Study Guide

We Need to Talk About Kevin Quotes

  • Guilt and Blame

    You make me feel bad; feeling bad makes me mad; ergo, you make me mad. […] So I blamed me, and he blamed me. (4.19)

    This quote early in the book is a good introduction to the reasons for blame. Kevin ignores Eva and makes her feel bad. Therefore, she gets mad at Kevin. She blames him for problems in her own life, and he blames her for treating him coldly. It's a cycle.

    "It's too late for second thoughts. Never, ever tell me that you regret our own kid." (6.80)

    Franklin shames Eva into not voicing regrets, which makes her internalize them and feel guilty about them. Society already expects mothers to love their children unconditionally, and Franklin reinforces this. The guilt only makes this regret worse.

    I seem to be laying the groundwork for claiming that Kevin is all my fault. […] Blame confers an awesome power. […] Blame conveys clear lessons in which others may take comfort: if only she hadn't—, and by implication makes tragedy avoidable. (7.4)

    This is the root of Eva's conflict. Is she to blame for Kevin's actions? As she says here, taking the blame gives her a sort of power. Without blame, she is powerless.

    Of course, just because I can't manage to swallow all the blame doesn't mean that others won't heap it on me anyway, and I'd have been glad to provide a useful receptacle if I thought the heaping did them any good. (7.6)

    Here is a continuation of the last quote. It shows the small amount of power Eva derives from taking on blame, even if it is the power of a martyr, a power that does no one any good.

    I felt guilty, infected by Mary Woolford's consuming conviction that someone must be to blame. […] Kevin had proven defective, and I was the manufacturer. (13.45)

    There is a human need to pin the blame for Kevin's heinous crime—and other crimes like it—on someone, and that blame often falls onto the killer's mother.

    "Remorse? […] What could he conceivably regret? Now he's somebody, isn't he?" (15.33)

    Eva believes that Kevin feels no guilt for what he did. That certainly seems true from how we see him in the book. But we see Kevin only through Eva's eyes—is it possible he feels any guilt or regret? If so, for what?

    Why, after all I have borne, am I held accountable for ordering their chaos? (15.37)

    As time goes on, Eva feels the weight of all the blame that has been heaped upon her, and we see a new side of blame. One reason people blame someone else is so that they can then expect that person to fix the situation—even if it's unfixable.

    "I need to know. Do you blame me?"

    […] "Why should you get all the credit?" (15.67-15.68)

    Kevin resents the fact that Eva should get any blame, but not in a selfless way. Kevin wants all the blame for his crime. He considers it his "credit" for doing the deed.

    I had to admit that Kevin hadn't personally wiped out my company's files, and the debacle was my fault. (24.139)

    This seems fairly logical. Perhaps this scene is included to show us that Eva is capable of taking the blame for something that is clearly her fault. However, there is nothing clear about the issue with Kevin.

    I have a confession to make: For all my ragging on you in these days, I've become shamefully dependent on television. (26.1)

    One recurring motif is Eva's hypocrisy, and here we see her watching TV, even though she used to make Franklin feel guilty about watching it all the time. Hey, it gives her a wealth of pop culture references to choose from, too.

  • Forgiveness

    (And Franklin, I was [a bad mother]. I was terrible at it. I wonder if you can ever forgive me.) (7.12)

    In this aside, Eva asks forgiveness, for the first time. Notice that she's asking only her husband here. She doesn't really care what others think of her.

    Giles decided that his family would spend the holiday with his in-laws instead. I could choose to feel injured, and I do miss my brother if only as someone with whom to mock my mother, but she's getting so frail now at seventy-eight that our patronizing despair on her behalf seems unfair. (11.1)

    Here we get our first hint that forgiveness, at least for people like Eva, might be rooted in exhaustion. She's too tired to hold a grudge against her mother, so she begins to forgive her.

