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Anexos / Arquivos

Kleinian psychological complexes: analysis of the work “We need to talk about Kevin”

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ABREU, Liliane Alcântara de [1], MELO, Natalia Sayuri [2], SOARES, Pamela Cristina [3], NUNES, Letícia Monteiro [4], SILVA, Gabriella Braga Dias da [5], MENDES, Matheus Passos [6]

ABREU, Liliane Alcântara de. et al. Kleinian psychological complexes: analysis of the work “We need to talk about Kevin”. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year. 07, Ed. 08, Vol. 03, pp. 181-209. August 2022. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link:


This article aimed to research, analyze and produce a theoretical survey from the perspective of psychoanalysis through the work of Melanie Klein (1966; 1991-1997) to understand the mechanisms of voracity, introjection, projection, envy and gratitude expressed in the work “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, which was analyzed here from the film and the book. The article aims to understand Kleinian aspects while psychoanalytically analyzing the feature film in a more incisive way. Therefore, the guiding question was: how and why maternal-child relationships can generate emotionally distant mothers and children with behaviors similar to conduct disorder? Thus, the general objective was based on detecting how the development of personality in the individual is built through the maternal relationship. The hypothesis was based on the assumption that the subject with conduct disorder can have their behavior potentiated in face of the recognition of fear or rejection of their closest caregiver, in this case, the mother. As a methodology, the research was based mainly on the observation and analysis of the work “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and on the bibliographical survey for the theoretical discussion, based on Klein’s light, and also the support of other theorists. As a result and conclusions, the analyzes indicated that the affective relationships between mothers and children, which are so delicately punctuated by Klein, can trigger a multitude of psychopathologies such as psychoses or perversions, developments such as narcissistic disorders and other aggravating factors, and generating sick adults, in an endless cycle of pain for fears of loving and not being loved.

Keywords: Klein, Motherhood, Psychoanalysis, Psychology, Psychopathology.


This article aimed to make a cross-analysis between Art and Psychoanalysis of the Kleinian school. For that, the studies of Melanie Klein (1966; 1991-1997) were taken into account from the perspective of the film resulting from the book with the same name, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (RAMSAY, 2011; SHRIVER, 2007). The work deals with the relationship between mother and child, the psychological complexes triggered by their interaction – and even the lack of it –, and the consequences of occasional psychopathological illnesses for both.

The guiding question was: how and why maternal-child relationships can generate emotionally distant mothers and children with behaviors similar to conduct disorder? Thus, the general objective was based on detecting how the development of personality in the individual is built through the maternal relationship. As a consequence, specific objectives were developed to understand how maternal behavior contributes to the formation of the psyche of minors in their care; understand how individuals with conduct disorder can appear, and detect what are the standards and concepts constructed about what it means to be a good mother socially.

With that in mind, it was possible to generate the behavioral signs that make up the hypothesis for analyzing the subjects involved in the plot. From this point of view, it was based on the assumption that the subject with conduct disorder can have their behavior potentiated in face of the recognition of fear or rejection of their closest caregiver, in this case, the mother. This assumption arose through the very confusing construction of the story’s narrative, which led the group of authors to ask themselves all the time who was Eva, the central character, and why did she behave in such an apathetic way all the time? In parallel, where did Kevin, the son, get so much hatred for his mother? And how were these behaviors constructed?

Therefore, as a methodology, the research was based on the observation and analysis of the film, as well as the intersection with the bibliographic review surveys for the theoretical discussion. Thus, in order to seek an understanding of the social behaviors presented in the film, some scholars were important. Therefore, as a deeper study, the team for this article focused not only on Klein’s (1966; 1991; 1991-1997) effective theorizing, but sought in various theorists the understanding of demand such as Juan-David Nasio (1995), Vladimir Safatle (2007), and even Carl Jung (1994; 1991), providing the initial historical basis and on how the thought of this psychoanalyst, focus of study, is constructed. Sigmund Freud (1972; 2011) and Hanna Segal (1975) were also used as a basis in this phase, but also in the later one. When entering the factual analysis of the film, and with support in the book itself with the story of Eva and Kevin, the study team was also supported by Elisa Cintra and Luiz Figueiredo (2010), David Zimerman (2004) and Liliane Abreu (2022 ), briefly reinforced the concepts of these previous authors, helping to understand the reflections presented in the film. ICD-10 (1993) was used as equal support. Finally, the final considerations close the analysis of this article.


In England from 1940-1944 there were theoretical divergences that created a split among psychoanalysts. Thus, a group was formed with Melanie Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975), another group with Donald Woods Winnicott (1983; NASIO, 1995), and a third group led by Anna Freud (1971). Later, different schools emerged from there: the English school (with Klein and Winnicott); the French school with Lacan (NASIO, 1995), and the American school with Hartmann (1968). It should be noted that the American school was also known as Psychology of the Ego – as it began to study other things, such as perception –, leaving the unconscious a little aside and valuing the biological through the brain, giving rise to theories of cognition.

Therefore, each theorist chose a pillar for his theory. Melanie Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975) took anxiety and bonding into account. Winnicott (1983; NASIO, 1995) was based on Holding, which is the support and environment in which the mother is inserted with the child. For Lacan (NASIO, 1995), the unconscious is structured as language, and was strongly supported by the linguistics of Saussure (2012), the anthropology of Lévi-Strauss (1953/1975; LEPINE, 1979) and the dialectic of Hegel (2008 ).


The main point of Klein’s theory (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975) is linked to the issue of the patient-analyst bond, even stating at certain times that this is superior to the issue of the unconscious. The psychoanalyst was a pioneer in the field of working with childhood. For this reason, she developed the thought that the psyche originates with the mother’s bond with the baby. So when you talk about the individual patient at your school, you are directly referring to the children.

Her analysis with the little ones was based on the technique of the games, in which they should be observed like adults. She believed that transference between therapists and children would be the same as with adults. Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975) used games because children (sometimes even babies) had difficulty expressing themselves or speaking.

She defended the idea that reeducational measures should not be used during analyzes, an action conducted by the psychoanalyst Anna Freud (1971), who had initial training in Pedagogy. For this reason, she defended the introduction of re-education still in the analysis, thus creating divergences between her and Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975). In turn, Klein states that it is not the role of the therapist to teach the child what to do. Furthermore, she should only perceive what the patient brings, without interfering. Thus, in addition to the whole theory of bonding, this author had the issue of anguish as another important point. She also identified that all points of the second Freudian topic (Id, Ego and Superego) would be present in the individual from an early age, and would be responsible for early psychic development.

In observations and theories, the idea of the world of internal objects (ie, unconscious fantasies) was suitable for a child. This means that Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975) understood that in childhood there would be a fantasy relationship between the child and his first object of love: the mother. She would have a love-hate mental conflict with this mother figure.

Regarding the game technique, she analyzed her patients based on games, dramatizations, verbal expressions, drawings and games. If the child accepted any of these aspects, or even more than one, everything could be used favorably to reach the unconscious of that individual – a process very close, within due proportions, to Jung’s theories (1994) and which culminated in the Art Therapy of line of Analytical Psychology.

