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Kids Are Cruel / Literature

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  • Oh God, Stephen King, what sadistic schoolkids inspired you to make such cruel children in your novels?
    • Possibly the worst example is in It, where the main bully, Henry Bowers, is sadistic, and has sexually harassed and threatened his classmates. He even goes as far as to molest Beverly and attempt to carve his name into Ben's stomach.
    • Patrick Hofstadter. The child is quite literally The Sociopath—he has a refrigerator in a junkyard where he locks up small animals and measures how long it takes for them to painfully suffocate; he's a confirmed solipsistic, meaning he believes that he's the only person in reality who actually exists; and when his baby brother was born, he became so upset that someone else might be real that he murdered the infant in cold blood. His death by the hands of the titular Eldritch Abomination is horrifyingly gruesome (he's sucked dry by winged leeches), but somehow satisfying as well.
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    • Stephen King's Carrie was picked on since childhood, literally outcast by her entire school, but it wasn't until she reached her teenage years that everything came to a head and she snapped and went on a rampage. No one except her crazy religious fanatic mother (who was herself abusive to her) knew about her telekinetic powers until it was too late.
  • "Please Stop Laughing at Me" by Jodee Blanco is a slightly fictionalized memoir of her childhood, which was full of utter sadists who threw her in the toilet, pelted her with rocks, and made her life a living hell. And that was just before High School.
  • Louis in the Charlie Parker Series is a Straight Gay hardened assassin who strikes fear into the heart of all who cross him and takes no shit from anyone. His backstory shows him as the victims of playground bullies, kids calling him "fag" and refusing to include him for no discernible reason besides pure dickishness.
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  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Carmelita Spats and her groups of friends in the book "Austere Academy" played this trope to the hilt around the Quagmires and the Baudelaires especially. Unfortunately for the Baudelaires Carmelita returns later on in the series to torment them further.
  • In the short story "Simon's Papa", the other boys mock Simon about not having a father, ultimately beating him and taunting him to tell his nonexistent father about it. Guy de Maupassant compares it to a group of chickens killing one of their own that has been wounded. They continue mocking him after he "adopts" Phillip as a replacement. However, Phillip proposing to Simon's mother and taking Simon under his protection silences the taunting.
  • A Little Princess: After Sara loses her money, Rich Bitch Lavinia wastes no time in treating her like she's less than trash.
  • Discworld:
    • Hogfather was largely built on this trope. A recurring line is that there's nothing nicer than the laughter of children at play, providing you're far enough away that you can't hear what they're laughing about.
    • In The Last Continent, Ponder Stibbons was bullied a lot before his magical talents made themselves felt.
    • In Jingo, Carrot organizes a football match between some hardened youth of Ankh-Morpork, who are mentioned as not having enough chewing gum to share with everyone, but definitely having enough weapons. It's Carrot's natural charisma that gets them to play non-violently, as normally they wouldn't want anything to do with the Watch and would probably attack anyone else who tried to get them to play footy or do singalongs.
  • This happens a fair old bit in Harry Potter, as well:
    • James Potter was a Jerk Jock bully, growing out of it only when he was out of his teens.
      • More specifically, he "deflated his head a bit" eventually and stopped hexing other students for fun. Severus Snape, however, was a "special case" whom he targeted his entire time at Hogwarts.
    • Snape's childhood is the epitome of this trope, since only Harry's mother seemed to treat him like a human. To elaborate, Petunia Evans mocked him for being poorly dressed and living in a poor neighborhood. He met James Potter and Sirius Black on his first train ride to Hogwarts. Both boys taunted Severus and gave him the nickname "Snivellus" for telling his friend Lily Evans that they should get sorted into Slytherin. Severus was bullied by James and Sirius relentlessly on a regular basis for his entire time at Hogwarts. The feud led to an attempt on his life he believed all of the Marauders plotted. Another incident consisted of being disarmed, tripped up, choked with soap with Scourgify, and having his trousers forced off of him while being lifted upside down courtesy of James Potter. In front of his peers who all found this hilarious. All except Lily Evans.