    For years I wrote off my mother as having no grasp of my life, but after Thursday I came to terms with the fact that I'd made no effort to understand hers. (11.4)

    One necessary element to forgiveness is empathy. Eva is able to be more understanding of her mother when she attempts to empathize with her, even if that means she might—*shudder*—become more like her own mother in the process.

    "It's hard to be a momma." (15.44)

    Loretta Greenleaf, a fellow mother at the prison, is the first person we see forgive Eva. Because Eva chooses to share this information with Franklin in one of her letters, we can see that it's a powerful experience for her.

    "Just cause you get used to something doesn't mean you like it." he added, snapping the magenta. "You're used to me." (18.78)

    According to Kevin, perhaps we just get used to a person, thought, or concept and become at peace with it as a result. Does that equal forgiveness, for real? Or is it really just passivity?

    Honestly, when Carol Reeves formally "forgave" our son on CNN for murdering her boy, Jeffrey […] I had no idea what she was talking about. Had she built a box around Kevin in her head, knowing that only rage dwelled there; was our son now simply a place her mind refused to go? (19.18)

    Eva attempts to use metaphorical language to describe what forgiveness looks like in the brain. Is she effective in her description? What metaphors would you use to describe what it feels like to forgive a person?

    "You want me to feel sorry for you? […] We'll see if there's any pity left over for you. There just might be, but it's the scraps of my table you're due, and for scraps you should count yourself lucky." (20.105)

    Is Kevin asking for pity, or is he asking for forgiveness? What's the difference between the two? Eva seems to imply that her capacity for pity is finite. Would the same apply to her ability to forgive?

    Was this what it looked like inside his head? Or was the room, too, a kind of a screen saver? (24.134)

    Eva starts a brief journey into trying to empathize with Kevin here, as she has attempted to empathize with her own mother. Does this help her on her road to forgiveness? Could you forgive someone like Kevin once you learned what his life was like?

    Surely it makes a travesty of the exercise to forgive the unrepentant, and I speak for myself as well. (25.3)

    Is this true? Is forgiveness more for the person doing the forgiving or for the person being forgiven? And whichever it is, does it work if the person doesn't want to be forgiven?

    After three days short of eighteen years, I can finally announce that I am too exhausted and too confused and too lonely to keep fighting, and if only out of desperation or even laziness, I love my son. (28.73)

    Eva finally reaches forgiveness, or her form of it, for Kevin in the book's final paragraph. Are you surprised she reached this point emotionally?

  • Manipulation

    It was shortly after Siobhan jumped ship […] that Kevin stopped screaming. Stopped cold. (11.11)

    It seems that Kevin was born that way, and by "that way," we mean "a manipulative sociopath." Was there ever anything Eva and Franklin could have done to help Kevin turn out all right? Was he just a born killer? Or did they somehow create him? Did society create him? If so, how?

    Now Kevin started to wail. His tears were a bit late, in my view. I wasn't moved. I left him to it. (12.77)

    Eva is aware of the way Kevin attempts to manipulate her and others early on. Either that, or she's simply cold. Which is it? Could it be a little bit of both?

    Kevin's back was to us, and he was whispering. (16.48)

    When Kevin goes to school, he has the opportunity to practice his manipulation skills on non-family members, to great success… if convincing a girl to scratch her own eczema-covered skin off can be considered a success. In Kevin's book, it is. Anything that makes him feel superior is good in his book.

    He hated to admit he didn't know something already, and his blanket playing-dumb routine was cunningly crafted to cover any genuine gaps in his education. (16.123)

    Very early on, Kevin finds a shrewd way to "play dumb" while managing to smarten up the whole time he's doing it. Kevin always needs to feel like he's ahead of the game—even if it means gaming the system to cover up his own weaknesses.

    He was good. He was very, very good; you may not appreciate how good. He was smooth—the story was ready. (17.26)

    Eva has a kind of sick admiration for Kevin's skills. She has a point. If Kevin could translate his powers of manipulation into something good, he would be a force to be reckoned with.