Another point advocated is that the child’s aggressive fantasies should not be repressed. For Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975), the child should be able to express his fantasies as they appear, above all because they would be linked to the mother’s love and hate factor. Therefore, the therapist should only offer toys and materials that allow the individual’s expression, even for the issue of feelings being able to be observed. Only then, the professional could understand more comprehensively what happens to the child. From this, the analyst would have to be sincere with the infant, even telling him that certain things would be happening because of certain situations. Evidently within the language and understanding of this small client.

In Klein’s understanding (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975), the subject values and trusts, even at a young age, who tells him the truth and is sincere. This would close the transference (the bond) and the therapist would reach the patient for treatment. This factor, together with the games, would be enough to reach the individual’s unconscious and make him expose his anguish, thoughts and emotions. Anna Freud (1971) refuted Klein’s theory, stating that children would not transfer with the therapist. Furthermore, Anna Freud said that the professional should examine the parents, as the child’s bond was parental, and not with the therapist. Therefore, she believed that in order to reach the child’s unconscious, it would necessarily have to go through the parents.

Unlike Sigmund Freud (1972) who placed the phallic phase between three and five years of age for the Oedipus Complex, Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975) established this process in the first year of life. In this way, the author understood that the Oedipus Complex would appear after a female phase of the baby, and both boys and girls would go through this. As a consequence, there would be a fantasy that the mother’s body is a big toy with other smaller parts, like the breasts. This would precipitate the fantasy of entering the mother’s body and destroying these toys and objects (including the father’s penis). Later, the child would generate the thought of regret for wanting to destroy his first great object of love, which was his own mother. For Klein, the Oedipus Complex would appear at that moment, but contrary to the Freudian theory, since the fantasy is that the mother has the father’s penis and the desire to possess it. (ABREU, 2022)

Another concept would be related to the precocious Superego. According to Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975), the Superego would be formed from the beginning of life and, therefore, prior to the Oedipus Complex. Furthermore, the Superego would not only be a censor, but potentially sadistic and cruel. Klein stated that the paranoid-schizoid position regularizes the first three months of life and would be the demarcator during this period. Thus, in the first moment, the child has persecutory anguish in relation to the mother, that is, he is afraid of being attacked by his first love object as a form of retaliation for supposedly trying to destroy this mother’s body. As a second point, and in parallel, the child has to deal with the relationship between the good breast and the bad breast. This would be linked to the reward systems, since when they eat right and have the proper attention and affection, they see this as the appearance of a good breast. On the other hand, the bad breast would appear in what causes anguish and a feeling of persecution, and would appear, for example, when the mother breastfeeds quickly or expresses irritation or rejection. (ABREU, 2022)

Therefore, this issue of breastfeeding is extremely important bilaterally, but for the child it will be fundamental in creating an emotional bond, as well as in how this bond will be interpreted.

The third point – remembering that the first point is when the child has persecutory anguish in relation to the mother, and the second point is when he has to deal with the relationship between the good breast and the bad breast – would be linked to the I (Ego ) protect yourself from distress with the defense mechanism. After all this process of the paranoid-schizoid position, the depressive position would appear. It would occur between 3 and 6 months of age.

In a first instant, it would be the depressive anguish in which the I would feel guilty for the aggressive drive, that is, that fragment in which the child feels anger against the loved object (the mother) trying to destroy it, which would lead to the next moment of becoming repent and feel the anguish. As a second factor, there would be an increase in integration with the mother in the good and bad aspects, reinforcing the issue of the good and bad breast. This leads to the third thought that through the defense mechanism, there would be a repair of the pain of aggressive fantasies with loved objects. There would be affective integration here, in which the child would accept the mother and she would become truly real.

Therefore, the subject divided within the schizoparanoid spectrum, at the moment he understands that he hurts the loved object in defense of what he understands as bad, and comes to the conclusion that if he hurts what is good, then he himself is bad. Soon, he enters the depression and leaves this persecutory position, emerging from there the neurotic who sees that the bad object is also good, and therefore, only one. If he does not go beyond this path, he becomes psychotic, or, if he feels pleasure in the course of hurting the loved object, the perverse that may have the aggravating factor in the antisocial personality disorder arises from there.


The team formatted for this article chose the work “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (RAMSAY, 2011; SHRIVER, 2007) for an analysis with a focus on the Kleinian perspective. The story tells the tense relationship between a mother and her son, which generate aspects of psychic illness that lead to psychopathologies.

Eva was an adventurous woman who was active in the world of cultural travel when she was single. The film begins with her at the Tomatina Festival in Spain, which consists of a huge battle of tomatoes. The presence of the color red is evident in this first scene, as if it were an enormous sea of blood, mixing love and anger.

In the middle of it is Eva, with a light face and an open smile as if she is enjoying herself freely. Then, the scene cuts to Eva, currently, in a messy house with leftover food strewn across the table and an apathy present on her face, empty expressions and constant gaze as far away as her thoughts, as if nothing matters. In the present, she is alone, living in a small and confusing house, just like herself as a human being.

The beginning of the film shows different times of this main character, presenting a confusion of facts, and, apparently, Eva’s own mental confusion in the face of a succession of events for years and ending with a great trauma. Thus, the narrative oscillates in time through the perspective of this mother. The story develops through flashes of events that occurred before, during and after a traumatic event that is not revealed at the beginning, but it is evident that it changes and seriously impacts the character’s history.

In that listless moment, his house and car were attacked with red paint. People verbally and physically abuse her, or just stare at her without uttering a word but with judgment. Eva has a constant perception of persecution, but it is only at the end of the film that it is understood that, in fact, she was.

The scenes bring a comparison that emphasizes Eva’s difference before and after the traumatic event. According to Klein (1991), the devaluation of the object and the external world in cases of depression and melancholy alternates with the devaluation of the person himself. Eva taps her foot on the edge of the table and doesn’t show any pain reaction; when opening the door she realizes that her house has been vandalized with red paint and does not show any apparent feeling, as if everything was irrelevant, or rather, as if she was anesthetized the whole time.

Vê-se pela descrição das defesas, que todas elas ficam contaminadas pela dinâmica da pulsão de morte, e, na tentativa de combater o próprio “aguilhão” da inveja, conduzem as formas de existência cada vez mais desvitalizadas e ausentes de desejo, entusiasmo, interesse e paixão. (CINTRA; FIGUEIREDO, 2010, p. 141)

The perception that one has is that she is trapped within a long process of denial of mourning that goes through the months. She doesn’t cry, doesn’t sleep well, is constantly on alert and seems to be in a parallel world.

When she was young, Eva tried to leave the United States (where she lived) for France, but her boyfriend stopped her. He ended up becoming her husband after discovering that she was pregnant. The couple had two children at different times.

