Study Guide

We Need to Talk About Kevin Marriage

By Lionel Shriver


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.