    A kid does what we say—not to put too find a point on it—because we can break his arm. (17.48)

    In a way, parenting is a form of manipulation. A parent has to find the balance between punishment and reward, and a punishment has to be severe enough to stick but not severe enough to damage the child. It's very psychological stuff. Eva can't find that balance with Kevin. Could anyone?

    You'll just have to take my word for it—I know you won't—that when you weren't home, Kevin was sour, secretive, and sarcastic. (19.23)

    Eva spends more time with Kevin than Franklin ever does, but why doesn't Franklin believe her? Is he inclined not to believe her, or has Kevin completely wrapped his dad around his little finger?

    Then he stopped, right under the mirror ball, having correctly calculated that Alice's next pirouette would land her left ear exactly in line with his mouth. There. Contact. He leaned, just a little, and whispered. (20.135)

    Eva witnesses this terrible scene at the school dance. What starts out like a romantic comedy concludes with the exact opposite result—total devastation. And that was surely part of Kevin's plan the entire time.

    Me, I recognized too well the mark of deliberateness about these efforts—so this was trying to be a good father—but I doubt that it looked to Kevin like anything other than surfaces would suggest. Clearly his little sister's injury had won her only more doting. […] I thought, Didn't our little stratagem backfire? (23.165)

    If Kevin's plan to manipulate his parents using Celia backfired, what was the original intent?

    I had made up my mind and you could no more dislodge my conviction that Kevin was a Machiavellian miscreant that I could dislodge yours that he was a misunderstood choir-boy. (25.235)

    Sometimes it feels like Eva is seeing Kevin's "true self" while Franklin is the one being manipulated. But is Kevin manipulating Eva, too? Are all aspects of his personality merely manipulative acts? Can we ever actually know?

  • Dissatisfaction

    I have never met anyone […] who found his existence more of a burden or indignity. (6.18)

    Unlike many children who have a wide-eyed curiosity toward the world, Kevin seems to have been born with the attitude of "been there, done that, got the T-shirt, threw up on it."

    What I hadn't realized, Brian had confided, is that you fall in love with your own children. […] That moment when you lay eyes on them for the first time—it's indescribable. I do wish he had described it anyway. I do wish he had given it a try. (8.18)

    Eva is struck with a remarkable lack of feeling when she gives birth to Kevin. She's not disappointed, she's just… nothing. But she starts to become disappointed in herself for feeling nothing, and she spirals down from there.

    Even back in 1983, I was bewildered why a standard psychiatric label like postnatal depression was supposed to be consoling. (9.5)

    Just the diagnosis does nothing. Eva doesn't get any therapy or do any soul-searching to see why she feels this way, so she has no idea how to correct it.

    "Whatever you call it, I don't feel joyful. And Kevin doesn't seem joyful either." (10.55)

    Eva has no idea at this point that Kevin never will be joyful. He seems to completely lack that emotion—and it just never comes.

    "Mummy's life sucks now, doesn't Mummy's life suck?" (10.107)

    This is a bit of dark humor here as Eva talks about her depression with baby Kevin. Do you think he understands her? Could the way she talks to him affect his behavior?

    So I returned to what [Kevin] didn't like, a subject that would soon prove inexhaustible. (11.24)

    Kevin's first words are "I don like dat," and from there, it's an endless list of what Kevin doesn't like. Eva isn't exaggerating here. This list lasts pretty much until the end of the book. Kevin likes nothing. Except maybe himself. But even that's a stretch; it's more like he'd like to like himself.

    Desperate people will often opt for short-term relief in exchange for long-term losses. (11.41)

    Franklin takes advantage of Eva's desperation, a desperation rooted in her disappointment at losing her career. Instead of trying to make Eva feel better, he allows her this one last trip, which only enhances her disappointment. Her life will never be the same.