In the present, while looking for a new job, she is hired by a travel agency. Their blank expressions are briefly replaced by happiness and relief. Colleagues also observe her with strangeness and distance. However, as she leaves this initial interview smiling, she encounters a woman who confronts her about the reason for such happiness, and whether she had forgotten what happened in the past, then slaps Eva across the face. She does not show anger or any other emotion, but returns to her apathetic state. According to Klein (1991; CINTRA; FIGUEIREDO, 2010), anguish, although it seems absent, is in a state of latency in schizoids.

In this way, although Eva seems not to care about what happened and still happens in her life, there is actually a very intense suffering and anxiety that is not apparent to others. Cintra and Figueiredo (2010) say that this anxiety, kept latent by dispersion, is experienced to some extent all the time.

Right at the beginning of the film, Eva’s love relationship is presented in three moments. In the first of them, she appears happy and having fun with her partner, Franklin, and both seem to be in love (before the wedding). It then cuts to the scene where he asks Eva to let him complete the sexual act in an attempt to conceive her. It is evident that she does not want to get pregnant, but allows it because it is her boyfriend’s will.

Klein (1960) explains that loyalty to what is loved or taken for granted implies that hostile impulses linked to anxieties become directed toward those objects that endanger what is felt to be good. In this way, Eva allows herself to have a child for fear of losing her husband’s love if she does not fulfill her desire, and this child becomes the object that endangers this love and her own freedom. Here is an excerpt from the character about this change in her life:

Enquanto isso, comecei a ver meu corpo sob uma nova luz. Pela primeira vez, tive a consciência das pequenas elevações em meu peito como tetas destinadas à alimentação de um filhote, e notar sua semelhança física com o úbere de vacas ou com os volumes bambos de cadelas lactantes de repente foi inevitável. (…) Não quero com isso dar a entender que fui a primeira mulher a descobrir os pássaros e as abelhas. Mas isso tudo era novo para mim. E, honestamente, eu não tinha muita certeza a respeito. Sentia-me dispensável, jogada fora, engolida por um grande projeto biológico que não iniciei nem escolhi. Que me produziu, mas que também iria me mastigar e depois cuspir fora. Eu me senti usada, (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 66-67)

She continues in another section reinforcing her vision about this new woman and motherhood, and her hurt at having ceased to be one with her husband as a result of the appearance of Kevin:

Eu esperava que, com o tempo, a ambivalência sumisse, mas a sensação conflitante foi se acentuando e, desse modo, ficando mais secreta. Finalmente vou abrir o jogo. Acho que a ambivalência não desapareceu porque não era o que parecia ser. Não é verdade que eu me sentisse “ambivalente” a respeito da maternidade. Você queria um filho. Eu não. Tudo somado, até parecia uma ambivalência, mas mesmo formando um casal que era realmente o máximo, não éramos uma mesma pessoa. Nunca consegui que você gostasse de berinjela. (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 71)

Then, some scenes are shown during Eva’s pregnancy and that’s when she starts to appear with the most empty expressions, which in the future become constant. Even around other mothers, she doesn’t interact and doesn’t seem excited about the pregnancy. Already in labor, she resists conception as if she doesn’t want the child to come out of her.

(…) a ansiedade surge da operação da pulsão de morte dentro do organismo, é sentida como medo de aniquilamento (morte) e toma a forma de medo de perseguição. O medo do impulso destrutivo parece ligar-se imediatamente a um objeto, ou melhor, é vivenciado como medo de um incontrolável objeto dominador (KLEIN, 1991, p. 24-25)

By resisting during childbirth, Eva seems not to want to materialize and make real this object that for her is destructive, showing fear that it will dominate her and change her entire reality. In a way, this comes true, because with the arrival of a baby, her parenting life changes to meet her needs, and with Kevin it was no different.

Bringing some perspectives with excerpts straight from the book was attractive to this Psychoanalysis article. Then, some points of history will be arranged in the course of this theoretical discussion. One of them is about childbirth and the postpartum period, from Eva’s perspective. Thus, in the book on which the film was based, the protagonist tells in letters how the hours before Kevin gave birth were:

Ah, Franklin, não há por que fingir agora. Foi horrível. Eu até posso ser capaz de aguentar determinados tipos de dor, mas se for esse o caso, minha intrepidez mora nas canelas e nos braços, não entre minhas pernas. Essa nunca foi uma parte do corpo que eu teria associado com estoicismo, como algo tão odioso quanto exercício. […] E, de repente, estava tudo acabado. Mais tarde, acharíamos graça de eu ter aguentado tudo para só no fim implorar por alívio – quando ele já não podia mais ser oferecido -. mas na hora não foi nada engraçado. No momento mesmo em que ele nascia, associei nosso filho com minhas próprias limitações – não só com o sofrimento, mas também com a derrota. (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 94-95).

For Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997), the newborn baby is capable of feeling the process of its own birth and it is possible to relate this hypothesis to everything that proceeds later in Kevin’s relationship with Eva, as if he perceived who was unloved from birth, or even before that:

Apresentei a hipótese de que o bebê recém-nascido vivência, tanto no processo de nascimento quanto no ajustamento à situação pós-natal, ansiedade de natureza persecutória. Isso pode ser explicado pelo fato de que o bebezinho, sem ser capaz de apreendê-lo intelectualmente, sente inconscientemente todo desconforto como tendo sido infligido a ele por forças hostis. Se lhe é oferecido conforto prontamente – em especial calor, o modo amoroso de segurá-lo e a gratificação de ser alimentado –, isso dá origem a emoções mais felizes. Tal conforto é sentido como vindo de forças boas e, acredito, toma possível a primeira relação de amor do bebê com uma pessoa ou, como um psicanalista diria, com um objeto. Minha hipótese é que o bebê tem um conhecimento inconsciente inato da existência da mãe. (…) Podemos também observar que com apenas poucas semanas o bebê já olha para o rosto de sua mãe, reconhece seus passos, o toque de suas mãos, o cheiro e a sensação de seu seio ou da mamadeira que ela lhe dá – tudo isso sugere que alguma relação com a mãe, ainda que primitiva, foi estabelecida. (KLEIN, 1991, p. 282)

At birth, the baby is exposed to various traumas, frustrations, suffering and confusion. Therefore, he generally has access to his mother’s care and affection, which Kevin did not.

Eva’s memories keep coming and going, like someone searching for answers. She remembers her son Kevin’s first pregnancy, and the difficulty in taking care of that child. The boy cried all the time he was with his mother, no matter how hard she tried. Eva could not stand the child’s cries, and a jackhammer seemed more bearable than the cries. Soon, she is impatient, dissatisfied and without the slightest way with the baby, and the character is presented at certain times as if she had postpartum depression. Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975) in his theory, highlights the importance of good experiences always being predominant in relation to the bad ones for the favorable development of the baby to occur. In contrast, the father also tried hard to be a loving parent. The baby wouldn’t cry with him, and so Eva’s husband thought she was overreacting from exhaustion.

