Study Guide

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) Manipulation

By Patrick Ness


And then one day Mayor Prentiss decided to burn all the books, every single one of them, even the ones in men's homes, cuz apparently books were detrimental as well. (2.12)

Burning books is incredibly manipulative—if you want to control people, take away their education. If people aren't educated they aren't as well equipped to think for themselves, which makes them much easier to control. Books give people ideas and imagination, which makes them individuals, rather than a controlled group.

The Church is why we're all here on New World in the first place, of course, and pretty much every Sunday you can hear Aaron preaching about why we left behind the corrupshun and sin of Old World and about how we'd aimed to start a new life of purity and brotherhood in a whole new Eden. (2.42)

It's a really manipulative move to justify your actions on religion. Aaron's lie is based in truth, because people did come from the Old World originally to start over and live a more peaceful life—but that was before Mayor Prentiss took over. He's still beating this lie into people's heads, making them feel like it's in their best interest to obey him.

Men's minds are messy places and Noise is like the active, breathing face of that mess. It's what's true and what's believed and what's imagined and what's fantasized and it says one thing and a completely opposite thing at the same time and even tho the truth is definitely in there, how can you tell what's true and what's not when you're getting everything? (4.33)

Okay. Let's just take a second and take a look at why it's probably not so difficult to take advantage of these people: The Noise has made people desperate for order—so desperate, that they'll probably do anything to find it. These people can't sort things out for themselves because they hear so many things all the time. This chaos is the perfect recipe for some bad guy to manipulate the world.

"I got lied to about everything and you can search my Noise if you want to be sure that's true." I stand, talking faster. "There wasn't sposed to be another settlement. Prentisstown was sposed to be it for the whole stupid planet. But there's the other place on the map! So maybe—" (11.27)

Poor Todd is trying to reason things out when he knows that almost everything that he has to go on is a lie. He's just told Viola that she might die from his Noise germ, but now he's backtracking. Since other stuff was a lie, maybe the story about the women dying from the germ was a lie, too. We find out later on that it sure was.

"That's how New World's always done it. It's sposed to be scriptural. Aaron always went on about it symbolizing the day you eat from the Tree of Knowledge and go from innocence into sin." (21.69)

Aaron strikes again with his lies and manipulation, making Todd's coming of age seem like this religious process where he goes from innocent to sinful. Fun fact: When coming of age involves mandatory murder, maybe the religious leaders are a little bit off their rockers.

But it's like nothing that happened before really happened, like that was all a big lie just waiting for me to find out. No, not like, it was a big lie waiting for me to find out and this is the real life now, running without safety or answer, only moving, only ever moving. (21.90)

After leaving Prentisstown, Todd's learning to live in a world without manipulation. This is tough, because most of what he thinks to be true has been made up, so he basically has to start all over again knowledge-wise. This shows how manipulative a ruler like Mayor Prentiss can be—dude's completely distorted reality for Todd.

"Join us, young Todd," he says. "The church is always open."
I'll kill you," I say, the wind stealing my words but I know he can hear me cuz I can hear every last thing he's saying.
Here's yer chance, Todd Hewitt, to eat from the Tree of Knowledge."
His voice is deep in my head. "Kill me" (29.70-72)

What a sick joke. Aaron is trying to manipulate Todd into committing a crime, using the people's religion to reel him in. What is supposed to be inviting and uplifting is used here for something evil and awful.

"You were the last," Ben says. "If he could make every single boy in Prentisstown a man by his own meaning, then he's God, ain't he? He's created all of us and is in complete control." (36.139)

Mayor Prentiss is trying to take over the world, and to do this, he's playing God by creating his own definition of what makes someone a man—and it just so happens to involve forcing them to commit murder. Stay classy, Mayor.

"I wouldn't've done it," I say and he scowls at the interupshun. "I wouldn't've killed anyone."
"Ah, yes, Todd Hewitt," Aaron says. "And that's why yer so very special, ain't you? The boy who can't kill." (41.81-82)

Aaron manipulates Todd by trying to twist Todd's disinterest in killing into an inability to kill—you know, like either of those is a bad thing. Tricky move, Aaron.

"Sometimes the rumor of an army is just as effective as the army itself, my boy," he says. "The terms of surrender were most favorable. One of which was clearing the streets so I could welcome you here myself." He looks back up toward the falls. "Tho I was of course expecting my son to bring you." (42.282)

Mayor Prentiss has such a strong hold on people that he can create panic simply by suggesting an army is on its way to Haven. People didn't stick around to see if this was even true, they just bounced. And yet, of course, there was no army headed for Haven. Yeah, Prentiss is a master manipulator.