In Bad Girl is Teen Parents Struggle in Slums

In 1928, someone was “a bad girl” if she had sex before marriage. By that definition, Dot Haley deserves her title role in Vina Delmar’s novel Bad Girl. However, the epithet doesn’t do Dot justice.

A friend sums her up better: “You’re an awful nice kid,” Maude tells Dot, “but you’re a moron.”

Maude got it in one.

Dot meets Eddie Collins at a dance. The first time they have sex, Eddie says he’ll take off work the next day and marry her. When Dot announces her wedding plans, he brother calls her a bum and kicks her out of the apartment.

Dot and Eddie marry. Within weeks she learns she’s pregnant with a child neither she nor Eddie is ready to have.

Dot and Eddie are both back-of-the-room, bottom-of-the-class slum kids. They’ve grown up among adults too worn out from grubbing for a living to even talk to their kids.

If they could talk to each other, there might be hope for Dot and Eddie, but they all they know is lashing out, profanity, and withdrawing into silence.

Delmar swings from Eddie’s thoughts to Dot’s, letting readers see the limits of their adolescent minds. The total effect is morbidly depressing.

Bad Girl
by Vina Delmar
Harcourt, Brace,  1928
275 pages
1928 bestseller  #5
My grade: C+

© 2008 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Published by

Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

2 thoughts on “In Bad Girl is Teen Parents Struggle in Slums”

    1. Since I chose to read books that were the bestsellers of past years, Elizabeth, I had to take what was popular in its day.

      One of the things I have learned from reading vintage novels is how different our culture is from that of even 50 years ago. Our ancestors saw life as a struggle with few winners. Children were as exposed to misery as their parents. The challenge of young people 100 years ago wasn’t getting Mom to buy them new Nikes; it was working 12 hours a day in basement factory in temperatures below freezing.


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