During the child’s growth and around the age of 3, Eva realizes that the child does not play, does not talk to her and does not respond to stimuli, showing himself to be completely apathetic. She makes an effort to interact with the boy, but there is no reaction, and when she does, it is aggressive. In the face of this, Eva takes the little one to the doctor for tests that could point to a problem, such as autism or even deafness, but the tests showed normality. Thus, the relationship between mother and child becomes more tense. Klein (1991) reinforces the importance of identifying and understanding these signs:

Os diversos sinais de dificuldades do bebê – estados de raiva, falta de interesse em seu ambiente, incapacidade de suportar frustração e expressões fugazes de tristeza – não encontravam anteriormente qualquer explicação, a não ser em termos de fatores físicos. Pois, até Freud fazer suas grandes descobertas, havia uma tendência geral a considerar a infância como um período de felicidade perfeita e a não levar a sério as diversas perturbações apresentadas pelas crianças. As descobertas de Freud têm nos ajudado, no decorrer do tempo, a entender a complexidade das emoções da criança e têm revelado que as crianças passam por sérios conflitos. (KLEIN, 1991, p. 281)

From an early age, the boy presents traits of conduct disorder specifically with his mother, which, as he grew up, became an effective antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy. He was quite violent and lacked empathy or charisma with his mother. Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975) was the first professional to realize that the psychotic or perverse process comes from the affected symbolic formation itself, and this is in line with the history of Eva’s family.

During another afternoon of stimulation, Kevin taps his sound toy while his mother asks him to repeat a few names. When asked to say mommy, he replies no several times. Likewise, he refuses to eat everything that is offered to him, says he doesn’t like it or doesn’t want it and throws the pot of food at the refrigerator door.

Ao interpretar não apenas as palavras da criança, mas também suas atividades com seus brinquedos, apliquei este princípio básico à mente da criança, cujo brincar e atividades variadas – na verdade, todo o seu comportamento – são meios de expressar o que o adulto expressa predominantemente através de palavras. Também orientei-me sempre por dois outros princípios da psicanálise, estabelecidos por Freud, que desde o princípio considerei fundamentais: que a exploração do inconsciente é a principal tarefa do procedimento psicanalítico, e que a análise da transferência é o meio de atingir este objetivo. (KLEIN, 1991, p. 151)

Eva stands beside Kevin’s crib and tells him that she was happy before he was born, and now she wakes up every day wanting to be in another country. The father, seeing that scene, shakes his head as a form of disapproval. In fact, this is the first moment that Eva shows a reaction of expressing what she thought about herself and her relationship with her son, because, as usual, she maintained silence and a submissive behavior. The mother-son relationship becomes a constant struggle, but with Eva always being subjugated by Kevin. She seemed to be afraid of her son, even though he was small.

In the scenes that parallel present and past, Eva is shown during a visit to Kevin in prison (he is over 16 years old). She remains silent and seemingly dejected. The boy, in turn, is absent-mindedly removing pieces of dead skin stuck to his mouth, lining them up one next to the other – but only as the story goes on does it become clear that this was an allusion to dead bodies lined up –, while staring at her mother. The boy shows himself to be a completely cold person, without empathy and who does not show any remorse.

At around 7 years old, Kevin was still in diapers. Speeches and actions with the father remain normal, but with the mother they are always tense and aggressive on the part of the child, which sometimes leads Eva to become reactive. At that time, and after a conversation, the parents decide to move to the countryside, so that Kevin can have a better life and enjoy his childhood outdoors more, instead of being trapped indoors. Kevin remains persistent in disrupting the conversation and repeatedly talking nhem nhem. Eva gets angry and hits the boy’s hand.

The family moves to a much larger house with a certain status. Kevin and his father played video games with shooting games, while the child screamed for the characters to die.

A variedade de situações emocionais que podem ser expressas através de atividades lúdicas é ilimitada: por exemplo, sentimentos de frustração e de ser rejeitado; ciúmes do pai e da mãe, ou de irmãos e irmãs; a agressividade que acompanha tais ciúmes; o prazer em ter um companheiro e aliado contra os pais; sentimentos de amor e ódio em relação a um bebê recém-nascido ou a um bebê que está sendo esperado, assim como as resultantes ansiedade, culpa e necessidade premente de fazer reparação. No brincar da criança, também encontramos a repetição de experiências e detalhes reais da vida cotidiana, frequentemente entrelaçados com suas fantasias. É revelador que, algumas vezes, eventos reais muito importantes em sua vida deixem de entrar no seu brincar e em suas associações, e que, às vezes, toda a ênfase repouse sobre acontecimentos aparentemente secundários. Mas esses acontecimentos secundários são de grande importância para ela pois despertaram suas emoções e fantasias. (KLEIN, 1991, p. 157)

On the other hand, the mother was alone walking around the house, remembering past things that she missed. Eva tries to create different environments for the well-being of the family, including her own. She creates a space with her own personality, analogous to what she did before having the child, and glues maps as wallpaper in that specific room, like a tourist agency environment, so that there she can study, create, read and even work if possible. It was the personal space of dreams. However, Kevin mocks his mother’s action on her and when she is absent from the environment, he destroys the entire place throwing paint on the walls, furniture and floor. When asked by his father, the boy says he “was trying to help”.

Analyzing what has been described so far, it is possible to reflect on certain aspects. It is interesting to note that Kevin and his mother never developed a deep and mutual loving contact. Despite having chosen to be a mother (even with limitations and difficulties) and trying the best possible way to deal with an extremely voracious son, her effort was not compensated. However, her frequent desire not to have conceived Kevin as a son was visible, even though it was not implied in the words (with the exception of the advent of the cradle mentioned above). Kevin’s unreasonable hatred of everything that could make his mother even minimally happy was colossal, and so he destroyed everything she loved. This son’s destructive behavior took away any kind of satisfaction from the mother.

According to Klein (1996), when the child is in the superego assembly phase, he initially wants to destroy the libidinal object by biting and tearing it to pieces. With that, she feels guilty for showing so much destructiveness in herself, which creates a superego that takes revenge by corresponding to the same type of offense that she projects on the libidinal object. This can be seen when Kevin destroys his mother’s maps and her dream room, because with that, he wanted to destroy his own mother, and also the superego she represents. On the other hand, one can also think that perhaps it is an interiorized object and that it destroys the good object. In any case, even if guilt does not appear, the child in this state fears the superego for being sadistic and vindictive.

Still in the episode of the destroyed maps, for not having supported this aggressive position of the son, the mother also started to project a hatred for her frustrations in life and motherhood in general.

Another scene that demonstrates Kevin’s voracity and hatred for his mother, appears when he is in the literacy process, and with everything getting progressively worse. When Eva tries to teach him to count – she was homeschooling the child – for example, asking what comes after the number three, he answers nine. What comes after seven, he says seventy-one. Then he goes on and on the correct sequence from one to fifty. After that, Kevin purposely (and smilingly) has a bowel movement in his diapers and in front of his mother, forcing her to clean him up. This is commonplace and irritates the mother. As soon as she changes him, he poops again. Eva this time loses control and throws her son against the wall, breaking the child’s arm. It is important here to understand that the child’s aggressive drives, in fact, build the object and prevent them from building an internal object good enough to be able to compensate for the destructive drives.

