Bad to the Bone: The Worst Children in Literature

by Scott Laming via abebooks

Children can be innocent, inquisitive and the embodiment of hope.   But those characteristics make for boring stories.  Sometimes authors enjoy creating a fictional child that is just plain nasty. Draco Malfoy might be a bigot and a bully, but he’s rarely dull and is a vital ingredient in the Harry Potter novels. Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would not be such a tasty read without greedy Augustus Gloop, bratty Violet Beauregarde and the spoiled Veruca Salt. 

Draco, Augustus, Violet and Veruca are actually mild-mannered compared to some of the horrible children on this list. Authors have not restrained themselves from portraying children as utterly evil. And while these books are fiction, and human evil-doing is prevalent in literature, there is something especially unnatural and disturbing when the perpetrator is a child, as if it represents the perversion of innocence itself. Be warned, some of these books have the potential to be distressing, particularly for parents. Some of the young characters in this selection abuse, torture, murder and commit demonic acts with barely a second thought. David Seltzer even gave us a youthful antichrist, Damien from The Omen.

Pinkie Brown from Brighton Rock and Frank from The Wasp Factory are two examples of how evil characters can also be portrayed as extremely complex. Skilled authors can make the reader ponder the key question of why a child has become bad to the bone, while being so young.

The 25 Worst Children in Literature

Veda from Mildred Pierce by James M. CainFrank from The Wasp Factory by Iain BanksThe Baby in Rosemary’s Baby by Ira LevinRosalind from The Woods by Tana French
Veda from Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
This daughter is the queen of blackmail and deceit.
It’s hard to describe Frank and his rituals – he’s very, very twisted.
This infamous child is every parent’s worst nightmare.
As the older sister of a murder victim, Rosalind becomes entwined in the investigation.
While not evil like some on the list, this foul-mouthed reprobate has few virtues.
Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
It wasn’t Regan’s fault that a demonic spirit possessed her.
Rhoda from The Bad Seed by William March
It’s nearly impossible for a parent to see that their child was born bad.
The 17-year-old Pinkie is a merciless thug in this classic.
Rynn is a mysterious child with an absent poet of a father and a nose for trouble.
‘Chris’ is the mean-spirited snobbish teenage girl who leads the torment of Carrie.
Leading William from All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury (Found in The Stories of Ray Bradbury)
He enacts terrible psychological punishment on classmate Margot.
Matilda from The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis
Coleridge said Matilda was “superior in wickedness to the most wicked of men.”
A boy whose twin brother is intertwined with a series of deaths in a rural community.
This grotesque, violent and hateful child is tearing a family apart.
Kevin is a sociopath who murders several classmates in a school massacre.
He epitomizes the worst aspects of human nature in this must-read.
Regina Afton from Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers Damien from The Omen by David Seltzer
Nick from Hate List by Jennifer Brown.
In order to impress his high school sweetheart, Nick goes off the rails.
After terrorizing others she is cast out of her clique to become the victim of her own bullying.
Damien from The Omen by David Seltzer
This child from hell turns out to be the antichrist.
Mary Katherine ‘Merricat’ Blackwood from We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Jacob from Before and After by Rosellen Brown
A family struggles after their teenage son murders his girlfriend.
The boys from Boy A by Jonathan Trigell
Boy A and Boy B were both convicted of murdering a young girl.
A group of children are left alone and run amok in ways you would never imagine.
She cares for her sister Constance but something is not right with this 18-year-old.

About kara

We know our letters just fine, and we know our numbers to a certain point, but books were always the realm of four-eyed poindexters with bowler hats and cravats. That’s why it pleases us so that America’s proud illiterates are finally stepping up and pushing back against the crushing tide of education that threatens to swallow us all into its gaping maw of checked facts. Champions of the Ignorantiat will not like it here.
This entry was posted in Childhood Reading. Bookmark the permalink.