Study Guide

We Need to Talk About Kevin Manipulation

By Lionel Shriver


While no one uses the word "sociopath" to describe Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin, he fits the profile. He's got few, if any, real friends. He lies and cheats. He's got a complete lack of guilt and empathy. He's a master of deception and manipulation (source). We'd recommend Martha Stout's book The Sociopath Next Door to Eva—except for the fact that Kevin isn't next door… he's inside her own house.

Questions About Manipulation

  1. What are Kevin's most effective tactics for manipulating people? Does he use the same tricks on everyone, or does he know how to get certain people to do what he wants?
  2. Did Kevin learn any of his manipulative behaviors from either of his parents?
  3. Do Eva and Franklin manipulate each other in any way? Do they know they're doing it, or does it happen subconsciously?

Chew on This

Kevin is a born manipulator. He manipulates Eva from the second he is born, all the way until his eighteenth birthday, when he convinces her to forgive him.

The only person Kevin's manipulations don't work on is his English teacher. A good teacher, who has a bit of distance from the situation, is able to see right through him.