At this point, Klein (1991) can be evoked again. For this author, Kevin would be fixed in a much earlier phase for still evacuating without control, and even on purpose. If he were two years old, he would be within the phase where the child feels pleasure in the genital/anal area, and this would be linked with primary sadism and epistemophilic drives. Thus, the sadism that was oral (presented in the bites), moves to the anal phase.

In this initial phase of construction of the superego, the baby not only learns to control the sphincter, but he would like to appropriate the mother’s body. There would also be two processes of frustration: one marked by the removal of the breastfeeding breast, and the other, the removal of feces that cannot remain with the child. To make matters worse, the child believes that his feces would be equivalent to a baby.

The anal phase occurs from the first to the third year of life, being the moment when the child learns to control his immediate needs by himself. Freud (1972) related that immediate and uncontrolled defecation is directly connected to an adult who does not control anger. Likewise, wanting to be constantly cleaned by his mother points to an adult with great organizational power, perhaps methodical, and who may even have a compulsion to clean, and this characteristic appears very marked in Kevin. Mothers (and caregivers) who complain about the smell or the child’s feces would create individuals who retain the feces, and misers could develop there. In the opposite direction of these behaviors, if the child learns to hand the feces to the mother, receiving a lot of praise in the sequence, a very generous adult can emerge there. (ABREU, 2022)

Thus, Klein (1991) also informs that the child, when forcibly removed from that baby of hers – which are her feces, her internal creation that comes to the outside – from that object of her love, starts to desire her own mother’s feces as a substitute. Crossing this information with Freud (1972), and with speeches from several mothers that can commonly be heard, such as, for example, the report of that moment when the diapers are removed, and that the children – regardless of whether the passage was positive or negative –, they are prostrate in front of the mother looking at her face, while the matriarch evacuates sitting on the toilet.

Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997) suggests that the superego appears around 1 year of age – for Freud (1972), the superego would be formed around 3 or 4 years old –, and direct identification with the mother; of this being that can be emasculating and frustrating, or generous. Thus, if the subject does not properly elaborate this process, he generates anger towards the mother, who is seen as someone bad and who is frightening, precipitating the psychotic subject, and which, in the case of boys, can be potentiated.

The psychoanalyst explains that when the subject is in this paranoid-schizoid phase, he enters the perception of only seeing attacks, persecutions and destructive impulses, without perceiving any kind of affection or positivity. He internalizes the bad breast for himself and as if it were himself, internalizing his own superego. Thus, the individual is attached to the object that he judges to be just bad: the mother who would be hateful and frightening, and responds with aggressive and sadistic attitudes, like Kevin.

Back in the film, on the way home from the hospital, Kevin lies to his father about how he was injured, keeping his mother silent. The boy starts to use the bathroom and abandons his diapers, but reinforces the teasing and starts to give orders, controlling Eva in the smallest of actions, leading her to become completely passive to the son from then on.

Even as a kid who is smart and knows most of the numbers possible for his age by heart, he kept constantly getting it wrong on purpose. It is characteristic of the feature film to make the viewer clearly realize that the relationship between mother and child is complex and discordant. Klein (1996) indicates that in the development phase that Kevin was in, in this scene of the emergence of oedipal tendencies, that the boy can demonstrate an inappropriate sadism and hatred for his mother and her body. Because it is the stage of development processes, including sexual development, there is a feeling of guilt on the part of the child. Therefore, he seeks to resolve complex feelings such as guilt and fear for the father’s castration, treating the mother with greater aggressiveness. Kevin goes far beyond hate, passing to disdain and lack of maternal contact, ignoring calls, lessons and learning. At the same time, the boy begins to observe his mother in voyeuristic actions, even when the parents have sex completely locked in the bedroom (he observes them through the keyhole).

À medida que a criança se dá conta das identidades separados de seus pais e os vê cada vez mais como um casal empenhado numa relação sexual – e não como a mãe incorporando o pai –, os desejos da criança e seus ataques – quando com raiva e com ciúme – se estendem ao casal de pais. (SEGAL, 1975, p. 17)

Furthermore, to indicate that he does not want contact with this maternal object, Kevin deliberately projects his feces into his pants during the literacy lesson. Still in the phase of emergence of Oedipal issues, the boy, seeing in the mother’s body a possible love object, begins to project a hatred and introject a desire to possess femininity and the feminine disposition to have children. The fact that a woman can have children, give birth to something and create a being, brings a natural envy to the child. The male child may then begin passing stools as if they were his creation and the baby he wants to have. (KLEIN, 1966)

The boy started to make mistakes on purpose just to reject and not to introject the mother’s lessons, leading her to reactively and physically attack the child, and reinforcing the child’s sadism. It was in the uncontrolled form of aggression towards the boy that Eva demonstrated her frustration with her son and his feces (which would be the demonstration of her voracity and desire to appropriate the mother’s body).

Even in his childhood, it is necessary to realize that Kevin refused or could not allow his destructive, voracious and envious impulses to destroy the good object that was expressed by the maternal care that his mother provided. Even when she told him she loved him, he refused to respond or even look at his mother. It can be understood, through Kleinian mechanisms, that child development takes place by projection and introjection of good and bad objects. When projected aggression occurs, the child is considering the maternal object as bad. This can happen due to infantile voracity, feelings of lack and fear of voracious pursuits that return the aggression committed in the child (KLEIN, 1966). In this way, it is understood that Kevin projected the evil object in different ways throughout the film, which could explain the constant attacks on Eva.

Kevin’s tantrums and taunts towards his mother widen, and now the boy also occasionally provokes his father with annoying sounds (but less often than his mother). Eva becomes pregnant and tries to hide the fact, and when the baby is born, Kevin tries to hurt his sister by subtly throwing water splashes. However, after the birth of this baby, the boy oscillates between appreciating and demanding the mother’s attention, attacks and attempts at independence by wearing his own clothes. Eva tries to be a caring and loving mother, and so the mother’s relationship with her child takes a major turn when this sister is born. According to Klein (1966) one of the biggest reasons why the boy can show hatred and envy for the mother’s body occurs in the phase of femininity. With that, the boy can be governed by the desire to have children, as well as the mother, or still be jealous of the possible future siblings. Even if he has a penis – the object of female envy, according to Freud (1971) –, the male child, on the other hand, can envy female fertilization organs. According to the author:

Assim, a fase de feminilidade se caracteriza pela ansiedade relacionada ao útero e ao pênis do pai, e essa ansiedade submete o menino à tirania de um superego que devora, mutila e castra, formado a partir das imagens da mãe e do pai ao mesmo tempo. (KLEIN, 1966, p. 220)

Envy for his sister’s birth made Kevin mistreat the baby and feel more out of place with his mother and family in general. Even if before there had not been a single episode of mutual love for Eva, the boy developed mechanisms to attract attention and regain the presence of the good object, even if it was later rejected. An example of this fact is when Kevin got sick, becoming more vulnerable. With that, he was able to lower his ego defenses and partially introject the good object for a while, even though this did not fully resolve his complicated family relationship.

