March's "The Bad Seed"

I read William March’s The Bad Seed last week and am wondering how much of it is actually realistic…

Yes there’s a spoiler here. The murderer, a young girl (eight or ten), seems to have been born basically with little thought for human life. A sociopath, you could say. She has no compunction for her acts and no affection.

My debate is: Is this realistic? That is, in your opinion, if a child has had a loving environment, is this “bad seed” ingrained? Is there anything you can do about it?

The second part of the debate is, then, if it isn’t “nurture”, then is the killer in this situation to be pitied? That is, if you have no regard for others, is it your fault? Were you just born this way? Therefore, how is a child with these charactertics (like Rhoda in the book) to be treated?

i know there are other threads on the whole nurture/nature thing but this one- I think- is a little different.

Come on…NO ONE has anything to say? Not the verbose contraversial Dopers? Its been a couple of days, i’m going to bump this. If no one responds, I’ll know it was never meant to be…

Cool. I’ll have to read it. I am familiar with the movie. Great movie. As to the OP, I don’t know exactly. . .

Seems to me the question is, “Does behavior stem from inborn characteristics or environment?” My answer would be mostly environment. Sure, there might be a bit of inheritance, but I feel that most of your social skills are influenced by your environment, home life, parents especially.

Should we pity them? Well, since my opinion is that behavior is mostly influenced by the environment, then my answer to that would be no. Actually, it depends on the situation. Pity for murder, or some other crime, definitely not, because BASIC laws of society should be respected absolutely. Pity for bad manners or using the soup spoon to stir the tea, sure, they don’t know any better.

Social behaviors stem from environment more than inherited characteristics. Pity for serious socially unacceptable actions (crimes) should not be given in this instance.

I’m not an expert, but I would expect that there would have to be a seriously dysfunctional family dynamic for a small child to become a sociopathic killer. I don’t think it’s realistic. I enjoyed the movie, anyhow.

Is this the book the movie was based on? If so, I seem to recall that at the very end of the flick, they do a “curtain call” with the main characters. Once everyone bows, the mother character reaches over to the little (serial killer) girl and goes “And now, young lady…” and spanks her. I laughed. I presume, therefore that I do not sympathize with a murderous character who just can’t help herself.

But that’s just me.


I think I read about a study of prisoners’ brains and they found actual physiological differences in some psychopath-type brains. I have no scientific proof to back this up. Did anyone else see or read that info? If this is true, then I think a person can be “born” bad, but I also feel there must be some sort of combination effect in order to make a person act out.

I saw the movie also. It was pretty good as I recall. Who was the girl…someone famous, I think??

The behavior exhibited by the girl seems to me to be some dead-on sociopathic behavior. However, most sociopathic killers need a fair amount of development before they start their killing. Sexual serial killers generally don’t get started until their mid-20s. I will, however, be completely suprised if someone does not float us a real-world example. I firmly believe the world is that f–ked up a place.

Patty McCormack hasn’t really had a sterling career, according to the IMDB. Unless you count guest appearances and a steady job as a supporting actress on The Ropers.

Well, if you wanna get technical, the movie was based on the play that was based on the book…so it was somewhat watered down. The 1980’s tv remake used March’s original ending–more like the ending of “The Omen”.

Anyway, the mother discovers that her mother was a murderer and the premise is the old superstition that “these things skip a generation”…so, yes, the girl was born bad.

“The Good Son” (written by Ian McEwen) is another creepy entry in the genre

Perhaps it doesn’t skip a generation. After all, the mother is a murderer. Or an attempted one…she tries to take Rhoda’s life.

I did find the book disturbing- I guess the idea that someone can just be “born bad” isn’t too appealing. From what I know of serial killers, they’ve had traumatic childhoods, etc.

Though part of the book did seem realistic. That is, I’ve heard of killers starting small- torturing/killing animals before moving on to killing people. Still it seems hard to believe that a serial killer gene skips every generation- and that it is an innate, unchangable quality.