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For many, mental health is closely linked to one’s stress and makes
existing problems worse. For example, if one were to often struggle to cope
with their feelings of stress, they could acquire long-term stress which can
harm their health, like: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and
other illnesses, as well as mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. In this essay, I will discuss the representation of
male minds under stress in the novels ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ and ‘The
Picture of Dorian Gray’. One could argue that some characters in the mentioned
novels suffer from minds under stress through themes such as mentality,
jealousy, hatred, nature versus nurture, violence and responsibility. (However,
others could claim else through the rest of the dissimilar and diverse themes.)

Shriver represents male minds under stress through the
‘antagonist’s’ mentality- lack of emotion. Everything about this boy- from his
consistent unresponsive, threatening attitude towards his mother to the dozens
of murders he had committed- suggests that there is something wrong with him.
In fact, that and the phrase ‘male minds under stress’ is an understatement; Eva narrates how although her unborn
son is the size of a “pea”, she had still felt “frightened”. This could warrant
her post-natal depression as it portrays that she was afraid and detested Kevin
before he was born. This also raises some questions such as why she would
decide to commit to having a baby if she knew she did not want to. To further,
some may also question why she hardly restricted Kevin from doing anything,
thus leading to his empathy deteriorating and attitude to completely inflame.
Perhaps, Kevin’s behaviour is due to Eva never wanting to be a mother and
always complaining about how difficult her life was before and after he was
born. Nevertheless, nurture must also be taken into consideration as television
and media could have also influenced him. For instance, although there have
been multiple shootings since the early eighteenth century, a year prior to
when Shriver released her novel, a boy killed 28 people, including himself. The
Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting was constructed by 20 year old, Adam
Lanza, who managed to kill 20 children aged six and seven, 6 staff members from
the school, his mother and finally himself. Perhaps, the reason Shriver wrote this
book was to voice the importance and severity of the multiple situations at
hand, i.e. mental health and as a consequence, the bereavement of many due to
school shootings.

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comparison, Wilde’s approach at male minds under stress is portrayed through
Dorian Gray- a materialistic narcissist; obsessed with his faultless and
youthful looking portrait, Dorian, (much like Faust), makes a deal with the
Devil, except Dorian’s requires him to sell his soul in order for his wish to ‘stay
forever young’ to be granted. Which he does, and his downfall begins from there…
Speaking of which, Shriver’s portrayal of Kevin could also be interpreted as
Devil-like. _insert quote_ Eva continues to describe her son as maleficent,
which does not need to be said considering his immoral actions. Therefore,
making us the audience empathise with Eva and also view Kevin as the epitome of
evil… Perhaps, the author uses this character as a mouthpiece to explain her
views on…

Shriver focuses on the relative importance of innate characteristics and
personal experiences in determining character and behaviour, and the book is
particularly concerned with the possibility that Eva’s ambivalence toward
maternity may have influenced Kevin’s development. Perhaps, Kevin had carried
out “Thursday” because of his feelings of anger and hatred of the world
stem from an icy refrigerator mother. Or maybe it was television and hype surrounding
shootouts in American schools that made him think it was ‘cool’. One could
argue that it was a combination of nature and nurture- his mother did not
provide him with unconditional love as she was merely a ‘tick-box mom’, trying
to fill out her necessary, perfunctory roles, hence making it clear that she
resented him. Insert quotes and elaborate. To add, she also suffered from
post-natal depression which naturally made her become more self-absorbed.
Quotes She saw the warning signs of Kevin’s cruel behaviour but did very
little to stop his rampant anger. Eva was a clerical worker, discontented with
the results of maternity, feeling that it limited what she really wanted to do
which was her job. Kevin was also too much alike her in some ways. He embodied
a warped form of all her negative traits such as being pessimistic, critical
and unsympathetic. This is evident in… Quote: i.e. when she talks about fat
people during golf/Kevin says ‘where do you think I got that from?’ etc. In
addition, the film adaptation also covertly included small things that tie the
two characters together, such as…Perhaps, this link connotes that Eva was
interpreting the whole situation wrong, and she is the reason that Kevin turned
out the way he did. There was also the television which opened up new
possibilities for Kevin- as he had no internal value as a human being, he had
to look for external value to make up for it. This is what he found in fame,
even if it was for something terrible like “Thursday”. He created an identity
for himself as a mass murderer, and hence the fame he received from that
validated his person. However, that eventually ebbed, and as we can see by the
end of the movie, he regressed into being the same lost, angry boy he always
was. Unlike the novel, where is it rather unclear where Kevin’s mind-set is at,
yet still shows signs of development: “he clung to me childishly… and
muttered…’I’m sorry’.” Thus, not only does this quote portray a sense of regret
but also care or love for his mother. Overall, it shows signs of development as
this is the first time Kevin has allowed his emotions to permeate the wall that
has restricted him from doing so earlier.  

Alternatively, Wilde’s
portrayal of Dorian’s actions can also be controversial. Some may argue that the
“lad” had intrinsic tendencies towards corruption- Whereas, others could say
that Gray’s essential goodness deviated by his environment… Quote plus

Dorian follows ideologies
(hedonism and aestheticism) strictly (as he emphasizes said beliefs to such an
extent where morals are disregarded), ignores faults (by covering the portrait
of sins and makes excuses) and exposes his characters attributes. However, Lord
Henry gifted the yellow book to him so nurture can be argued to have played a
part for his mental state too. (Wilde’s Jail/Prison time, Lord Alfred Douglas)…

Another way Shriver represents male minds under stress is the
reoccurring theme of violence through blood. Although the substance itself is
not constantly mentioned, the colour red is. For example, the red paint Kevin
slathers all over the walls in order to destroy his mother’s work or the slice
of white bread with an unusual amount of jam he slams on the table. Therefore,
not only does the repetition of the hue red represent blood, but also Kevin’s violence. To add, the strikingly
clear contrast between the colours white and red may also further symbolise the
relationship between mother and son; the plain, white bread represents Eva’s past
carefree, bohemian lifestyle, but the red illustrates the devastation Kevin has
brought upon his mother as well as the destruction he has caused to others too.
In addition, violence can also be portrayed in, “I slapped him. It wasn’t very
hard. He looked happy.” This quote shows that, though it remains unclear why,
it is understandable that Kevin wants to incite violence in others. However,
when Eva strikes him, he seems content which infers this is exactly what he
planned. Therefore, the fact that blood is conveyed numerous times and (in
turn) violence, which we learn is what Kevin desires, represents male minds
under stress.

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