Study Guide

Chinatown Manipulation

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There's a lot of manipulation going on in this movie.

Noah hires Ida Sessions to trick Jake into setting Hollis up for adultery, which leads to Hollis's murder looking like a suicide. This, of course, helps cover up Noah's ultimate manipulation—his attempt to steal water in the middle of a drought.

Noah and his henchmen at the water department act like they have the purest of motives: they want to build a dam to bring more water to the city. In reality, the dam will just help divert water to Noah's land.

Questions About Manipulation

  1. How does Evelyn manipulate Jake? Why doesn't she want him to know the truth about her until nearly the end of the movie? Is she just embarrassed or ashamed? Or is there more to it than that?
  2. Are there any positive examples of manipulation in this movie? Think about things Jake does.
  3. Can you think of people in real life who say things that sound totally honest and decent—like Yelburton and May Bagby—but actually use those statements to mask corruption and evil? Explain.

Chew on This

If you want to survive in the political or business world, like Noah Cross, you need to manipulate people. If you don't play hardball, you can wind up dead like Hollis Mulwray.

Ultimately, manipulative, Machiavellian tactics are self-defeating. Sure, Noah got away with a lot of bad things, but think about the loose ends he's left open. For one thing, Jake's still alive and he knows the whole truth. Plus, the police have some of the clues—they know who Ida Sessions is, for instance. So, maybe, in the end, something will undermine him?

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