Journal Article

A Natural Little Girl: Reproduction and Naturalism in <i>The Bad Seed</i> as Novel, Play, and Film

Perin Gurel

in Adaptation

Volume 3, issue 2, pages 132-154
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 1755-0637
Published online June 2010 | e-ISSN: 1755-0645 | DOI:
A Natural Little Girl: Reproduction and Naturalism in The Bad Seed as Novel, Play, and Film

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In April 1954, William March's The Bad Seed, a novel about a dysgenic child murderer named Rhoda, was published and became an instant bestseller. The same year, Maxwell Anderson's play version hit Broadway to high acclaim, and, in 1956, Warner Brothers released a popular film adaptation. This article studies the text and reception of The Bad Seed as it is transferred and transformed through these media (that of the naturalist novel, Broadway play, and controversial Hollywood movie) with a critical focus on stylistic naturalism, sex, and reproduction. It contrasts March's insistence on realism and naturalism, exemplified by his incorporation of real-life stories within the fictional work, with Anderson's and Warner Brothers’ de-naturalizing alterations. Through textual and historical analysis, with special focus on the public discussions generated by the texts, this article serves as a case study of multiple adaptations and how they were influenced by underlying anxieties about pronatalism and heredity in early postwar culture.

Keywords: The Bad Seed; novel; play; horror film; reproduction; heredity

Journal Article.  11963 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film ; Television ; Literature

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