Novel Assignment

"We Need to Talk About Kevin"

By: Fallon Gordy


The novel We Need to Talk About Kevin was written by Lionel Shriver in 2011 and is set in the present day. It depicts the inner thoughts of Eva, Kevin's mother, a woman that desperately wants to escape her life after her son, Kevin, decides to kill his classmates, his father, Franklin and his sister, Celia. The novel is composed of a series of letters from Eva to Franklin which, explains the past and present life of the family. Eva reflects on her reluctance to have children, however she becomes pregnant quickly. Then, throughout Kevin's life, Eva struggles to bond with him and begins to develop a hostile attitude toward her son. When she becomes frustrated with six-year-old Kevin, she throws him against a wall which breaks his arm. The mother is desperate for a different life and often longs for her life pre-children when she traveled around the world having adventures and being happy. After Kevin kills his classmates and family, Eva is left to endure the repercussions of his choices. She experiences frequent physical and verbal confrontations from various parents of the victims of the incident. Eva's detachment from society is apparent as she locks herself in her home to drink wine and take numerous prescription pills. Overall, Eva is shown as a mother who may or may not have been able to prevent the devastating events that took place the day Kevin killed his classmates, father, and sister. The detachment and disdain that Eva has towards Kevin is portrayed as a potential contributing factor to Kevin's lack of empathy and anger towards everyone.

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Character analysis: Eva

Eva is on the brink of a meltdown from the moment Kevin is born until the last page of the novel. She is forced to confront her own personal regrets, sadness, and frustrations in addition to the emotional pressure that Kevin's killing spree causes in her life. The sharp contrast between feeling empathy for Eva and blaming Eva for Kevin's actions is the core internal conflict for the reader. On one hand, the reader sees Eva as an average, everyday mother that is struggling to raise her son the best she can. In this perspective, Eva is a victim of circumstances and is burdened with dealing with and paying for the cruel actions of her son. In the moments when she makes an attempt to connect with Kevin but is dismissed by him, we see Eva in this way. On the other hand, Eva can be viewed as an enabler for Kevin's actions by avoiding him and therefore promoting his detachment and isolation while growing up. Kevin even draws a parallel between the dissatisfaction he feels for his life and the dissatisfaction his mother feels for her life. Regardless of which perspective Eva is viewed from, it is clear that she is an internally strong woman who despite her circumstances and personal tragedies, continues to live her life by refusing to run away from the town and the people that were affected by Kevin's decisions.