A Child Called It

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The Piece of Wood Symbol Analysis

The Piece of Wood Symbol Icon

While walking along the beach, Dave Pelzer sees a piece of wood being swept back and forth by the waves. Pelzer suggests that the wood symbolizes his own life—like the wood, he’s been “pushed and pulled in every direction.” In the end, however, Pelzer breaks free of the cycle of child cruelty and builds a happy life for himself, in a way escaping some of the more overwhelming “waves” that have buffeted him against his will.

The Piece of Wood Quotes in A Child Called It

The A Child Called It quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Piece of Wood. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Child Abuse Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Health Communications edition of A Child Called It published in 1995.
Epilogue Quotes

I marvel at the wood how it reminds me of my former life. My beginning was extremely turbulent, being pushed and pulled in every direction. The more grisly my situation became, the more I felt as if some immense power were sucking me into some giant undertow. I fought as hard as I could, but the cycle never seemed to end. Until suddenly, without warning, I broke free.

I'm so lucky. My dark past is behind me now.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Piece of Wood
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

In the Epilogue, Dave Pelzer takes a moment to count his blessings. He thinks back on his traumatic childhood, during which his parents pushed him around like an inanimate piece of wood. Then, quite unexpectedly, Dave’s fortunes turned: the police took him away from his abusive Mother and placed him in a foster home (which Dave discusses in his other memoirs). Afterwards, Dave learned to work hard for his dreams, and became a pilot in the Air Force, and later a successful author. In short, he broke free.

Perhaps the key word in this passage is “cycle.” Pelzer seems to be referring to the seemingly endless violence, both literal and psychological, that traumatized him in the early years of his life. Later in the chapter, Pelzer mentions the generational cycle of child abuse—in other words, the tragic fact that many child abusers were themselves victims of child abuse as children. Pelzer has broken from the cycle in both senses—by having a successful, happy life, and by raising a happy child.


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The Piece of Wood Symbol Timeline in A Child Called It

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Piece of Wood appears in A Child Called It. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Epilogue: Sonoma County, California
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
...on the beach, looking out at the Pacific Ocean—it’s a beautiful day. He notices a piece of wood with an “odd, twisted shape.” The wood is swept back and forth in the waves,... (full context)