    We said nothing, and the course took very little time to complete, if only by the clock; I glanced constantly at my watch. This is what it's like to be Kevin, I thought. The leaden passage of minute by minute: This is what it's like to be Kevin all the time. (22.21)

    Normally, miniature golf is an experience full of joy and wonder, or at least lighthearted fun, but Kevin manages to suck the fun out of the game for everyone. Kevin does this all the time. His disappointment with life itself is contagious.

    We'd been assured […] she might experience "discomfort," a term beloved of the medical profession that seems to be a synonym for agony that isn't yours. (24.2)

    We're sure the physical experience of Celia losing her eye is insanely painful, but it isn't in Celia's nature to be upset about it for long. If anything, she only views her life afterward (through one eye) with a sense of disappointment that her brother wasn't who she thought he was.

    "Maybe he's mad that this is as good as it gets. Your big house. His good school. I think it's very difficult for kids these days, in a way. The country's very prosperity has become a burden, a dead end. Everything works, doesn't it? At least if you're white and middle class." (25.69)

    Although Dana Rocco doesn't use the term "affluenza"—it hadn't been coined yet—that's what she is pinpointing as the root of Kevin's frustration: a disappointment that his boring life is as good as it gets. It's all downhill from there. That can be a grim prospect.

  • Family

    We'd agreed that whether we became parents would be "the single most important decision we would ever make together." (2.10)

    Good. This is good. This is a very good start, guys. This decision to create a family shouldn't be taken lightly. So what the heck goes wrong with these two?

    "Motherhood," I condensed in the park. "Now, that is a foreign country." (2.59)

    Eva is a world traveler, and she often compares the experience of motherhood, and later trying to understand Kevin, to traveling to a foreign world. Is this an apt analogy? What does a person have to do to prepare for this journey? Why is Eva unable to do it?

    We staged an unofficial contest of sorts: whose parents were the most bonkers. (2.81)

    Eva doesn't have a lot of respect for her own mother, who is a shut-in. We're not sure what Franklin's issues are with his own parents, and we only meet them briefly. How do both Eva and Franklin try to create a family different from the ones in which they grew up?

    I was mortified by the prospect of becoming hopeless trapped in someone else's story. (3.40)

    Is Eva too selfish to start a family? Does a person need an element of selflessness to be parent? It can be hard to find a balance between living a life for yourself and for your child. How does Eva try to balance this out? Does she try?

    I would let parenthood influence our behavior; you would have parenthood dictate our behavior. If that seems a subtle distinction, it is night and day. (5.33)

    This quote is similar to the previous one, regarding Eva's apparent selfishness. What is the difference between these points Eva makes? Do you agree with her thought process here?

    "I couldn't have expected that simply forming an attachment to you […] would be so much work." (6.10)

    Many people believe that a mother loves her child instantly. But Eva seems to be an exception. Right off the bat, that makes forming a loving family unit an uphill climb for her.

    "Who wants to be loved like that? Given a choice, I might skip the deep blood tie and settle for being liked." (13.69)

    Eva makes an interesting point here. How many times have you heard a person say, "I love my [insert family member here], but I just can't stand them sometimes"? Wouldn't it be better to like a person, instead of feeling whatever it feels like to be related by blood? What's the difference?

    I don't want to see the resemblance. I don't want to spot the same mannerisms […] like beholding my husband possessed. (15.91)

    Some people like looking for genetic evidence of their ancestors in their living family members. "You have your grandfather's eyes," for example. But there's a drawback to that, like when your son murders your husband, and you can't help but see your dead husband's face in the face of his killer. That's some dark stuff.

    "Eva, please calm down. I'm never going to break up our family." (16.75)

    Lies. Franklin is the one who later, ironically, asks for a divorce. Eva has a ton of trouble holding her family together, but she never once considers leaving it.

    Maybe every family has one member whose appointed job it is to fabricate this attractive packaging. (25.236)

    Franklin is kind of the peacekeeper of the family. We say "kind of" because he keeps peace, but at what cost? Do you think every family has a member like this? Who is this member in your family? And do they sometimes hurt more than they help?

