“If you know what you’re doing, you can incapacitate a man with minimal effort. You can control someone’s whole body with two fingers. It’s about knowing where the weak points are, and how to exploit them.”

From their youngest years, Shawn is proven to possess a vicious side, one that only grows with time—after his many accidents, and as he continues to have more relationships with women, allowing him the opportunity to exert control over them. Here, as Shawn tries teaching Tara martial arts, he exhibits similarities to Gene, using fear and violence but cloaking them in expressions of concern for Tara, as if he has her best interests at heart. All the while, however, his actions exude menace and the threat of retaliation.

“I see you for what you are.” His eyes were wild. “You pretend to be saintly and churchish. But I see you. I see how you prance around with Charles like a prostitute.”

Shawn’s unhinged fury increases the more he perceives Tara to be moving outside of his control. He lashes out violently to her, in the presence of Faye, accusing his sister of being a whore and refusing to let her go until she admits it herself. Shawn’s accusations are irrational, inappropriate, and entirely without merit, as Tara’s shame (directly a result of the attitude expressed by Shawn) has largely prevented her from being affectionate with Charles. Furthermore, Tyler comes home during this episode, and Tara realizes just how much work they’ve done to hide Shawn’s escalating behavior from anyone not at home.

“You’re as smart as Dad. If Dad’s right, you’ll know when you get there.”

Here Shawn demonstrates that he’s capable of recognizing Tara’s intelligence. Comparing her to Gene, however, indicates that Gene is in his view the utmost authority, and that his is the level of intellect to which the rest of the family can only aspire. Shawn may show Tara encouragement amidst her fears about taking the ACT, but it is a deeply backhanded compliment, laced with menace and the idea that she might be making a huge mistake.

“I’d put a bullet in her head,” Shawn said, and I felt his body shift toward me. “But I don’t want to waste a good bullet on a worthless bitch.”

One of the most horrifying sentiments Shawn articulates in the memoir, this quote conveys all the violence and misogyny of which he has shown time and time again to be capable. The words are ominous, because Tara and the reader both know Shawn is not merely putting on an act; he may very well want to see Audrey dead.