    • Severus Snape has a few moments himself as a boy, averting Incorruptible Pure Pureness. There was an incident of a tree branch falling on Petunia Evans after the latter mocked him which may or may not have been accidental magic on his part. He associated with some pretty nasty characters in Slytherin House who bullied other students but there's little to no proof that he participated in any of the bullying himself. One incident Lily Evans told him about was his associates doing something to a Gryffindor girl that Severus handwaved a "just a laugh" and no different than what the Maruaders did to anyone, as James and Sirius explicitly do it for fun. There was also his angry outburst of "filthy little mudblood" about Lily Evans. Granted, it was said in a moment of severe emotional distress and humiliation courtesy of the James and Sirius but it was clear that he had internalized some anti-Muggle and anti-Muggleborn sentiments his house was known for and started as early as childhood. He wouldn't really overcome such beliefs until he became an adult.
    • Dudley Dursley, at least at the beginning of the series.
    • Voldemort was this when he was a kid. He tormented the other orphans by forcing a bunny to hang itself and scaring two orphans by taking them to the cave that he later leaves a Horcrux in.
    • The Slytherins that Harry learns with can be considered this. They enjoy bullying anyone whom they think aren't worthy, including all the Weasleys, Harry, every Muggle-born, Neville, and all the Gryffindors. No wonder Harry finds them to be evil.
  • Chronicles of Narnia:
    • Edmund Pevensie constantly bullies his younger sister, Lucy, whenever he gets the chance and, in the movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, his malevolent smiles clearly show that he enjoys doing it. Not to mention that he even goes after her in the dark wardrobe, just to scare her... Which raised his Memetic Molester status, along with the scene in the third movie where he tries to convince her to gain power along with him. Then, when Lucy hopes he will back her up and tell their older siblings that he has been in Narnia, too, Edmund purposely lies, making her cry, and later still, he betrays his siblings by joining the White Witch because she promised to make him heir to her throne. Fortunately, after he faces the Witch's cruelty first-hand, he undergoes a Heel–Face Turn and is a better person throughout the rest of the series.
    • Though not major characters, the school bullies in The Silver Chair, have been tormenting Jill in unspecified ways at the beginning of the book, and whose approach is what drives Eustace and Jill to blunder in a blind panic of terror into Narnia. There's a whole author aside about how horrible the kids are at their school, which is called Experiment House, and how the adults do nothing to control them. It's pretty satisfying when in the end Jill and Eustace beat the crap out of all the bullies, with Aslan's blessing.
    • Eustace was cruel to Lucy and Edmund at the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. As the book says, "There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
  • This is a big part of the message of Lord of the Flies. Of course, all Humans Are Bastards.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar novels:
    • In Brightly Burning, a troop of school bullies torment a boy who has the ability to start fires with his mind. Needless to say, it ends badly for them (and leaves the Firestarter wracked with guilt for some time afterward). Not an example of Bullying a Dragon, since no one knew he had the ability until it manifested when they pushed him over the edge.
    • Partially justified in Arrows of the Queen where Talia Sensdaughter was involved. Yes a lot of the highborn kids outside of the Heraldic Trainees were displeased by some puny farmgirl from the borderlands receiving some of the best education in the kingdom at the Collegium, and some of that could have been due to her being groomed to be the second most powerful person in Valdemar; but there was also an actual conspiracy reaching the highest levels of court that wanted the incoming Monarch's Own Herald driven off, driven mad, or just plain dead.
  • In Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio, Pinocchio is a little hellion who runs around getting into all sorts of trouble before he learns how to behave himself and Become a Real Boy. Contrast with his depiction as a well-meaning but naive and easily-led Cheerful Child in Walt Disney's Pinocchio... And that's not even getting closer to Pinocchio's classmates.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club:
    • The classmates of the baby-sitting charges (especially Charlotte's classmates), though this is existent in the BSC's classmates as well, especially in Mallory and Jessi's sixth grade class.
    • Some of the charges have this too — though mostly they're of the prank-playing kind. One of Claudia's charges once played a prank where she didn't tell Claudia that the chain of a swing was broken, thinking it'd just break under Claudia's weight when she sat on it. Instead, it held, the kid forgot to warn her, and the chain finally broke mid-swing, leading to Claudia breaking her leg so severely, she had to stay in the hospital with the leg in traction. The rest of the book switched between Claudia recovering and the club joining forces with some of their other charges to get the kid to stop playing pranks.
  • A small part of The Subtle Knife discusses this: The protagonist's actions inadvertently cause the older brother of two kids from Cittágazze to be caught by the Specters. A few moments later, a big group of kids, many of them armed try to kill them. After they are rescued, Lyra is astonished at how kids are capable of doing such things. Will replies he already knew, due to having to deal with kid's reactions to his mentally ill mother.
