by Lionel Shriver
This Orange Prize winning novel is the most recent book I have read presenting the nature vs nurture question of human behavior. Can a person actually be born evil? Or is the influence of a mother’s love, or lack of, the reason for a child’s behavior? Kevin seems to have been born a rebel without a cause. There was always something “off” about him. Why he commits a Columbine-style shooting is unclear. His mother, Eva wonders about her guilt in relation to this crime. Shriver has readers wondering the same thing about Kevin and perhaps their own children!
King has written a number of nasty characters and a few of them are children. Ace in The Bodycomes to mind (but he isn’t the main character of the novel so I won’t write about him here). In Apt Pupil Todd discovers that his elderly neighbour, Arthur Denker, is not who he claims to be. Denker is really the wanted Nazi war criminal, Kurt Dussander. But instead of claiming a reward for turning Dussander in, Todd wants something far more sinister. He demands to hear very detailed stories about Dussanders crimes. As result of these meetings both characters start committing their own murders. I guess “like attracts like”.
by Doris Lessing
Ben was the result of an unplanned and difficult pregnancy. At birth he was covered in hair. He has murderous impulses to threaten and harm children and animals. His family finally institutionalizes him, for their own and the community’s safety. When he is finally released, he is unable to adapt to the outside world. The story is continued in Ben in the World.
by Thomas Tryon
Set in the 1930’s, identical twin brother grow up on the family farm. They commit various acts of mischief until a fateful day when they are discovered. Niles shows he is capable of terrible acts of violence.
by William Golding
This Nobel Prize-winning author’s debut novel was published in 1954. A group of school boys (all under the age of 13) are in a plane crash on a deserted island. As the only survivors, they take matters in their own hands. The results are disastrous. One of the boys, Jack, really goes bonkers, representing the worse side of human nature. In the beginning there are rules, but the organization soon breaks down. Glasses are stolen, a pig is slaughtered, children are tortured, and a murder is committed. Bullying rules the day when children are left alone and Jack leads the charge.
by William March
Nominated for the 1955 National Book Award and has been adapted into a movie and a Broadway Drama. March writes a disturbing novel about an eight year old budding serial killer. Rhoda has no remorse for her evil deeds. Like many sociopaths, she is charming on the surface level but she installs fear in children. It presents a debate about Nature vs. Nurture to the reader. Rhoda’s grandmother was a serial killer, but Rhoda grew up with everything that a child needs. So, is she just born that way?!