Of all the stories where I have introduced and talked about the bullies of the story, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is unique as far as the criteria goes. In this story, Kevin, the protagonist and school shooter is not bullied. In fact, several times in it, his mother states that the kids at school gave him a wide berth. Like they were afraid of Kevin rather the other way around. So, you might be asking yourself why am I including this book in my series of literary school bullies. The answer is simple. Kevin wasn’t bullied, he was the bully and Lionel gives plenty of hints throughout her novel to arrive at this conclusion.
Let’s start with the most obvious case, Kevin’s younger sister Celia. While Kevin shows no open hostility towards her, he doesn’t hit her or anything like that, he does bully her in more subtle ways. The first instance is Celia’s pet hamster which disappears in spite of the little sister’s care. It is never known for sure that Kevin made the pet disappear but not long after, there is a clog in the bathroom sink and the evidences suggests that the clog is hamster sized. Worse still, while supposedly taking care of his younger sister, she has an accident involving drain cleaner which causes her to lose an eye. Again, it is never proven that Kevin caused the accident, there is ample evidence to suggest that he had.
Next, we go to Kevin’s only friend, Lenny. It is quite clear from the story that Lenny is basically Kevin’s lap dog. In fact, Kevin even once refers to him as his hamster although I can think of a much stronger and more appropriate word. Together, the pair get a teacher removed from classroom duties when they make a false allegation against her. The only reason the teacher didn’t get fired is because (and much to Kevin’s annoyance) Lenny goes way over the top with his embellishment of what happened. The most interesting part of this friendship is that Kevin is able to manipulate his father into thinking that Lenny is the bad influence and not the other way around. That point is proven when one evening Kevin is brought home by the police because he and Lenny were caught dropping large stones off a bridge. Kevin convinces his father that it was all Lenny’s idea and that he took the rap to save his friend. So we can see that maybe Kevin doesn’t openly bully Lenny but is easily able to control his which is a form of bullying.
Two further examples come to mind in establishing Kevin as a bully. One instance is in kindergarten when Kevin gets a girl with eczema to scratch her infected skin until she bled. The other is at the eighth grade dance when one girl takes to the floor and dances solo. Kevin goes up to her and while it is never known what is said, the poor girl goes off in tears of embarrassment. There are other hints throughout the story to give weight to the argument that Kevin was a bully. The fact that he was never asked back for a play date and the fact that all of the parents from Kevin’s playgroup left and formed a group on their own.
Since Kevin wasn’t a victim but instead the bully, the question remains as to why he locked nine students, a teacher and a cafeteria worker in the school gymnasium and mow them down with a crossbow, killing seven students and the teacher. Surely, only someone bullied would carry out a massacre like that. I put forth the conclusion that Kevin, being a bully, carried out the shooting simply because he believed he could. His behaviour goes beyond that of a simple bully and it has been argued by many who have read the book that he was a sociopath. I can’t disagree with that argument but all the speculation in the world won’t answer what was going through Kevin’s mind. Only he (through Lionel Shriver of course) can answer that question.
Next post: Rupture
To buy He Was Weird, go to: http://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431463953&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird