We Need to Talk About Kevin, a novel by Lionel Shriver takes a deep and intimate look in to the psyche of a deeply troubled woman after her teenage son goes on a killing rampage at his suburban high school. The book toys with questions there are no answers to. Are people born bad or are they made that way? The “bad mother” is often portrayed in literature and film as a woman who is not maternal. The woman through whom this story is told (Eva) is writing letters to her estranged husband after the massacre. The whole book is told from her point of view in letter form. Eva is not a maternal woman. She loves travel and even makes a career of it through travel guides that ultimately turns into a very profitable company. She doesn’t want children and she loves her “selfish” life of wine drinking, late nights and hopping on a plane to a foreign land for months on a whim. Somewhere along the way, because Eva’s husband Franklin wants a child , she comes to a decision that it would be a good idea to have a baby. Eva despises being pregnant and when her baby is first born and laid on her breast for the first time, she does not feel an attachment to her child. As her son grows older it becomes apparent that there is something wrong with him. He is cruel, lacks any sort of empathy and experiences no real joy or pleasure in his life. The reader is left wondering, did her baby Kevin become detached from the world as a response to his detached mother or was he born a “bad seed?” Is it a mix of both? Although the book doesn’t seem to clearly answer the question, it gives the reader a lot to think about.
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