Nature trumps Nurture
Nature verses Nurture has always been a huge topic among phycology and sociology for at least the last 20 years. Lionel Shiver’s novel We Need to Talk About Kevin is a perfect example of how nature verse nurture can play into the psychological development as we age. “A person with a psychopathic personality, which manifests as amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, and failure to learn from experiences.” The way that Kevin acts during this novel is the exact same as the definition. He shows absolutely no remorse to the murders he committed, and to his mother throughout the entire novel, and as well in the way that he planned everything out and the way he went about everything.
Kevin as a baby is nothing what a first-time mother would expect. Even if a woman has never taken care of a baby before, they still have motherly instincts and they know when something isn’t right when it comes to their children. As a baby he was always crying, resisting to learn how to toilet train, and intentionally undermining Eva’s attempts at nurturing him. “From the standpoint of cognitive development, he was way too smart, and way too abstract in his thinking at a very young age.” (Stern, Marlow) The way that Kevin is treated when he was a child plays a big part into what happened on Thursday. He was never truly loved by his mom and felt her emotions didn’t mean anything. She never wanted him. As children we feel when our mothers have something wrong with them and we thrive off of their emotions when we are babies and toddlers. Something was clearly wrong with Kevin’s demeanor as a child that Eva obviously chose to ignore because she was too focused on her son acting out and trying to please her husband. They lacked a special bond between the two of them that would have Kevin’s emotions go from horrible to hopefully better.
As Kevin grows he becomes even less empathetic of the people around him emotions, he just simply doesn’t care, epically when it comes to his mother Eva. He seeks his own pleasure at the expense of others. He destroys Eva’s maps in her office but throwing paint all over them, knowing how much they meant to her. His body language and smirk shows that he knows they it would cause her pain but he is only interested in how it makes him feel. Later on in the novel as his warped sense of self pleasure continues to increase, Eva walks in on him masturbating and he does not stop. This again shows that he only cares for himself. Eva is clearly shocked and uncomfortable but he continues to carry out despite the way she is feeling. His behavior reflects that of a psychopath. “Psychopaths such as Kevin have zero degrees of affective empathy but have excellent cognitive empathy.” (Baron-Cohen, Simon) The way that Kevin feels towards his mother plays a huge part into his actions of Thursday, because he knows that people have feelings, and that can feel pain but he only cares about himself and what will make him happy. He knows what he is doing when he murders those people but he just simply doesn’t care. In a way, it’s almost like he lashing out at those around him who have the unconditional love of someone close to him, seeing as though he killed his students who obviously have super loving parents, as well as the fact that he killed his father Franklin, who loved his sister Celia.
As Kevin grows up in Franklin eyes it is completely normal. To him Kevin is just a normal baby, toddler, child, and teenager who never seems to do anything wrong. He is the most perfect son a father could ask for. Kevin helps his dad when he needs it, he plays video games with him, he practices shooting his bow and arrow with him, he’s funny, kind, caring, and loving to his father, sister, and mother. He treats his father this way because he does not respect his father the way he respects his mother. “He's manipulated by a son he's too dim to understand and too witless to confront.” (Cox, David) Franklin is to blinded and not smart enough to realize that there is something seriously wrong with Kevin, which is what led to being murdered by him son. If Franklin knew what he was up against when it came to Kevin, maybe then on Thursday he would have been able to defend himself and his daughter against it.
Kevin did the things he did on Thursday because he was tired of being ignored and treated a child. His father treated like a little kid throughout the entire novel and never once spoke to him as a man. Franklin was never truly a father to him, unlike Eva who tried to punish him for his actions and to show him who he truly was. Franklin was more of a friend to him. Kevin was trying “achieve” everything that his mother believed him to be. His mother was trying to make everyone hate him and be turned against him, so he gave in and did it herself. He was so tired of how he was being treated that he finally hit his limit. Eva pushed Kevin to do this, she may have never told him to do it, but her actions and how she treated him showed it enough. She hated him. If the only person in the world is supposed to love you, and she doesn’t, then why not make every other person in this world hate you as well.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is a heart throbbing novel. When I first read this book I was shocked and mortified that a 15-year-old kid could do something like this. I thought he was a monster, but the more I thought about is this novel went on, Eva is the monster. He is born a normal child but since we feel everything that our mothers do, he changed. He felt how unloved he was, how unwanted he was, and how selfish his mother was. The way a parent raises their children plays into a huge part of their brain development. Eva made Kevin into the psychopath he was, and she never even knew it was her fault.
Baron-Cohen, Simon. “We Need to Talk about Kevin's Lack of Empathy.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 24 Oct. 2011, www.theguardian.com/film/2011/oct/24/we-need-talk-kevin-empathy.
Cox, David. “We Need to Talk about Men, Not Kevin.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Oct. 2011, www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2011/oct/25/we-need-to-talk-about-men.
Stern, Marlow. “'We Need to Talk About Kevin': Do Inherently Evil Kids Exist?” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 11 Dec. 2011, www.thedailybeast.com/we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-do-inherently-evil-kids-exist.