  • Marriage

    Since we've been separated, I may most miss coming home to deliver the narrative curiosities of my day. (1.1)

    This is one of our first impressions of Eva, and it shows us how important her marriage was to her. Of course, we don't yet know that the separation was caused because of Franklin's death.

    I wake up with what he did every morning and I go to bed with it every night. It is my shabby substitute for a husband. (2.7)

    There's an odd sexual tension between Eva and Kevin, her son, that pops up throughout the book. Here, it's an illustration of the way Eva feels like she is somehow "married" to Kevin. But this bond cannot be broken like a marriage bond can.

    "I've even given him my husband, who has no interest in talking about anything but our son, or in doing anything together besides wheeling a stroller up and down the Battery Park promenade." (10.65)

    Eva loves her husband more than her son. But Franklin loves Kevin more than he loves Eva. To Eva, this is almost like infidelity.

    I reminded you of our old pact, offering to christen our second child a Plaskett. Don't be ridiculous, you dismissed. (18.81)

    There is some tension between Eva and Franklin because they kept their own last names when they married. As a result, it feels like one child "belongs" to another, but in name only.

    I'm not sure you'll believe me, but it never occurred to me to leave. (23.135)

    Are you surprised that Franklin considers divorcing Eva? And that Eva never thought of it? We think she'd much rather have abandoned Kevin, if she could, than lose Franklin.

    "But that's ten years from now, and it's too many days. I can take the years, Eva. But not the days." (25.237)

    As we mentioned, Eva sometimes feels like she is married to Kevin in a way. Although this quote is Franklin speaking to Eva about their marriage, Eva feels much the same way regarding Kevin. The daily grind of being "married" to Kevin, so to speak, is torture for her.

    I had created my own Other Woman who happened to be a boy. (25.239)

    Eva is jealous of Kevin in the same way that she would be jealous of a mistress. In fact, we think she might prefer Franklin to have a mistress rather than be so attached to Kevin.

    Brian and Louise had split ten years before […] and of course Brian was far more upset about separation from those two blond moppets than about leaving Louise. (25.239)

    Here we see another relationship in which the man loves his children more than he loves his wife. We don't get to see how Louise feels about this. Do you think this type of situation is common?

    "There's nothing left to decide, Eva," you said limply. "It's already happened." (25.245)

    Eva and Franklin's marriage dissolves slowly, so slowly Eva doesn't really notice it happening. She is too distracted by Kevin to pay attention to her marriage. But Franklin doesn't ever try to help save it, either.

    If we were about to get a divorce, nothing worse could possibly happen. Or so we thought. (26.53-26.54)

    As illustrated by the book's first line, Eva's marriage is the most important thing to her. Its end is the most devastating that could happen to her—or it would be, if Kevin hadn't killed Franklin. That's worse than anything Eva could have imagined.

  • Violence

    In my naivete, I hadn't grasped that the property's very notoriety was the selling point. (1.45)

    Eva is initially surprised that she is able to sell her house, a house considered a "murder house" of a sorts. But of course the American public loves gruesome murders like this. Violence brings fame.

    "He pulls it very hard indeed. He's old enough now and I think he knows it hurts." (10.73)

    One of Kevin's skills is that he always knows what hurts. When he is a baby, he pulls hair. But later, he makes the pain emotional in addition to physical.

    I slapped him. It wasn't very hard. He looked happy. (12.74)

    As a youngster, Kevin wants to provoke violence in others. We have no idea why. But when Eva slaps him, he looks happy: that's what he wants from her.

    "There's a consensus—that violence is no way to get your point across. […] I don't want you to do that again, Eva. Ever." So: I slap Kevin. You slap me. I got the picture. (12.80-12.81)

    Franklin's opinion on corporal punishment brings up an interesting dilemma. If Franklin had been the one to slap Kevin, instead of Eva, how would things have been different, if at all?

