A Child Called "It" book cover

A Child Called "It"

by Dave Pelzer

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Student Question

Describe the character Dave in A Child Called "It."

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Dave is David Peltzer, a young boy who was horrifically abused by his mother, in the book, A Child Called "It".

As David's mother sinks deep in alcoholism and possible psychosis, her abuse of Dave escalates. His father, who Dave had hoped would rescue him, tries to intervene early on, but eventually escapes into alcoholism as well. It appears Dave was abused more "actively" than his siblings; ultimately, Dave is completely isolated from the entire family, while his mother even stops calling him by his name, hence the book's title. She starves, burns, stabs and even tries to poison Dave.

Dave, however, is determined to live. Not getting enough food at home, he steals from other students' lunches, but when word gets back to his mother, the abuse intensifies, and he is rarely fed. Dave does his best to accomplish what is asked of him by his mother, including some, and eventually most, of the household chores. The reader gets the sense that Dave tries to be tough, and displays great courage, even in light of his age. It is easy to imagine that many other children, under like circumstances, would not have survived a similar situation.

It is only through the intervention of the principal and teaching staff at his school, who notice signs of abuse, that Dave is finally removed from his home.

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You asked two questions and the eNotes guidelines only allow one per posting, so I kept the first. A Child Called "It" is a dramatic story about the author's childhood. From your explanation I am wondering if you have read this work, for the entire book is a character study of Dave and his family--primarily his mother. In general terms, a character study focuses on any of several applicable points. Character is revealed by what he says, what he does, what he thinks, as well as by what other characters say about him, interact with him, and think about him.

In this case, one significant element to understanding Dave is his physical self. This is more than simple appearance, as he is mistreated and abused and a large component of that is physical. Another area to explore is his emotions, and they change throughout the text. This young boy's emotions range from scared to angry to apathetic to frustrated to resigned. He wants nothing more than to please his mother, but she shuts him out of her life--and worse. Finally, of course, you can discuss his actions. Much of what he does is simple reaction, but he does instigate some actions, as well, and they would give you some great writing material.

Another possibility for a character sketch is to talk about how Dave relates to each of the other characters in his story and, conversely, how they relate to him. If you choose this option, I would certainly include people outside of his family, as well. People such as teachers and neighbors and even random strangers have more compassion for this young boy than his own family.

The dynamic between Dave and his mother is complicated and twisted and heart-breaking; how you manage to demonstrate that in your character study is up to you and the elements of the story which interest you most. Best of luck!

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