman in a helpful, subservient role. His masculinity is reinforced by her, if even inadvertent, subservient help. Wood uses these examples to support the masculinity of Hannay’s actions. She questions, however, his use of the distinctly benign pipe as a gun in order to intimidate Pamela. Because Pamela never sees the pipe, she assumes it as a gun when Hannay presents it as such through his dialogue. To see it through Freud’s eyes, this prop is somewhat phallic and, when it turns out to be an innocuous pipe rather than a powerful gun, it affects the audience’s view of Hannay’s masculinity negatively. The discovery of Hannay’s presentation of the powerless pipe as something more potent is seriously emasculating for the hero.
By examining Hannay’s behaviour in Freudian light, Robin Wood gives us a new and unique perspective on the portrayal of Hannay’s masculinity in The 39 Steps.