58 pages 1 hour read

Dave Pelzer

A Child Called It: One Child’s Courage to Survive

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1995

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The Resiliency of the Human Spirit

When faced with extreme abuse as a child, Dave Pelzer displays an acute ability to survive. In Chapter 1 Pelzer maintains, “Mother can beat me all she wants, but I haven’t let her take away my will to somehow survive” (13). This commitment to staying alive, and the preservation of his will to live, guides Pelzer as a young boy, despite increasingly brutal beatings, mind games, grueling chores, and torture. Pelzer writes, “I knew if I wanted to live, I would have to think ahead” (40).

Throughout the book Catherine withholds food, isolates Dave from other family members, and even forces Dave to eat his baby brother’s feces, to dehumanize him. However, Dave devises clever tricks to stall Catherine’s torture tactics and maintain his sense of self, despite consistent demoralization. For instance, when Catherine locks Dave in the bathroom with a toxic mix of Clorox and ammonia, Dave figures out how to breathe through the air vent. When Catherine denies Dave food, Dave strategizes ways to steal food from school and from the family’s leftovers in the trash.

Catherine deliberately tries to break Dave’s spirit using verbal abuse. After Dave makes some progress at school and earns recognition, Catherine tells Dave, “You are a nobody! An It!” in an attempt to incite self-hatred in Dave (108).