A few years later and with the older girl, Eva resumes her career as a travel professional. She even needs to stay away from home for two months, leaving the children in the care of her husband. It is at this moment that he ends up understanding Kevin’s behavior, as the boy begins to act in a certain way as he did with his mother (including the mockery and noises considered irritating). This causes the couple to fall out more, and Eva’s stay at home is demanded by her husband.

Still at the age of 7 or 8, Kevin discovers a new game: archery. The present was given by the mother at Christmas, but the father was a great encourager, and, over the years, he presented him with other, more improved bows. It is important to point out that Kevin’s affection for his father was shown as something simulated, even to maintain his mask as a good son, and at the same time, attacking his mother, who was clearly aware of all this.

The fruit of Kevin’s only moment of apparent affection and intimacy with his mother was his dedication to archery, a sport taken from the book Robin Hood, which Eva read to him during that period when the boy became ill and his sister was born. It is not possible to affirmatively say if when he won the bow and arrow, Kevin was already planning the tragic events or not, but this is subtly implied with the boy staring fixedly at the center of the target that would receive the arrow shot. Furthermore, using a gift given by his mother was certainly part of the intention to reach her.

Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975) argues that the act of playing would have the same result as the free association process used by Freud (1974; 2011) and Jung (1991, 1994). Furthermore, it would project the unconscious together with fantasies (and even real experiences), and would potentially present the defenses and anxieties that result in two types of paranoia. This would include paranoid schizoid, which is persecutory anxiety, and which would make the subject break down and destroy what he fears.

Kevin, starting in the eighth grade, started a ritual of wearing clothes that were much smaller than his size, opposing the dominant fashion of the time for XL-sized clothes: “The impression he gives is that he is not comfortable and, in that sense, the outfit is perfect. Kevin feels uncomfortable. The skimpy clothes echo the same restraint he feels in his own skin.” (SHRUVER, 2007, p. 204)

In the work, there are times when Eva needs to spend a few hours alone with Kevin, but what could be a moment of privacy for both becomes something claustrophobic:

Havia até algo de curiosamente insuportável a respeito daquelas duas horas que ele e eu às vezes ficávamos sozinhos na casa, antes que seu 4X4 apontasse na garagem. Seria de imaginar que não haveria nada mais fácil do que nos escondermos um do outro naquela vasta estrutura de teca, mas, onde quer que nos instalemos, nunca perdi consciência de onde ele estava, nem ele, imagino, de onde eu me encontrava. (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 347)

As previously mentioned, since he was born, Kevin was an apathetic child and showed obvious signs that he did not behave in a common way, compared to other children, and this only got worse. At the age of 15, the boy detract and mistreats his 7-year-old sister, in addition to a series of actions such as: masturbating in front of his mother and staring at her; destroy Eva’s computer with viruses strategically placed on a CD in her millimetrically organized and clean room. Furthermore, the young man never explained the reason for his actions, and if asked, he would only answer: “No point. This is the point.” (RAMSAY, 2011).

About Kevin’s masturbation with the door open for his mother to see him, the writer of the book (which became a film) says the following from the perspective of Eva narrating:

Sei que a masturbação é um alívio normal, vital, um passatempo único e divertido que jamais deveria ser tachado de vício. Mas também achava que para um adolescente – sejamos francos, para qualquer pessoa – essa é uma atividade que fica melhor se feita às escondidas. (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 347)

The previous passage shows that the behavior was much more about compulsive masturbation of a sadistic-anal nature, than genital (and that, in the second case, it would be effected for relief). Eva, after going through this situation a few times, decides to share the case with her husband, so that he would talk to Kevin about this behavior, and believing that maybe her father could make him stop putting her in that situation. However, Kevin notices that he has hit the mother and continues with the behavior.

E assim, logo na tarde seguinte à ‘conversa’, eu estava indo para o escritório com a minha xícara de café quando ouvi uns gemidos reveladores no corredor. Rezei para que ele tivesse entendido o recado e para que houvesse ao menos uma barreira de madeira, fina mas abençoada, entre mim e a virilidade despontante de meu filho. (…) Mas, quando dei mais um ou dois passos, o nível de ruído desmentiu essa tentativa mínima de compostura. (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 349)

However, Eva decided to face the problem by marching to the bathroom, and insisted on facing her son and his genitals knocking on the door. This brought Kevin to a halt in action.

On a walk with Celia (the youngest daughter of the family), Eva sees Kevin standing in front of a poster about who she was in her youth and how she was a respected professional in her field. She interpreted this act with admiration, and it made her want later to invite him to dinner alone in a restaurant to try, once again, to get closer to her son.

Dizer que eu quisesse, que eu desejasse de fato, passar a tarde toda e o começo da noite com o meu espinhoso adolescente seria ir longe demais, mas a verdade é que eu desejava com todas as minhas forças desejar por esse momento – se é que isso faz algum sentido. (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 316)

Dinner was uncomfortable, as if both were strangers who didn’t like each other but needed to get along with each other, and Eva, once again, was frustrated in her attempt to play the social role of mother to Kevin.

At Christmas, Celia (approximately 7 years old and Kevin 15 years old) was given a guinea pig, which the girl fell in love with and became her great joy of daily dedication. After a few weeks, the animal disappeared and Celia’s father already deduced that his daughter was careless leaving the cage open. However, Eva knew that the girl would not be so careless and soon became suspicious of Kevin. Distrust quickly became certainty.

The boy also purposely placed his sister’s pet inside the sink’s disposer, so that when the mother turned on the mechanism, she herself would kill the animal that she gave to her daughter. Eva realized what happened, and with the girl along (but without knowing it), while Kevin coldly watched the moment and played with his father, as if nothing was happening.

Clearly, Eva was never able to connect with Kevin despite her best efforts, and her son viewed her with disgust and disdain. About the understanding of the mother with her baby, Klein (1991) points out:

O sentimento resultante que o bebê tem de ser compreendido subjaz à primeira e fundamental relação em sua vida – a relação com a mãe. Ao mesmo tempo, a frustração, o desconforto e a dor, que conforme sugeri são vivenciados como perseguição, também entram nos seus sentimentos para com sua mãe, porque nos primeiros meses de vida ela representa para a criança todo o mundo externo. Assim, tanto o que é bom quanto o que é mau vêm à sua mente como provindos dela, o que leva a uma dupla atitude em relação à mãe mesmo sob as melhores condições possíveis. Tanto a capacidade de amar quanto o sentimento de perseguição têm raízes profundas nos processos mentais mais arcaicos do bebê. Eles são focalizados primeiramente na mãe. (KLEIN, 1991, p. 283)

Faced with successive actions, Kevin causes a hypothetical accident that not only blinds his sister, but requires the extraction of the entire eyeball. He reacts again with coldness, stating that he didn’t regret anything, because he wasn’t guilty of anything. The situation becomes more tense and Eva is forced to stay closer and closer to her daughter to protect her, as the boy begins to insist that the girl help him pick up arrows in his training. It is known, therefore, that the young man showed traits of antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy) from an early age, but that in children it is diagnosed as a conduct disorder. In this way, there is no guilt or remorse in the superego while there is no unified object when the mother as a good object or a bad object are split, and characterizing it as a personality disorder.

