We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kevin’s mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly dangerous things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.

Welcome to every mother’s (or soon to be one) nightmare. What if, despite everything you do and everything you say, your kid turns out antisocial, with violent tendencies and then ends up as a school shooter just to break the monotony of their teen life. It’s not because they hate Mondays, it’s because they feel like nothing has any purpose and life is not worth living and then, in a pure nihilistic rampage, they destroy it – for themselves and for their parents.

Lionel Shriver has done something remarkable.
I could not put down the book and I had to take breathers when things got too dark. Can you hate your own child? Most mothers will say that there are times when they don’t like them very much but the love is there. Eva borders on not sure on either count. She blames perhaps that glass of wine she had during pregnancy or perhaps that nurse that didn’t put the newborn on her chest to bond or perhaps it’s post partum depression.

Whatever caused it, Eva grew weary of her own child, whom she sees as destructive and unlovable. Maybe it’s reactive attachment disorder, maybe it’s pure bipolar. Maybe it’s just a normal kid going through life with an apathetic look.

Eva’s second child, the daughter, turned out OK. Loving and bubbly – proving that maybe it was just bad luck or interesting circumstances which caused it. I keep thinking maybe Eva shouldn’t have become a mother. But in her late 30s she decided that maybe the travels were enough and there was a new page to be written in her personal book.

…You can only subject people to anguish who have a conscience. You can only punish people who have hopes to frustrate or attachments to sever; who worry what you think of them. You can really only punish people who are already a little bit good.”

This book is written in an epistolary format, Eva writing about her day to day life and about Kevin in jail and about their beginnings to her separated husband. Her letters are long, descriptive and it looks like this is the only effort she puts besides her dutiful visits to Juvie Detention.
Her apartment is drab, her fortune and her company gone. She’s a pariah in her community and she hasn’t moved or changed her very unique name because she wants to feel the guilt, the on-going torture of knowing what happens.
People blame the parents in case of a school shooter and Eva blames herself.

I thought at the time that I couldn’t be horrified anymore, or wounded. I suppose that’s a common conceit, that you’ve already been so damaged that damage itself, in its totality, makes you safe.

She talks about appearances and how she appeared calm and cold during the civil trial and during Kevin’s – but it’s only because she didn’t want to cause a scene – she wanted the stiff upper lip and the composure of a statue because otherwise she’d have been an incoherent mass.

“Holocausts do not amaze me. Rapes and child slavery do not amaze me. And Franklin, I know you feel otherwise, but Kevin does not amaze me. I am amazed when I drop a glove in the street and a teenager runs two blocks to return it. I am amazed when a checkout girl flashes me a wide smile with my change, though my own face had been a mask of expedience. Lost wallets posted to their owners, strangers who furnish meticulous directions, neighbors who water each other’s houseplants – these things amaze me.”

I loved the book. I feel for Eva and I feel for Kevin too. The ending was kinda sweet if you can call it that and you are left wondering as Eva was if there was something anyone could have done so that this tragedy was prevented.

“It’s an apathy so absolute that it’s like a hole you might fall in.”

Kevin’s psychology

As we see, Kevin is not only a “difficult child”, he is a psychopath. And how exactly is psychopathy characterized?
It is an antisocial personality disorder.
Kevin was barely related to the people who were part of his environment. To his mother, in particular, he made life impossible and hidden, so that the rest of his family never suspected and continued to support him.
· Presents a reduced empathy.
Young Kevin is unable to put himself in the place of others, he only lives in his own reality. Because of this lack of empathy, he assassinates his family and colleagues. In addition, he has the cruelty of not killing his mother to live in a hell from that moment, with a totally shattered family and the rejection of the people.
· No regrets.
In the present timeline, Kevin is in jail, where his mother goes to visit him periodically. He has no regrets or regrets of any kind regarding the massacre committed.
· They have knowledge of social uses.
Psychopaths, and also Kevin, know the general rules that govern society and adapt to it except when they commit their acts of evil. Therefore, in many cases, they go unnoticed.
· They have a narcissistic-sadistic personality.
Narcissism is attributed to an excessive importance, attention and admiration for himself, while the sadistic personality enjoys inflicting suffering and cruel behavior towards others.
This is found in the numerous murders that Kevin carries out (his sister’s pet, his father and sister, his classmates and teachers), as well as all acts of violence (the loss of his sister’s eye) and submission of humiliation (to his mother, constantly).
What is Eva like?
The psychology of the mother of this film, although it does not present any disorder, is also very interesting to analyze. Before having Kevin, her first child, she was a successful travel writer, who parks her professional life to pursue parenting.
She cannot, of course, feel worse and that there are several feelings that mix in her: the frustration for the hell she lives with her son, the regret for having given birth to a monster, the loneliness of not being able to trust anyone and that her husband does not believe her and, finally, the most absolutely acute pain of having lost her family.
It is also worth noting the infinite patience and self-denial towards his son, whom he continues to visit in prison despite all that he has committed and that he barely manages to establish a conversation with him.
In addition, it is a film that dynamite the myths associated with motherhood as the ideal state of women. Regardless of her son’s personality and actions, Eva regrets having abandoned her professional life and does not feel at all comfortable with the role of mother.
Have you seen this movie? We hope you enjoyed our little analysis of “We need to talk about Kevin.”


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