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A Child Called `It`

AChild Called ‘It’


AChild Called ‘It’

Inthe book AChild called “It&quotpublished in 1995, Dave Pelzer talks about his personal childhoodexperience at the age 4 to 12 with his mother, Catherine Roerva. Hedid not have a normal childhood as he suffered mistreatment andtorture from his mother. The book details how his mother wasnurturing his other siblings but not him as she even referred to himas ‘it` the origin of the book`s title. The book gives a dreadfulaccount of the horrors that David went through at the hands of hismother from his point of view as a young boy. The author illustrateshow he was starved, smashed into mirrors, stabbed, forced to consumediaper contents of his siblings and ammonia, and burned. All theseacts of horror were being perpetrated by his maniacal and alcoholicmother. She exercised sadism on him by claiming that he had brokensome rules like walking on grass in school. The book gives an accountof how as all these was being done to him, his father did nothing toprotect or save him from his psychopathic mother. It took theintervention of an alert teacher in the school to save him.


Fromthe first chapter, David illustrates the mistreatments that areinflicted upon him by his mother. The third chapter explores atlength the various instances that his mother treated him violently.The chapter gives a detailed account of the specific actions that hismother did upon him. However, it was not always the case. Theprevious chapter, chapter 2,talks about the great relationship that his family of five, includinghis two brothers, Ronald and Stan, had had in the ‘goodtimes’(p. 15). The family was the ‘Brady Bunch’ of the 1960s withimpeccable parents. Their father, Stephen Joseph, worked in SanFrancisco as a fireman. He duly supported his family. His mother wasdetermined and was filled with love for her children. She sometimestook them out for sightseeing, picnics, vacations and holidays.

Thisparental love, however, did not last for long. In chapter 3, Davestates that &quothis relationship with (his) mom drasticallychanged…it became so bad at times&quot (p. 21). It all startedwith the petty punishment of being ‘cornered` whenever he wascaught at mischief.Then, as the author states, his mother`sbehavior radically changed. She could lie on the couch the whole daywatching television while dressed in her bathrobe. The only instancethat she got up was when going to the bathroom or getting more foodor drink (p. 21). She turned from a caring mom to a ‘wicked witch’as put by David. The children started trembling at the sound of hervoice. By now, the corner treatment that his mother imposed on Davidwas deemed ineffective, and he consequently graduated to the ‘mirrortreatment.` &quotHis mother would grab him and smash (his) faceagainst the mirror,&quot and order him to “say over and over again‘I’m a bad boy! I’m a bad boy! I’m a bad boy. ” (p. 22). He was forced to stand and stare into the mirror and his brotherschose to ignore his plight, as he came to understand later, to ‘savetheir own skins.` She forced them to search the entire house for hermissing items and at one instance when David forgot what he wassearching for, she smacked his face and blood gushed from his nose,but she screamed at him to continue searching (p. 22). However,whenever his father was home, and his mother was dressed in niceclothes, it meant no beatings or mirror treatments and his fatherbecame his protector. He demonstrated faith in his father to help himavoid the harassment from his mother by always being at his side evenwhen he was working in the garage.

Oneday, as his dad was leaving for work, he said goodbyes to hisbrothers Ron and Stan and then turned to him and told him to “be agood boy.” (p. 23). He knew he had been labeled a bad boy. On aparticular Sunday, while he was playing with his brothers, his mothersuddenly rushed at him and started landing blows on his face. Shepunched and grabbed him, and only the sound of a ‘pop` saved him.He felt an intense pain in his arm and shoulder. His arm was so badlyinjured that during dinner, it did not respond and he could not eat.The next day, his mother took him to the hospital and explained tothe suspicious doctor that David had fallen from his bed (p. 25). He,however, was too afraid to speak up. His mother always accused him ofbeing a bad boy even in school. She accused him of shaming the familyand punished him by banning him from watching television, goingwithout dinner and severe thrashing. She punched, smacked and kickedhim on several occasions. She even crammed a bar soap down his throat(p. 26).

Anotherinstance where he was tortured was one Wednesday during a club scoutsden mother meeting. During the drive to the meeting after she hadsmashed his face against the mirror, he was forced to miss themeeting, and they drove back home. He was ordered to strip and as sheturned on the gas burners she held his arm out in the flames. Afterburning his hand, she ordered him to climb over the stove and hisrefusal to do so only attracted more blows (p. 28). He, however, hada plan which he had faith in. He knew his mother acted this cruelwhen nobody else was around, so he had to slow her and distract herto avoid being burned. He preferred the beating to being burned. Hecried and did all he could to delay her mission. His faith finallypaid off as the sudden arrival of his brother, Ron caused his motherto freeze and cease and it ultimately rescued him. As he seized thatmoment and ran to the garage he realized that he had beaten her bybuying a few precious minutes. He survived by sheer faith and wit.For the first time, he had won (p. 29). This particular scene alludesto the theme of celebration and victory.

Chapter4 of the book (TheFight for Food) talksabout how David’s mother tortured him by denying him food. Sheusually ‘forgot’ to feed him during dinner. If he performed hischores, he was allowed some leftover cereals from his brothers on agood day. He was always so hungry at night that he resulted tostealing food at school (p. 30). When he was discovered and reportedto his mother, he received more beatings and less food. This fightfor food became a cycle. His mother now referred to him as ‘theboy` (p. 31). This depersonalization by his mother culminates whenshe refers to him as an `it`. His father tried sneaking him scrapsand convincing his mother to change her mind, but all was futile. Hehad become her slave, doing all chores and going hungry. It was atthis time, when he was in the second grade, that a teacher, MissMoss, began to develop an interest in him (p. 33). He was even forcedto eat Russell`s (their toddler kid) poop (p. 35). He had to deviseways to feed himself and survive. David knew he could not escape thepunishment however, he was now focused on surviving and hedemonstrates this early on when he states that, &quotmother can beatme all she wants, but I haven`t let her take away my will to somehowsurvive&quot (p. 4). To satisfy his hunger, he survives by stealingfood from school and the grocery store. No matter how many times heis caught and labeled ‘the food thief’ in school, he knows he hasto eat to survive. He even results to scavenging from their garbagecan at home (p. 38-39). He also demonstrated his courage to survivedespite all costs by approaching people to beg for food (p. 39) andstealing from the grocery store. He also takes all the beatingsimposed on him by his mother with courage knowing that in the end, hehad to survive. In a rare show of faith in his mother, in chapter 5,TheAccident,he has complete faith in his mother’s nursing ability as sheattends to him after stabbing him (p. 53).


Ichose to do Dave Pelzer’s AChild Called ‘It’since it is a highly captivating story that applies to ourcontemporary world in many perspectives. It has taught me the extentof cruelty that human beings can go to and yet, the equal degree ofcourage and faith that meets such cruelty. The book gave me theawareness that parents, especially mothers, who are viewed as veryloving towards their children, can become monsters to those samechildren.

DavidPelzer`s ability to survive eight years of this type of hardship is areason for the celebration of victory. He meets his mother`sbrutality by the unbroken and tough desire to survive. He goesagainst all the odds both at home and at schools to find ways tofeed, learn and survive in this kind of circumstances. I have learnedthat the heart is indomitable even in its murkiest passages.


Pelzer,D. J. (1995). AChild called &quotit&quot: A foster child`s search for the love ofa family.Deerfield Beach, Fla: Health Communications.