“So do yourself a favor and learn how to grab life by the balls, dear. Don’t be so tied up in trying to do the right thing when the smart thing is so painfully clear.”

This quote from Evelyn to Monique takes place in Chapter 3 as Evelyn tries to convince Monique to cut out Vivant and become Evelyn’s biographer. In the beginning of their relationship, Monique is perhaps just as ambitious as Evelyn was when she was younger. However, Monique is held back by self-doubt and concern about how her actions will affect other people. While refusing the offer Evelyn’s offer may be morally superior, it would be deeply detrimental to Monique’s burgeoning career, given that Evelyn’s biography will garner its author both millions of dollars and significant prestige. Throughout their conversations, Evelyn encourages Monique in this direction again and again. She prods her into prioritizing her own power and ambition over considerations for others. This prickly encouragement works on Monique, and by the end of their working relationship, Monique has secured both a promotion and a book deal. She has also developed a more complex and flexible definition of right and wrong.

“If we are going by the metric that all’s well that ends well, then I guess it’s safe to say that I’m not sorry.”

This quote appears at the end of Chapter 6. This is after Evelyn describes how, at the urging of her studio, she divorced Ernie as soon as she became famous. She justifies her selfish actions by saying that Ernie got a payout from the studio that he used for a down payment on a house. This implies that Evelyn believes that financial compensation or material gains can offset any emotional turmoil that she caused Ernie or the other men that she used throughout her rise to stardom. This is in line with Evelyn’s own experiences of being used sexually and romantically; she often justifies her own degradation and abuse by focusing on how her interactions with bad men benefited her professionally. The question of regret and apology comes up often for Evelyn, and she repeatedly makes it clear that she’s not sorry for her actions. She escapes regret throughout her life by focusing on the material or professional outcomes of her actions rather than their moral implications. The one exception is how her actions impact her family, especially Celia, and the time they lost together because of her often-selfish priorities.

“That's just awful, Evelyn. And walking around bragging about how you use people? Just terrible. But I really like it when you talk about it. I like how honest you are, how unashamed. So many women around here are full of crap with everything they say and do. I like that you're full of crap only when it gets you something.”

This quote takes place during Evelyn and Celia’s first time hanging out on a break from shooting Little Women in Chapter 15. Evelyn has just bragged about using people to get what she wants, and Celia both criticizes Evelyn and admires her for how unapologetic Evelyn is about her immorality. Celia also directly connects Evelyn’s immoral choices with her drive to succeed, and she admires how savvy she is. In a sense, Celia and Evelyn both lean into their natural talents: while Celia rises to fame due to the power of her acting ability, Evelyn perfects her skill at reading people, allowing her to identify their desires and weakness and capitalize on them. Evelyn lacks Celia’s acting talent, but she more than makes up for it by manipulating nearly everyone around her to achieve the same success.