Personality disorders are disturbances that seriously affect behavior, but divided into three blocks of differentiation by the World Health Organization through the description of Personality and Behavioral Disorders (ICD-10, 1993). They present themselves, for example, in Narcissistic Disorder and psychopathy.

Estes tipos de condição (Transtornos de Personalidade) abrangem padrões de comportamento profundamente arraigados e permanentes, manifestando-se como respostas inflexíveis a uma ampla série de situações pessoais e sociais. Eles representam desvios extremos ou significativos do modo como o indivíduo médio, em uma dada cultura, percebe, pensa, sente e, particularmente, se relaciona com os outros. Tais padrões de comportamento e funcionamento psicológico. Eles estão freqüentemente, mas não sempre, associados a graus variados de angústia subjetiva e a problemas no funcionamento e desempenho sociais. (CID-10, 1993, p. 196. Títulos de F60 a F69)

Furthermore, psychopaths would be included in the classification of perverts. Zimerman (2004) points out that it is common for perversion and psychopathy to work together in the same subject, although they are different things and one is not necessarily linked to the other.

(…) Assim, muitos autores consideram que a psicopatia pode ser vista como um “defeito moral”, porquanto ela designa um transtorno psíquico que se manifesta no plano de uma “conduta anti-social”. Os exemplos mais comuns são os daqueles indivíduos que roubam e assaltam; mentem, enganam e são impostores; seduzem e corrompem; usam drogas e cometem delitos; transgridem as leis sociais e, de má-fé, envolvem outros; etc.

A estruturação psicopática manifesta-se por três características básicas: a impulsividade, a repetitividade compulsiva e o uso prevalente de actings de natureza maligna, acompanhados por uma irresponsabilidade e aparente ausência de culpa pelo que fazem. Algum traço de fantasia de psicopatia, assim como de perversão, é inerente à natureza humana; no entanto, o que define a doença psicótica é o fato de que as três características que foram enfatizadas vão além de um uso eventual, mas, sim, que elas se tornam “um fim em si mesmo” e, além disso, são egossintônicas, muitas vezes sendo idealizadas pelo sujeito psicopata, vindo acompanhar uma total falta de consideração pelas pessoas, que se tornam alvo e cúmplices de seu jogo psicopático. (ZIMERMAN, 2006, p. 269-279)

From Klein’s point of view (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975), the baby would innately perceive that the mother would reject him, generating a separation in the emotional process, and aggravated in the first three months of life where he would find himself the process of persecutory anxiety. The subject’s interpretation is that the world is hostile, as he was not welcomed.

This would have its origin in the introjection of trying to absorb the mother (the good object) in an integral way, but which the subject later believes he has tried to annul. This fear of destroying the integral object embraces the depressive position, not the paranoid-schizoid one. Subsequently, from there arises the fear of suffering retaliation, being equally destroyed by revenge: the persecutory delusion. It is from this conflicting process of the superego that psychosis arises, and it is the result of the certainty and introjection of this persecuting mother, which enhances aggressiveness.

Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975) argued that the superego would arise from this identity conflict between kindness and severity in the transition from the oral-sadistic phase (which babies bite) and the anal-sadistic phase. Effectively knowing that a psychotic will always be psychotic, and a pervert will always be perverse, but the constitution of every human being permeates the same initial paths in childhood, and each one, in the face of their subjectivity and experiences, will shape their personality structure to from there, Kevin developed it into psychopathy.

He proceeds to show possible normality, including receiving a large order of bicycle locks which he claimed he would sell to schoolmates the week he turned 16. In turn, Eva was at work in her senior position at a large travel company, when she received the message that her son’s school had been attacked. It was Kevin’s birthday.

Eva tries to make contact with her husband, but fails, and goes to school. Upon arriving there, she finds a war scene with police, firefighters, paramedics and parents in despair. Only then does she realize what could be happening, as she sees the bicycle locks closing all entrances and passages, and being broken by firefighters. When the main door opens, Kevin is already waiting for the police and peacefully turning himself in. Inside the school, a massacre with dead and wounded people hit by their arrows. In shock, Eva returns home and finds the silence strange. On her way to the backyard, she finds her husband and daughter dead with arrows. It is there that it becomes possible to understand the whole course of this mother until her depressive, lonely, fearful and apathetic condition.

She was attacked by the entire community and city as guilty of her son’s act. Thus, one can understand that his persecutory and apathetic perception behavior had a real basis.

The film ends two years after the slaughter, and on Kevin’s birthday. Eva was tidying up the room in the small house she was living in. The environment was painted dark blue by Eva, it was impeccably tidy, and only afterwards did we understand that it was to receive Kevin, who would be released from prison two years after that moment (that is, four years after the massacre). She leaves the house looking inside and outside the house, everything neat and very different from the decaying property of two years before, which was the symbolic representation of herself (internally and externally). She appears more confident, eating and sleeping, which at the beginning of the story becomes apparent as actions achieved with difficulty and partially. From there, she goes to visit her son in prison.

This brings the explanation about the paranoid in Klein’s view (1966; 1991; 1991-1997), with a fragmented view of the world that is destructive. Crossing with the story itself, which is presented in a fragmented and confused way, trying to reconstruct itself without meaning and showing Eva’s own psychic state, one can raise the hypothesis that she herself ended up entering a huge paranoid process, since she presented a series of fears: of eating, of sleeping, of talking to people and a gigantic anxiety. Another important thing to mention about Eva, is that her state of apathy and behavior of fear and coercion were so great that she couldn’t cry throughout the plot, as if she were anesthetized. According to Klein (1966; 1991; 1991-1997; SEGAL, 1975), this would also be part of a painful mourning process that the character plunged into, leaving her in denial for a long time. Thus, she was trying to overcome the agonizing experience imputed by her own son, which had the objective of destroying everything she loved in her life: husband, daughter, family, career, reputation, dignity and self-esteem. Her time of denial and mourning was proportional to the clash of love and hate she felt for Kevin.

Anyway, in prison, Eva tells her son that he will have two more years there, enough time (apart from the previous two years) to think about everything that happened. She asks why everything he did.

