A Survey of Evil Children in Literature

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We all know adults can be evil, but in the modern era we are still under the impression that children are born good. Which is why it scares the bejesus out of us to imagine a reality where wicked children reign. The youth below range from the ambiguously bad (e.g., Miles in Turn of the Screw) to the Antichrist (e.g., Damien in The Omen), with eight other stories in between. Is there any bad seed we missed, dear readers? Let us know in the comments section below.

Veda from Mildred Pierce by James Cain

This 1941 hard-boiled novel is set during the Great Depression and involves a working mother willing to do anything for her prissy eldest daughter, Veda, who displays open contempt for anyone she deems “provincial.” The girl is spoiled rotten, and she’s ready and willing to do what it takes to promote her singing career, even if it means becoming a W-H-O-R-E. Mildred Pierce serves as a cautionary tale for helicopter mothers.

Jack from Lord of the Flies by William Golding

In this 1954 debut novel by William Golding, a group of British schoolboys rule by tyranny while stuck on a deserted island after their plane crashes. As the only survivors, the boys take matters into their own hands, and eventually Jack goes off the rails and gets really into face painting before the hunts. Glasses are stolen, a pig is slaughtered, and a boy is eventually crushed by a boulder. See what happens when children are left to their own devices?

Damien from The Omen by David Seltzer

What happens when you adopt a baby of unknown origins? You run the risk of the child being the Antichrist. One nanny hangs herself and the other challenges the authority of the parents; all the while, Damien is being followed by a sinister black dog which will not leave the family alone. Eventually, the son of the Devil becomes a CEO and friends of the President, proving that people in power really are Satan’s handmaidens. Seltzer’s 1976 novel/film continues to serve as a powerful lesson against adoption and the hiring of uppity nannies.

Patrick from IT by Stephen King

Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel stars a murderous, child-eating clown, and although there is a gang of boys who are inveterate bullies, Patrick Hockstetter stands out as the true sociopath. The teenager killed his baby brother, and even trapped a number of animals in a refrigerator for kicks. Oh, and he’s also gay. The homosexual agenda is revealed!

Miles from Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This 1898 novella features a charming young boy named Miles, whose expulsion from boarding school is never questioned by his meek governess. The issue is that Miles and his sister, Flora, see ghosts, though the governess cannot discern whether their reaction is of “jubilation or terror.”

Veruca from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Rich children can be very spoiled, evil little things. Case in point: Veruca Salt. The English mink-wearing brat is treated like a princess, although she has serious temper tantrums when she doesn’t immediately get what she wants and browbeats her father into abusing the already overworked employees in his factory. Oddly enough, David Seltzer, the writer of The Omen, reportedly helped write part of the screenplay of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Nellie from Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

You may not think at first that anyone in Little House on the Prairie was evil, but we can assure you that Nellie Oleson Dalton was a very bad seed. This wealthy blonde bully lords her position as a member of the nouveau riche over her peers, even though her parents really only own a store in town, which is not that big of a deal.

Rhoda The Bad Seed by William March

This disturbing novel about an eight-year-old budding serial killer was nominated for the 1955 National Book Award, but some guy named William Faulkner won instead. Ah well. Rhoda, the little girl in question, lacks remorse for her deeds, though, like many sociopaths, she is able to successful charm adults while instilling fear in children.

Ben from The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

Ben was a difficult, unplanned pregnancy, and is born covered in hair. His murderous impulses threaten children and small animals around him, and eventually his family decides to place him in an institution. After some time, he is brought back home, but is unable to adapt to life within this previously happy family.

Niles from The Other by Thomas Tryon

This novel is set in the 1930s and involves identical twin brothers, Niles and Holland Perry, who grow up on the family farm and involve themselves in various acts of mischief until a fateful day when their secret ring is discovered. Niles shows that he is capable of terrible acts of violence as he plays the role of an impostor.