    • Lyra herself, though, had plenty of expose to kids being cruel before the start of the book, not as a victim, but as a leader. The beginning of The Golden Compass details some of the things children do in Oxford. It gave a simplified version of the systems of often very short alliances, as well as rivalries, and explained that kids from different colleges would attack each other, or gang up on kids from the town or the bricklayers' children. They have fist fights and throw stuff at each other, up to and including bricks, shove the bricklayers' kids viciously in the mud (that description was rather detailed), and tried to sink the a Gyptian boat. Lyra and the rest of the kids, of course, viewed it as a game, and the violence was mutual. It still sounded very vicious and far from innocent.
  • Played with in Ender's Game. Ender is picked on at his first school by the other kids for being so smart, and so small, and later for similar reasons at the Battle School, in a straight use of the trope. He shrugs it off. However, when his personal safety is threatened, he turns the tables on the bullies and Ends the threat. Permanently, by killing the bullies.
  • All Summer In A Day, the short story by Ray Bradbury involves a kid being locked in a janitorial closet on an extremely rare sunny day on another planet simply because she originally came from earth and claimed to have seen things like the sun and flowers before.
  • Eloise McGraw's The Moorchild. The other children pick on Saaski because she's different, and their teasing often turns violent and she ends up injured. When a prank could have turned deadly (an older, stronger boy tries to push her in a deep pond), nobody helps her. The children's parents deliberately look the other way, and when they stop, things get even worse for Saaski.
  • Robert Arryn and especially Joffrey Baratheon in A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • Blubber by Judy Blume. Even the main character partakes in the bullying of an overweight loner. When she gets bullied herself, it's no longer a laughing manner. Parents have been known to complain that no one gets punished at the end.
  • This is the driving theme of Margaret Atwood's novel Cat's Eye: the protagonist suffered severe and permanent psychological damage, including tendencies to self-harm, from being cruelly bullied as a child, and her later career as a painter reflects the pain from this period of her life. She's also depicted as terrified that her daughters will suffer similar abuse, or torment others, at that age.
    • Atwood depicts a similar history a little more lightheartedly in Lady Oracle, where a casual social encounter as an adult with a woman who used to bully her when they were both children (and now doesn't remember it at all) drives the protagonist, Joan, to retreat to a restroom and cry.
    Little girls are small and cute only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.
  • White Fang has Puppies Are Vicious. The "puppy pack" gangs up on the protagonist, making him grow up to be a cunning and brutal fighter.
  • Pick a V. C. Andrews novel. Any V. C. Andrews novel. (Though yes, most of the books actually have Teens Are Monsters, a fair number of them have much younger bullies as well...special mention goes to young, frail Carrie's classmates, whose merciless bullying (even locking her out on the roof of the school once) played a part in her being Driven to Suicide.)
  • In Under the Dome, Julia tells a story from her childhood about how a gang of girls beat her up and stole her pants. Near the end of the novel, it's revealed that the Dome is the product of Eldritch Abomination "children" torturing the town in the same manner and attitude that kids torture insects.
  • Protagonists Emmeline and Adeline in The Thirteenth Tale have zero empathy for other people and casually destroy things and endanger infants.
  • In Inheritance, the final book in the Inheritance Cycle, Galbatorix has a couple of children kidnapped, and states to the heroes that he's never believed that children are innocent, just that they usually lack the means to act on their cruel urges. He then tells them that if they believe that children are innocent and consider themselves virtuous, that he'll kill the children if they choose to act against him.
  • Subverted in the children's book Angel Child, Dragon Child. Ut's family moves from Vietnam to America, and on her first day of school, she and her sisters are taunted by the other children. Finally, Ut snaps and gets into a fight with a boy named Raymond, and the principal makes them sit down and talk. Eventually, Raymond understands Ut's problem — that her mother wasn't able to come to America with them — and he and the other children organize a fair to raise the money needed to bring Ut's mother to her family's new home.
  • Taken to an art form in Jerry Spinelli's Wringer. Beans is nine when the book starts and he's a borderline sociopath. Mutto's just as nasty, and even the protagonist Palmer can be cruel if coerced into it.
  • In "The Echo" by J. Nagibin, local kids decide to bully the girl just because she was Skinny Dipping.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Brokenstar had been revealed to be picked on by Runningnose and his siblings (who enjoyed taunting him about his mysterious mother) and they called him "badger-stinky". They keep this up until Yellowfang finally yells at these kits to stop picking on him. They try it again (except Runningnose, who learned his lesson), but they end up being pushed back by Brokenkit.