    Kevin had discovered the secret: not merely that it wasn't real, but that it wasn't him. (14.21)

    Eva is talking about Kevin's response to TV violence here. What's alarming isn't that he's desensitized to it. He seems to have sprung from the womb desensitized to life. What is alarming is Kevin's lack of empathy. This is what allows him to see violence and not be moved by it—and to eventually commit violence himself.

    Incredibly, this nyeh-nyeh minced from you, after which you shot me between the eyes. (14.38)

    In retrospect, Kevin's behavior with the squirt gun is alarming. He will grow up to shoot people between the eyes not with water, but with arrows. To draw a correlation between a squirt gun and a bow and arrow is pointless, of course, but this quote is also alarming because Franklin joins Kevin in his own way of bullying Eva.

    You doubtless found my usage of the word war preposterous. (16.91)

    It is a little excessive to use the word "war" when trying to get Kevin out of diapers, but Eva needs to convey the intensity of the situation to Franklin somehow. As Kevin becomes increasingly difficult, cruel, and violent, the word "war" looks more and more apropos.

    I threw him hallway across the nursery. He landed with a dull clang against the edge of the stainless steel changing table. His head at a quizzical tilt, as if he were finally interested in something, he slid, in seeming slow motion, to the floor. (16.129)

    Now this is an action that slaps some sense into Kevin more than a slap ever could. It's hard to approve of any parent doing this to their child, but seeing what Eva goes through with Kevin on a daily basis, we can see why she did it.

    I swear I remembering wising off, "To be really famous in this country, you've got to kill somebody." (19.24)

    This quote recalls Eva's thoughts about selling her house. Violence can create celebrity, and it can give property increasing value, just as it can do the opposite. But how much is "fame" a part of the violence committed by high school students at this time in American history? How much does fame have to do with mass shootings now?

    "I'm stupid! Kevin says so and he's right. I'm stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid!" She hit herself so hard on the temple with her balled up fist that I had to grab her wrist. (22.123)

    Celia is generally such a gentle child, but she's either inherited this violent behavior genetically, or she's learned it from her brother. The different between Celia and Kevin is that Celia is self-destructive instead of just plain destructive.

  • The Home

    I seem to finally be learning what you were always trying to teach me, that my own country is as exotic and even as perilous as Algeria. (1.3)

    Eva is a world traveler who doesn't feel comfortable in America. It's ironic that she starts to see it has her home after she's trapped there, tethered to her convict son, and less a part of her community than ever before.

    So far I've been able to work it back on again, but the stump of the lock shaft teases me with intimations of my mother: unable to leave the house. (1.22)

    Instead of home being where the heart is, it seems that home is where a person is trapped, and he or she just has to accept it. Eva has to try hard to not let her home take over her life.

    Home is precisely what Kevin has taken from me. (4.48)

    Eva thinks this, but is this exactly true? It seems to us like Franklin was more responsible for taking her home, long before Kevin committed his crime.

    "But I love New York!" I sounded like a bumper sticker. (10.119)

    If Eva had to pick a place in the U.S. to call her home, it of course would be New York City, a place where she can travel to a foreign country without having to go more than a few blocks. When Franklin moves the family away from New York, this action isolates Eva the globetrotter even further.

    I hated that house. On sight. It never grew on me, either. Every morning I woke to its glib surfaces, its smart design features, its sleek horizontal contours, and actively hated it. (13.1)

    Eva likes life a little rough around the edges. She feels at home when she's away from it, roughing it in a foreign country. Being trapped in this house is like being a kid with an overactive imagination forced to play on a playground coated entirely in rubber. It's not safe; it's stifling.

    Franklin, the whole house was on Zoloft. (13.16)

    This is a funny comment, and it's interesting, too, because you can see many parallels between Kevin and the house itself. Like the house, Kevin also has a glib surface and does his best to look sleek, smooth, and safe. And later, he too requests to go on anti-depressants, but only to use as a defense in his trial.

