A Child Called It | Study Guide

Dave Pelzer

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Course Hero. "A Child Called It Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 Feb. 2019. Web. 28 Sep. 2022. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Child-Called-It/>.

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Course Hero. (2019, February 7). A Child Called It Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Child-Called-It/

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Course Hero. "A Child Called It Study Guide." February 7, 2019. Accessed September 28, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Child-Called-It/.


Course Hero, "A Child Called It Study Guide," February 7, 2019, accessed September 28, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Child-Called-It/.

A Child Called It | Quotes


'Yes, ma'am,' I reply. 'Oh no!' I tell myself, 'I've done something wrong ... again.'

Narrator, Chapter 1

Dave is being examined for signs of abuse by the school nurse. When asked if a scar is the result of being stabbed by his mother, he feels guilty for exposing his mother's abuse.


It is so important for them to know that I'm not a bad boy.

Narrator, Chapter 1

As school personnel and the police officer prepare for the final removal of Dave from the abusive home, Dave sees the teachers in the faculty lunch room. He feels ashamed that they know "the truth" about his mother. The truth, as he perceives it, is paradoxical. Dave, like his mother, views the abuse as punishment for bad behavior. His desire is for the teachers to understand he really isn't as bad as the punishments suggest.


... [T]hey would look at me, shrug their shoulders and continue to play—as if I were not there.

Narrator, Chapter 3

When Dave is given "the mirror treatment," in the early days of the punishments, Dave's brothers begin to ignore him. Dave, initially jealous of them, later views this as their means of survival.


At school we were the best of friends ... at home ... I was not to be acknowledged.

Narrator, Chapter 3

Younger brother Stan is in Dave's class when Dave is made to repeat first grade. Dave's brother has learned that for his own survival, he must ignore Dave at home. This indicates Dave's positioning as a non-member of the family.


The longer Father argued his case, the angrier she became. I could tell he had lost.

Narrator, Chapter 3

Dave's parents argue over the father's purchase of two small Christmas gifts for Dave. When Dave realizes that his father will lose the argument, he feels an increasing sense of isolation.


The more Mother slugged me, the more I began to realize I had won!

Narrator, Chapter 3

Dave buys time to keep from being burned on the stove flames by whining and asking questions. Though he is punched, he keeps himself off the stove. He realizes that by using his intellect, he has beaten his mother at her own game. He is heartened to realize he has learned to survive and vows never to give in to her again by begging.


So you think The Boy is through stealing food, do you?

Mother, Chapter 4

Dave's parents argue over Dave's stealing of food. Dave's mother shows Father the bowl of vomit with the "evidence" of his theft from the cafeteria freezer. She refers to Dave as "The Boy," indicating that she sees him as an outsider rather than a son.


I would wake up and try to imagine I was a real person ... somebody loved me.

Narrator, Chapter 4

When Dave is banished to the garage, his basic needs of safety, warmth, and love are unmet. He internalizes the notion that he is less than human and survives through fantasy.


I stood, staring into the sink, feeling how lucky I was to be alive.

Narrator, Chapter 4

After Dave is made to swallow ammonia for a second time, he inspects his raw, burned tongue and realizes his mother has nearly killed him.


The savior I had imagined for so long was a phony.

Narrator, Chapter 5

After Dave's mother stabs him, he looks to his father for help, but he gets none. Each member of the family has learned to survive by escaping reality in some way. At this point, Dave completely loses respect for his father.


... [T]he promise I made years ago kept me going.

Narrator, Chapter 5

After Dave is stabbed, his will to survive is bolstered by the belief that if he stays alive, he "wins" by not succumbing to her attempts to snuff out his existence.


I felt like a disabled animal being nursed back to health, but I didn't care.

Narrator, Chapter 5

After the stabbing, Dave's mother shows some degree of care for him, and he begins to have hope that he is once again a member of the family.


I lived in a different world. I didn't even deserve a glance at the good life.

Narrator, Chapter 6

As Dave is made to sit in the backyard in wet clothing in the "POW position," he wants to turn and look in the window at his family as they eat dinner. However, he feels unworthy to even steal a glance.


I no longer dreamed, nor did I let my imagination work during the day.

Narrator, Chapter 7

Dave is surviving, but his spirit is dying. He no longer believes in God or fantasizes about a superhero coming to his rescue. He is losing hope.


There is nothing you can do to impress me! ... You are a nobody! An It!

Mother, Chapter 7

When Dave brings a letter home, congratulating him for winning a contest, his mother responds saying that he will never gain her respect. She objectifies him and thus denies his humanity.

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