A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Kirsten Character Analysis

Dave Eggers’s college girlfriend. After several months of dating, Eggers and Kirsten still feel “tentative” about the relationship, but then Kirsten comes home with Eggers for a visit and he tells her that his mother is terminally ill. She responds by telling him that her mother has a brain tumor. Because her father hasn’t been in her life since she was fourteen, this means that Kirsten, like Eggers, is on the brink of becoming an adult orphan. This common experience endears both them to each other, and their relationship takes on a new intensity. When Eggers, Beth, and Toph move to the west coast, Kirsten comes too because she has always wanted to live in California. Living for the summer in the same sublet as Eggers, she works and refuses financial help from anyone. The stress of making enough money eventually wears on her relationship with Eggers, so when they’re all required to leave the sublet, she and Eggers decide not to live together. From then on, they have an on-again-off-again relationship until, finally, they break up a year later.
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Kirsten Character Timeline in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The timeline below shows where the character Kirsten appears in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
...he lies, saying things are fine even though he has actually been dropping classes. “How’s Kirsten?” she asks, referring to his girlfriend. “She’s good,” he says, and even though he’s engaged... (full context)
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
After the guests left Eggers’s house in the aftermath of his father’s funeral, he and Kirsten snuck off to his parents’ bathroom to have sex. The house was full of people,... (full context)
Chapter 2
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Eggers and Toph live with Kirsten, Beth, and Beth’s friend in a sublet overlooking the Bay. Their lease only extends until... (full context)
Self-Consciousness and Meta-Narration Theme Icon
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...begin to snip and snap and complain.” This tension makes its way into Eggers and Kirsten’s relationship, especially because Kirsten—who doesn’t, like Eggers, have money from selling a house—refuses to let... (full context)
Chapter 3
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...they won’t be able to live anywhere as glamorous as the sublet. Because he and Kirsten need time apart and neither he nor Beth want to live together anymore, he’s on... (full context)
Chapter 6
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Guilt and Poetic License Theme Icon
...wanted to tell her that what they’d done was a mistake because he was dating Kirsten, but when they got to his house he saw his mother through the window. Not... (full context)
Chapter 7
Identity Theme Icon
...tell who is who (the pictures are from the neck down). Eggers discovers that even Kirsten, who volunteered to take part in the semi-nude shoot (they decided it’d be easier to... (full context)
Chapter 8
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
By this point, Eggers and Kirsten have been in an on-again, off-again relationship for a year and a half, but now... (full context)
Chapter 11
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Most of Eggers’s friends have moved away. Moodie has gone to New York, as have Kirsten and Zev. And now Eggers and Toph are going, too, “because going to work every... (full context)