A Child Called "It" book cover

A Child Called "It"

by Dave Pelzer

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A Child Called "It" Characters

The main characters in A Child Called “It” are David, Catherine, Stephen, Ron and Stan, and Russell.

  • David, the book’s author and narrator, suffers terrible abuse at the hands of his mother.
  • Catherine, David’s mother, is an alcoholic who beats, starves, and terrorizes David.
  • Stephen is David’s father and a fireman. He enables David’s abuse by not standing up to Catherine.
  • Ron and Stan, David’s older brothers, treat him like an outcast.
  • Russell is one of David’s younger brothers. Catherine trains him to monitor David and report back to her about any infractions.


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David Pelzer

David Pelzer is the author and narrator of the bestselling memoirs A Child Called "It" and The Lost Boy. A Child Called "It" tells the harrowing story of David's abuse at the hands of his mother, a violent alcoholic who concocts horrific ways of torturing David. At first, the abuse is comparatively tame, with Mother forcing David to stand in a corner or in front of a mirror for hours at a time. Soon, however, the abuse intensifies, and David is regularly beaten for imagined infractions. His mother refuses to buy him new clothes or shoes, so he wears the same ones every day, growing increasingly dirty and smelly. She also refuses to feed him, so he's forced to steal food, first from his fellow students, then from a grocery store, then the school cafeteria. When she discovers this habit, she starts forcing him to throw up after school and once even makes him eat the vomit. From there, the abuse becomes even more horrific. She wipes his brother's dirty diaper across his face, attempts to burn him on the stove, and stabs him "accidentally" while he's doing chores. Finally, his teachers call the police to report their suspicions of child abuse. David is free.

Catherine Roerva Pelzer

David's mother is a vicious woman who singles out David for abuse. Early on in the memoir, she displays signs of mania, but it's unclear what mental illness she suffers from, if any. Her behavior becomes increasingly erratic, until finally the happy, loving mother David once knew is replaced by a monster. No mental illness or claims of alcoholism could justify her treatment of David. Her many atrocities include forcing David to drink ammonia, burning him on the stove, refusing to feed him for days at a time, smearing feces on his face, and stabbing him in the chest. The nature of the abuse changes depending on who else is present. For a time, David's father Stephen is able to protect him, but that changes. In front of outsiders, Roerva dons the guise of the loving mother she used to be, but as soon as she's alone with David the abuse intensifies. Eventually, David's teachers report the abuse to the police, and authorities step in to remove David from his mother's care.

Stephen Pelzer

In the beginning, David's father Stephen is his hero and protector. As a fireman, Stephen Pelzer seems to embody strength and virtue. It soon becomes clear, however, that Stephen is an alcoholic and an enabler who does little, if anything, to prevent the abuse. Eventually, he walks out on his family, leaving David and his brother in their mother's care.

Ron, Stan, and Russell Pelzer

David's brothers are spared the abuse David suffers. At school, the brothers are free to play together, but at home David is ignored and treated as an "it" rather than a person. His brothers allow the abuse to continue and are sometimes asked to participate in it. In The Lost Boy, Pelzer suggests that his brothers may have been abused after he was placed in foster care.

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