    Confoundingly then, this Gladstone Xanadu, beam by beam, would have materialized into a soul-destroying disappointment. (13.21)

    Eva draws parallels between the house and her marriage, too. She and Franklin decreed that having a baby would be the best thing for their marriage, but like this house, it turns out to be far from a stately pleasure dome for Eva.

    "You can burn that house for all I care," I said. "I hate it. I've always hated it." (27.150)

    Eva ends up hating her house even more, which we didn't think was possible. But then again, she didn't think it was possible for her son to kill her husband and her daughter, so it's completely understandable she'd want to torch the place.

    I knew immediately that I would have to sell AWAP, and I would have to sell our awful, empty house. Now that was cleansing. (28.71)

    Eva doesn't get to burn the place to the ground, but she experiences her own cleansing by selling the house. Yet she also sells her company. Eva is a person who has always felt more at home at work than at home, so why is this cleansing for her as well?

    In the meantime, there is a second bedroom in my serviceable apartment. The bedspread is plain. A copy of Robin Hood lies on the bookshelf. And the sheets are clean. (28.73)

    This is the book's final line, and it might be surprising to many people: Eva has a home ready for Kevin when he gets out of jail. It seems like she'll try to rebuild a home for the two of them. Will she be successful?

  • Identity

    When I stand physically proud, I feel a small measure less mortified. (1.5)

    Eva seems to be an apostle of the ancient philosophy "fake it 'til you make it." Isn't a large part of everyone's identity how they act, and not necessarily how they feel on the inside?

    Horribly I remind myself of my mother. (1.31)

    This is a frightening realization for many people, and that allows a lot of us to sympathize with Eva, a woman who otherwise comes across as cold and hostile. Do you think Kevin ever had a similar revelation, that he too was like his mother? How would he react to this thought?

    In horror and sci-fi, the host is consumed or rent, reduced to the husk or residue so that some nightmare creature may survive its shell. (6.23)

    While pregnant, Eva identifies Kevin with a monster from a horror movie. No wonder she isn't attached to him when he's born. Would you be, if you thought your baby was going to burst out of your chest like an alien?

    What had mortified me, what I had to flee, was that she sounded not only unfeeling and narcissistic but just like me. (7.15)

    Eva experiences some strong cognitive dissonance after bumping into a former friend who had a baby. She has to confront the ugly parts of herself. But does she do anything with this new knowledge? Is Eva still unfeeling and narcissistic at the end of the novel?

    Like most disguises, the cover-up was worse than honest flaw, a lesson I had yet to register on my own account. (12.52)

    Here, Eva flouts her "fake it 'til you make it" philosophy. She believes that it's more important to put forward an authentic face than a fake one, at least regarding makeup. But what if you don't know who you are? Then what are you supposed to do?

    "And he's found himself, as they said in my day. Now he doesn't have to worry about whether he's a freak or a geek, a grind or a job or a nerd. He doesn't have to worry if he's gay. He's a murderer. It's marvelously unambiguous. And best of all," I took a breath, "he got away from me." (15.33)

    Continuing our last thought about identity confusion, Kevin's mass murder allows him to easily identify himself. "Hi, I'm Kevin Khatchadourian, and I'm a mass murderer." It may not be pretty, but it's easy. And sometimes people take the easy route.

    Mother of the ignoble Kevin Khatchadourian is how I am now, an identity that amounts to one more of our son's little victories. (15.50)

    Eva never wanted to be identified as a mother. She thought she would simply be "Eva, that woman with a kid," we guess. But after Kevin's crime, Eva is reduced simply to "Kevin's mother." We imagine many people don't even know her name.

    Do you ever consider how disappointed he must have been when you accepted the decoy as the real thing? (19.38)

    If there is ever any time to sympathize with Kevin, this is it. Kevin fakes an entire personality for his father, and his father simply accepts it. If Kevin had revealed his true nature (assuming he ever figured out his own true nature), how would Franklin have reacted?