“eu só queria lhe perguntar…” (…) “está fazendo dois anos”. Continuei. “Sinto saudade do seu pai, Kevin. (…) Também sinto saudade da sua irmã – muita saudade. E muitas outras famílias ainda estão arrasadas. Sei que os jornalistas, os terapeutas e talvez outros prisioneiros lhe perguntam isso o tempo todo. Mas você nunca me disse. Então, por favor, olhe nos meus olhos. Você matou onze pessoas. Meu marido. Minha filha. Olhe nos meus olhos e me diga porquê”. (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 459)

When Kevin answers her, there’s not the hostile and confident tone that has always been characteristic of the young man, but a more confused teenager. Kevin responds that at that point he didn’t know what it was all about.

Ao contrário do dia em que se virava para mim pela janela do carro da polícia, com as pupilas cintilando, hoje Kevin enfrentou meu olhar com extrema dificuldade. Seus olhos ficavam piscando, mantendo contato em movimentos rápidos, depois tornando a se desviar para a parede de concreto, […] “Eu achava que sabia”, respondeu, taciturno. “Agora, não tenho tanta certeza.” (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 459)

The visit is interrupted. Eva gets up and hugs him without saying anything. Perhaps the hug given in that scene was one of the only moments of sincere connection and reciprocal intimacy between mother and son:

Quando lhe dei um abraço de despedida, ele se agarrou a mim feito uma criança, como nunca havia feito na infância propriamente dita. Não tenho muita certeza, porque ele resmungou isso para a gola levantada do meu casaco, mas gosto de achar que soluçou um “sinto muito”. (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 461)

The following text can be found in the last paragraph of the book:

É só isso que eu sei. Que, no dia 11 de abril de 1983, nasceu-me um filho, e não senti nada. Mais uma vez, a verdade é sempre maior do que compreendemos. Quando aquele bebê se contorceu em meu seio, do qual se afastou com tamanho desagrado, eu retribuí a rejeição – talvez ele fosse quinze vezes menor do que eu, mas, naquele momento, isso me pareceu justo. Desde então, lutamos um com o outro, com uma ferocidade tão implacável que chego quase a admirá-la. Mas deve ser possível granjear devoção quando se testa um antagonismo até o último limite, fazer as pessoas se aproximarem mais pelo próprio ato de empurrá-las para longe. Porque, depois de quase dezoito anos, faltando apenas três dias, posso finalmente anunciar que estou exausta demais e confusa demais e sozinha demais para continuar brigando, e, nem que seja por desespero, ou até preguiça, eu amo meu filho. Ele tem mais cinco anos sombrios para cumprir numa penitenciária de adultos, e não posso botar minha mão no fogo pelo que sairá de lá no final. Mas, enquanto isso, tenho um segundo quarto em meu apartamento funcional. A colcha é lisa. Há um exemplar de Robin Hood na estante. E os lençóis estão limpos. (SHRIVER, 2007, p. 463)

Eva leaves the prison visualizing a large flash outside, as if it were an analogy to the beginning. Her expression was different from the whole movie, with confident steps, carrying a self-confidence not seen before, and what was external no longer scared her.


It is possible to analyze Eva and Kevin’s story in a very complete way from Melanie Klein’s theory, and the importance and problems that can occur when there is no bond between mother and child from the first moments of life are discussed throughout the article. The apathy shown in Eva’s features, which could previously be seen as a disregard for her life, is actually an intense persecutory anxiety experienced since her first pregnancy, for fear of the bad object (the child) chasing her and putting an end to everything that she knows being good, like her freedom, relationship, career, and future projects.

The guiding question of this article – how and why maternal-child relationships can generate emotionally distant mothers and children with behaviors similar to conduct disorder? – could be answered by understanding Kevin’s voracity. The love-hate relationship developed by the two throughout the film is explicit. Eva did not feel comfortable with her son since she was a baby, when he cried and asked incessantly for his representativeness in the figure of the good breast explained by Klein. Thus, the general objective, which was based on detecting how personality development occurs in the individual through the maternal relationship, showed that when the child does not introject the good object, he can become a cold person with his own mother, as happened with Kevin and his mother. Eva, however, did not maintain the maternal position, and also did not introduce the child into herself.

When we look for specific objectives to understand how maternal behavior contributes to the formation of the psyche of minors in their care, to understand how individuals with conduct disorder can arise, and what are the standards and concepts constructed about what it means to be a good mother socially, we identify that all these points are equally complex and concomitant. It is important to understand that society has an influence on the image of the mother that Eva was inspired by and constantly tried to achieve. Her community required a motherly behavior that she still did not have and did not want, because motherhood is a process that is built, and it is painful even for those women who previously desired it with passion. So, what is actually seen is that Eva’s social group required her to develop a non-existent desire to be a mother.

It’s as if a woman has a bingo card that she needs to fill out so others can be satisfied: first a husband, then a home, a successful career, and lastly children. Eve had the first three and was fully satisfied with it. In her life, she never projected herself with children, but her husband and closest friends began to complain about the lack of this desire to have a child. It works almost like an alienating process, as if generating a life is a trophy that needs to be raised in order to socially affirm what a family is, and a woman as a whole. This may have a strong impact on this mother-child interaction, and effectively interfere with the development of the baby’s personality and possible later disorders.

The hypothesis based on the assumption that the subject with conduct disorder can have his behavior potentiated in face of the recognition of fear or rejection of his closest caregiver, in this case, the mother, could be confirmed in the crossing of Klein’s theorization with the fictional work of Kevin and Eve. After becoming pregnant with her son, Eva expected him to love what was in her womb, as if it were something natural, like breathing and blinking, but love did not come, and fear and insecurity still arose. After that, she had to do her best to try to reach the ideal imposed on her: that of being a good mother and that she needed to love her son. That sense of duty and obligation didn’t leave her, even after Kevin’s trial.

Finally, it is up to reflection as social individuals and Psychology professionals, to try to understand and develop the sensitivity that stories like Eva and Kevin’s occur every day, on larger or smaller scales, and that they need acceptance and understanding. The affective relationships between mothers and children, which are so delicately punctuated by Klein, can trigger an infinity of psychopathologies such as psychoses or perversions, developments such as narcissistic disorders and other aggravating factors, and generating sick adults, in an endless cycle of pain for fears to love and not be loved.


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[1] Specialist in Pedagogical Neuroscience by AVM Educacional/UCAM/RJ; specialist in Art Therapy in Education and Health by AVM Educacional/UCAM/RJ; specialist in Research of Behavior and Consumption by Faculdade SENAI CETIQT RJ; specialist in Visual Arts by UNESA/RJ; BA in Design from Faculdade SENAI CETIQT RJ. Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UNIP/SP. Psychology student.

[2] Bachelor in Social Communication from Faculdade Casper Libero/SP. Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UNIP/SP.

[3] Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UNIP/SP.

[4] Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UNIP/SP.

[5] Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UNIP/SP.

[6] Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at UNIP/SP.

Submitted: March, 2022.

Approved: August, 2022.

5/5 - (10 votes)
Liliane Alcântara de Abreu

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