    • Socks and Ruby did this to Scourge (once named Tiny), believing he was too weak to fend for himself. Karma catches up with them when their Twoleg owners abandon them and Scourge refuses to take them into BloodClan.
  • In the first book of his autobiography, Marcel Pagnol says "I think that man is cruel by nature. Children prove it everyday."
  • Some of the career kids in The Hunger Games clearly take pleasure in the Games and it's implied that the careers in the 74th Games torture one of the other tributes. At first they are just presented as cruel but by and by the story begins to discuss whether they are cruel by nature or if they have been conditioned to behave that way.
  • Peter Pan: It's a running theme that children, and Peter especially, are capable of doing selfish and cruel things because they lack understanding of the world and other people. A recurring description of children, and Peter especially, which ends up being the closing words of the novel, is that they are "gay and innocent and heartless."
  • This seems to be the main point of Sergey Lukyanenko's novel The Knights Of Forty Islands, where teens are kidnapped and placed on small islands connected by bridges (each island is connected to three others). They find out that whichever island manages to conquer all others gets to go home. It's not much of a surprise to learn that The Cake Is a Lie, all the kids are copies of the originals; the aliens never intend to release them. Each island has about half-a-dozen kids (both male and female), and battles normally take place on these narrow bridges using wooden swords that turn to metal with fueled by anger. The protagonist comes up with a plan to create an Alliance of several islands that either gets other islands to join or conquers them. However, the Alliance falls apart due to this trope. In fact, this isn't the first time such a scheme failed. The author planned to write a sequel, but got sidetracked, only having written one chapter.
    • In another of Lukyanenko's novels, Line of Delirium, much of the protagonist Kay Dutch's childhood passed in a large foster home for refugee children from the Shedar colonies, whose parents stayed behind to fight and were killed either by the Sakkra or by The Empire bombarding the planets with meson bombs. A clerical error caused Kay to be placed in the orphanage for the wrong planet, which had a long feud with his own. While the adults forgot the old grudges in time of need, the kids retained the hatred taught to them by their parents, and Kay was mercilessly abused, bullied, and raped by the others simply for being from the wrong planet. Eventually, he ran away and slit the throats of the worst of his abusers.
  • Although most of it has already happened off-screen, and Yil is far more willing to stand up for himself then most examples, the bullies in Tough Magic are occasionally shown being quite cruel, and it's implied that the best that can be said for most Yil's classmates is that they don't go out of their way to bother him; on the other hand, none are friendly with him either.
  • The Parson's kids in 1984 are horrible little hellions who attack Winston with a catapult, accuse him of being a traitor and a thought-criminal, and say they want to shoot him, vaporise him or sent him off the salt mines. Mrs. Parsons claims that the kids are in a bad mood because they couldn't go to watch a criminal being hanged. Winston muses that their children will have Mr and Mrs Parsons killed off one day, and sure enough, they end up turning in Mr Parsons to the Thought-Police because they overheard him mutter "Down with Big Brother" in his sleep, although it's implied he never said such a thing and the children are lying.
  • Happens a lot in Pact, including several practitioner families sending their children as Child Soldiers against their enemies, since kids don't ask as many questions. Blake Thorburn even invokes the trope when he explains that he doesn't blame the children that have tried to attack him-he thinks of them as too young to make good decisions on the matter. Instead, he blames the adults that send them after him.
  • Carnessian and Flint demonstrate this in Eludoran, through excessively graphic ways.
  • Downplayed in Sherlock Holmes, where Watson notes that a client was a former schoolmate of his with important family connections. Being kids, the titles didn't impress them.
    This gaudy relationship did him little good at school; on the contrary, it seemed rather a piquant thing to us to chevy him about on the playground and hit him over the shins with a wicket.
  • The Red Knight from The Traitor Son Cycle used to be bullied by his brothers as a kid, which culminated in them killing his favourite tutor and the Knight himself running away from home. Played with in that it was their mother who set them upon him as a way to make him hate humanity in general.
  • The Wonderful Adventures of Nils: The teenager hero abuses farm animals in the beginning.
  • Fish in a Tree: Albert is beaten up frequently by a group of kids, but refuses to fight back because he refuses to "stoop to their level" as he says. When those kids start beating up his friends, however, he drops this view and finally stands up to them.
  • Goofus and Gallant: Goofus can be this at his worst. One example has him throwing stones at birds.


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