    He was searching. He was looking for something in my face. He looked for it very carefully and very hard and then he leaned back a little in his seat. Whatever he'd been searching for, he hadn't found it, and this, too, seemed to satisfy him in some way. (27.128)

    What is Kevin searching for her? Does he see himself in his mother in some way? Does he see her seeing herselfin him? Can you follow any of this?

    "Khatchadourian!" I insisted. "Can you please get my name right?"

    Oh, they would. (27.138-27.139)

    For so long, Eva didn't want to be identified as just a mother, so we see her being defensive regarding her name, a last name she holds dearly. But maybe this once, Eva wishes she could have been someone else, to delay infamy a little longer.

  • Society and Class

    The right to boss pregnant women around was surely on its way into the constitution. (5.40)

    As a non-corporeal Internet entity, Shmoop has never been pregnant, but it does seem to us like people try to take ownership of pregnant women, whether they're related to them or not. They want to share baby stories, they want to know when the baby is due, they want to touch a stranger's belly, as if that weren't creepy and invasive. Being pregnant seems to open a social gate. Say hello to your new child; say goodbye to privacy. Why is that?

    I would never reveal to anyone on earth that childbirth had left me unmoved. (8.29)

    People also expect mothers to be happy and glowing and doting and overflowing with love toward their child 24/7; anything less is looked upon with scorn. Eva doesn't just feel less, she feels nothing, so she feels great shame from societal pressures of motherhood.

    The harder I tried, the more aware I became that my very effort was an abomination. (9.11)

    Because of the great shame we mention in Quote #2, Eva feels she can't even talk about how she feels. Instead of We Need to Talk About Kevin, this book could also be titled We Need to Talk about Middle-Class American Society's Expectations for Mothers.

    A few white kids, middle-class kids, protected, private-telephone-line, own-their-own-TV suburban kids go ballistic, and suddenly it's a national emergency. (20.121)

    This is another critique of American society. Eva observes that gang violence is something that is often ignored in the media, but white middle-class kids shoot people, and it's on every channel. Why is this? Is it because they're white? Middle-class? Both? Or is it something else? Is there something actually different about this kind of violence?

    "Throughout my life I was ridiculed. Always beaten, always hated. Can you, society, blame me for what I do?" And I thought, Yes, you little shit! In a heartbeat! (21.14)

    Despite her motherhood victim mentality at times, Eva feels no sympathy for the teen shooters who commit their crimes, even though they, too, are shunned by society. Are they and Eva different in their marginalization? Why doesn't she see the similarities?

    "Far as I can tell, he comes from a good family." (Good, of course, meaning rich.) (21.39)

    Eva deconstructs here what a "good family" is in American society, so we don't have to. Thanks, Eva.

    "But if someone's made an accusation, this letter's not defending her. […] They're digging for more dirt!" (25.8)

    Eva is shocked that the community and the school board would instantly turn against a teacher after one accusation of misconduct from a student. This is foreshadowing: Eva will soon see how the same community turns against her.

    "You need us! What would you do without me, film a documentary on paint drying?" (26.34)

    Kevin makes a point here about American society's appetite for scandal. People would be bored and complaining about a "slow news day" if there weren't some shooting or other sensational crime to get worked up about. Is life really so boring that people need constant shock from the news?

    On the evening of April 7, Kevin set his alarm for half an hour earlier than usual and laid out clothing for the morning roomy enough to allow for ease of mobility, choosing that dashing white shirt with billowing fencing-style sleeves in which he might photograph well. (27.51)

    Kevin knows that the media will descend upon him, and he wants to make a good first impression—all the better to confuse everyone. Society expects a pimply kid in a trench coat, not Kevin, a handsome young man dressed like he's going to a formal.

    Despite his avowed disinterest in your work, Franklin, Kevin was about to launch Kryptonite's most successful advertising campaign to date. (27.57)

    It's odd how certain things benefit from these sensational crimes. After seeing how effective these bike locks are, despite the terrible purpose they served, people flock to buy them. Has that ever happened in real life? Or have you noticed a brand whose reputation has been destroyed by its association with infamy?