How is motherhood represented in We Need to Talk About Kevin?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Right at the beginning of the novel We Need to talk about Kevin , Lionel Shriver cites a quote by Erma Bombeck that reads

A child needs your love most when he deserves it the least.

This is quote epitomizes the actions, thoughts, and emotions of Eva Khatchadourian, the mother of teenage mass murderer Kevin.

Written from Eva's perspective after her son's high school killing spree, Eva explains from beginning to end the basic story of how Kevin came to life. She confesses how she decided to get pregnant for all the wrong reasons, and how during her pregnancy she simply did not feel a connection to her child. In this case she is represented as obligated to fulfil a task, as a follower of the status quo, and as a woman who, deep inside, has no inkling to be a mother.

In a similar way, Kevin does not connect either with anybody in the world. His reason, however, has nothing to do with her mother's asinine desire to become a mother, nor with the fact that there was very little connection between them: it is simply because Kevin is a born sociopath; a condition which is as enigmatic as it is real. It is basically a mental illness that disrupts any normal function of the human brain and makes its sufferers violent, disconnected, and evil in every sense of the word.

This being said, it seems as if Eva feels guilty for having brought Kevin into this world, especially since she did this without a clear goal in mind. In her long narrative to her late husband, she tries to comes to terms as to what strange or mysterious forces drove her to want this child in her womb. Yet, each time she tries to understand the events that led to the fatalThursday,as she has come to know the day of the shootings, she is basically left with the idea that, since she brought Kevin into this world, it is her responsibility to bear up with the choice that she made to have him.

When the reader realizes that Eva's husband and second child, Cecilia, were also killed by Kevin, it is hard not to question why would she even consider making the sacrifices that she has made to ensure that Kevin feels loved and welcome. In the end, it all boils down to the Bombeck quote: the duty of motherhood is simply that- to take responsibility for your creature, regardless of how it is, or what he or she becomes. Therefore, motherhood is represented as a duty of sacrifice, altruism, and selfless loyalty to the child no matter if the child deserves it or not.