Femme Fatale Fridays: Rhoda Penmark

May 21, 2010 Whitney Meme 19 Comments

“A Femme Fatale, translating to “Deadly Woman” in french, is an alluring, seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire. Often this leads them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.” ~ Wikipedia

 I first discovered this class of women from 1930s and 40s film noir several years ago and was seduced by their charm and cunning minds.  I then began to see them popping up in novels I read, even my favorites like Gone with the Wind and Wuthering Heights.  This new weekly post is to highlight/celebrate/condemn these sultry and conniving ladies in literature.

My  first in this series is Rhoda Penmark, a Fatale in the making from William March’s novel The Bad Seed


Claude Daigle, an eight year old boy, son to surviving parents Dwight and Hortense Daigle.  During the Fern Grammar School Picnic drowned in the near by river, falling off of the peer.  Claude was a sweet boy who loved his parents dearly and had just recently won the school penmanship metal.


40 year old Leroy Jessup,   had been a longtime employee of Monica Breedlove, doing handyman jobs at Miss Breedlove’s town apartments.  Mr. Jessup died suddenly from an accidental fire in a bed of excelsior.

These deaths were not accidental but the calculated work of a child.  Rhoda Penmark.  This Femme Fatale is an eight year old who seems wise beyond her years and comes off as the the perfect child, always wearing dresses and her hair in pigtails. Children always know how to behave in public and so does Rhoda Penmark. Playing the smarmy, cutesy cutesy girl to a T, having everyone in her presence eating out of the palm of her hand.  Everyone that is except her mother.  Parents always know their children’s behavior problems right?  Christine Penmark falls victim to this behavior making her crazed and irrational, slowly discovering her daughter’s true character, yet Rhoda’s evilness still conquers all.


19 responses to “Femme Fatale Fridays: Rhoda Penmark

  1. I've seen the movie a couple of times (I hate that cutesy add-on ending as the credits roll) but have never read the book. I received a copy of it a couple of years ago on Bookmooch when a trader threw it in the package as an extra treat.

    Looking forward to the next installment of Femmes Fatale!

  2. The book is better, especially if you dislike the ending of the movie. The novel is much much creepier.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed Femme Fatale Fridays!

  3. Thanks Felicia! I really like Rhoda/The Bad Seed because it questions the root of all evil. Was Rhoda bad because of environmental circumstances or was it just in her DNA?

  4. And really that is the root of the question. I haven't read that particular one but I have an addiction to Investigation Discovery channel. That is truly something that comes up anytime a show focusing on truly evil people comes up. The science is inconclusive but I think sometimes it just might be a born that way type of thing!

  5. Thank you so much Juju, that means a lot! Even more so because I value your outlook as well. And all these years I thought my taste was obscure…

  6. This movie scared the heck out of me when I 1st saw it. I was 13 and burst into tears when it was over. But now I look back on it as a really intriguing movie. I think I should watch it again, but first pick up the book version.

  7. The book has a completely different, and I thought better ending than the '56 movie. I would recommend reading the novel first before rewatching the adaptation.

  8. I hadn't heard of this one. When I think of femme fatale I always think of movies and people like Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. I'm going to start paying more attention to the books I read. Looking forward to your next post.

  9. amcatoir– Barbara Stanwyck is the perfect example of a femme fatale in Hollywood. I think her role as Phyllis Dietrichson actually introduced me to the genre.

    Leanna– Phyllis Dietrichson is wonderful, she still catches me by surprise every time I read/watch Double Indemnity.

  10. Avid Reader– The book is great, I hope you enjoy it!

    Kathrine– Your blog is wonderful!

    Carrie– Very creepy. I've always thought Rhoda was the original Reagen.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge