Introduction | What is a personality disorder? | Narcissistic Personality Disorder
How to recognize a narcissist | Traits discussed | "Now We Are Six" | "It's a Good Life"
What's normal? | Further reading | Attachment | Narcissus in art | Aftermath | Beyond | Music
"It's A GoodLife"

An artistic view of the world as ordered by a six-year-old is presented in the well-known short story, "It's A Good Life," by Jerome Bixby. This story was dramatized for television on "The Twilight Zone" in 1961, screenplay by Rod Serling, and a somewhat different version of the story was used in the film, "Twilight Zone," in 1983. Here's the story used on television:
Anthony Fremont is a six-year-old with extraordinary powers to control the little town where he lives by simply wishing away people and things that anger or bore him. He has isolated the town by banishing electricity and cars. Other than his powerful wishing, Anthony has the mind and imagination of a typical little boy. He amuses himself with his special ability by giving a gopher three heads and then wishing the animal dead when the game becomes boring. The people in Peaksville have to smile all the time, think happy thoughts, and say happy things, because that's what Anthony commands and, if they disobey, he can wish them into a cornfield or change them into grotesque versions of themselves. Anthony dislikes singing and punished Aunt Amy for thoughtlessly singing in his presence. Anthony asks his father why no children come to play with him. Mr. Fremont reminds Anthony that when the Fredericks boy came over, Anthony had wished the other boy away into the cornfield after they'd finished playing. He wishes a dog into the cornfield for barking.
     Anthony's parents have invited several people to their house for a surprise birthday party for one of their friends, Dan Hollis. Anthony makes everyone watch what he, like lots of other little boys, wishes to see on television -- dinosaurs fighting. Dan Hollis's wife gives him a record for his birthday, but Anthony won't permit him to play it. Dan grumbles angrily and then begins singing "Happy Birthday." Anthony tries to intimidate Dan by staring at him. Dan suggests that Anthony should be distracted and then killed, but nobody moves to help Dan. Anthony points his finger at Dan and screams "You're a bad man! You're a very bad man!" and turns Dan into a jack-in-the-box and then sends him to the cornfield. Everyone turns away in horror except Anthony's father, who begs Anthony to wish him into the cornfield. Anthony complies. A few minutes later, Anthony wishes for snow, though this will kill half the crops, not to mention those he's banished to the cornfield. The adults smile nervously and tell him that he's a good boy, hoping that Anthony's terrible power won't be turned upon themselves.

Comment:  Substitute a big person for the arbitrarily vindictive little boy and this story also gives a general idea of how groups, including families, work when they are dominated by narcissists. But bear in mind that there's a necessary requirement for such a reign of terror to continue: the isolation of a captive audience. One of the ways tyrannical narcissists isolate their captives is by telling them that they must keep secret what goes on inside or face dreadful punishment, because they're so special that no one outside the group is capable of understanding them -- and, of course, the longer members stay inside "Peaksville" the less likely they will be understood by outsiders, so isolated specialness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For a real-life example, see the story of the Phelps family. Warning: This is a court record containing the complete text of a book manuscript, Addicted to Hate.

The 1983 film version of "It's a Good Life" was parodied in The SimpsonsEpisode 8F02, Halloween 1991, with Bart as the little terror. Jeremy Licht, the actor who played Anthony in the 1983 film, recalls: "Our segment, 'It's A Good Life, was based on the TZ that Billy Mumy had originated brilliantly back when the original show was on the air. In that, he wished his family 'into the cornfields.' We updated that to my character, Anthony, wishing my Aunt Ethel, portrayed flawlessly by Nancy (voice of Bart Simpson) Cartwright, 'into cartoonland.'"

["It's A Good Life" appeared first in 1953 in Star Science Fiction Stories No. 2, an anthology edited by Frederik Pohl, and has been reprinted many times.]

See "Now We Are Six" for a discussion of the characteristics of normal six-year-olds and traits discussed for traits observed in narcissists.

Introduction | What is a personality disorder? | Narcissistic Personality Disorder
How to recognize a narcissist | Traits discussed | "Now We Are Six" | "It's a Good Life"
What's normal? | Further reading | Attachment | Narcissus in art | Aftermath | Beyond | Music
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©1998-2001 by Joanna M. Ashmun.