Runners Who Read

Who knew? A bunch of runners who enjoy reading and discussing what they read.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Talking About Eva

I finished reading We Need To Talk About Kevin several days ago. It truly was a compelling read, and I could probably riff on any number of aspects of this story for days on end…but I’ll spare everyone my prattle.

My views on this story were heavily influenced by an engrossing panel discussion I saw many months ago on the subject of sociopathy/psychopathy. According to the panel experts, approximately 3% of all human beings are born sociopathic - regardless of race, culture, gender or economic status. It’s a chilling thought. A sociopath/psychopath is defined as an individual inherently lacking empathy. A sociopath is concerned only with his/her well-being. Other people are, in essence, merely “things.” As the experts explained, we tend to focus on sexual sadists or serial killers. In truth, sociopathy may manifest itself in many ways, depending upon a multitude of factors such as intelligence, sexual proclivities, aspirations, what have you. Yes, sociopaths may become serial killers. They may also become grifters or thieves, preying on others with no regard for the consequences to the victims. They may become corporate executives who could care less if thousands lose their pensions or life savings. They may become mass murderers. Regardless of the ultimate manifestation, the common element is that the sociopath has no regard for anyone else’s feelings. They are truly self-centered and cold-hearted.

Did you know that the U.S. Army conducted studies of soldiers’ behavior and discovered that only 3% of troops actually aim to kill? Yep, it’s true. That’s why troops are issued automatic weapons…no aiming necessary.

I believe I’ve met several sociopaths. One was my cousin’s friend. I grew up with him and he was coldly malevolent. He didn’t rage. He simply didn’t care about anyone. He led the life of a petty criminal until a girlfriend left him. He showed his displeasure by torching the garage to her home. After he was released from prison he emphasized his opprobrium by killing her and her parents. I’ve met executives who were chillingly amoral/immoral.

I saw Kevin as a classic sociopath.

I was rather surprised by the commentary other RWR’s offered about the narrator. The comments gave me great pause. I hesitate to disagree with the likes of Michele, Paula or Bernice because I consider their judgments superior to mine, but I came away with a diametrically opposite view of Eva Khatchadourian. After first reading about the “loathsome narrator” her “relentless negativity and her obsessive fault-finding” that “she took the guilt and blame rather nonchalantly” and is someone “who acts in a selfish, self-aggrandizing and incredibly shallow way…” I expected to dislike Eva immensely. I hesitate to write this, but I really liked Eva. In fact, she is the type of person I am drawn towards as a lover or a friend.

I saw Eva as an intelligent, introspective, independent, curious, strong, entrepreneurial, inquisitive, loving, passionate and sensitive human being. I felt great empathy and sympathy for her. She lived an admirable life. She wanted to experience the richness that life offers. She was strong enough to travel the world on her own, create a successful business, live a culturally rich life, love passionately and steadfastly. She took her responsibilities as a parent seriously. She did what she could to connect with Kevin. She was a loving mother to Celia. She was a loving wife. She accepted the consequences and suffered with dignity.

Although I drive an “SRO” I found myself in substantial agreement with Eva’s observations about our culture. Sure, the narrative was unrelenting as Eva struggled to understand and cope with the realities of her existence. How could it be not, given all that she experienced?

It was Franklin who got under my skin. His myopia regarding Kevin’s true nature certainly had consequences. He was dismissive regarding Eva’s intuitions/beliefs. He deserved the sobriquet “Mr. Plastic.” He preferred that soul-less glass and teak house instead of Eva’s longed-for funky Victorian. He was detached from reality. I did not see him as a truly loving father. He did not know his own son, nor love his daughter as Eva did. He failed to respect Eva’s concerns. He failed Eva.

One last note. I was not surprised by the ending. I had guessed the outcome by the third letter, and was absolutely certain about what was coming halfway through the book. There was a bit of artifice in the narrative but it was minor. I could explain why I concluded what I did, but that would constitute a spoiler of sorts, so I’ll be mum.

Any thoughts?