We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (3 star ratings)Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, Kevin Khatchadourian kills seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher. He is visited in prison by his mother, Eva, who narrates in a series of letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, the story of Kevins upbringing. For this powerful, shocking novel, Lionel Shriver was awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction.
~from the back cover
Implausible Psycho: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
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Here, the family is not the gently glowing space where parents find the meaning in their lives, mothers do not always bond with their children, but teenagers—they kill other teenagers. We Need to Talk About Kevin. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories. What provokes discomfort is, rather, her very capacity to do so. Eva is persecuted—her property is covered in red paint, she is struck in the street—as if she, rather than her son, was really responsible for the atrocity.
Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)
Commentary by Erika Rothberg. In an increasingly secular society, many people scoff at the idea that there could ever be an Antichrist.
A mother grapples with grief and shame after a son's act of violence in a spellbinding new film. You always have been your mother's joy. But what happens when everything ugly about the world is embodied in the son, when he's the source of the "sin and woe" that Phillips sings about over his ethereal zither? If the bond between mother and son becomes tenuous or broken, is that the result of his evil deeds, or the cause of them? As a baby, he rarely ceases crying, to the point where a frazzled Eva seeks refuge from the noise by walking him by construction sites, where the sound of the jackhammer five feet away provides momentary relief. As he gets older, he refuses to speak, refuses to allow himself to be potty trained, and asserts a manipulative dominance over his mother that his doting, Pollyannaish father Franklin John C.
With all of the recent gun violence, the term is often used to describe the shooter. But its true meaning, and its true effect on a person, their family and their community is often obscured. The troubles she had connecting with her son, Kevin, played by Ezra Miller so different from his sweet character in The Perks of Being a Wallflower , the incident when she breaks his arm in anger, and the problems she has with his behavior throughout his teenage years are recounted. Cecelia is blinded in one eye by an incident that could have been an accident or could have been as a result of Kevin. Eventually, we learn that Kevin killed 14 people in his high school with his bow and arrow before turning himself in, and has killed Franklin and Cecelia. Eva is shown having a hard time getting Kevin to stop crying as a baby, before finally standing next to a jackhammer to drown out the noise.
Almost from birth, Kevin shows his mother no love, just pure hate; he doesn't just push her away, but plays with her mind, finding ever new ways to hurt her. The film asks us to face up to two big questions: where does "pure evil" come from, and how should we as parents or as a society respond to it? For me, the term "evil" is not helpful. Instead I suggest we need to talk about the erosion of empathy. Unlike evil, empathy is scientifically tractable. You can measure it, locate it in the brain, and dissect it into its component parts.