A Child Called It

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Themes and Colors
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Child Called It, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Dave Pelzer’s memoir A Child Called “It” is a harrowing meditation on child abuse, embodied in Dave’s mother, Catherine Roerva (usually referred to either as Mother or “the bitch”). For many years, Mother abuses Dave verbally, physically, and psychologically, until, thanks to the intervention of Dave’s teachers, the police finally free him from Mother’s home. Child abuse is by far the most important theme in the memoir—indeed, the other themes we’ll discuss are particularly…

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In addition to depicting an incredibly abusive parent, A Child Called “It” studies the effects of child abuse on the abused children themselves. For years, Mother beats Dave Pelzer, the author and narrator of the book, leaving him with scars and bruises, but also a longer-lasting sense of shame, guilt, resentment, fear, and self-hatred—in a word, trauma. Through Dave’s eyes, readers come to understand the traumatizing psychological effects of abuse on young children and—more…

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Because Dave Pelzer is a young child, he rarely fights back against Mother when she hurts him; indeed, he’s only saved from horrific abuse when his teachers call the police to take him away from his home. But although Dave isn’t old or strong enough to stop his Mother from abusing him, he still finds various ways of resisting his Mother’s authority—in other words, refusing to allow her to control him entirely.

Some of the…

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One of the most startling things about A Child Called “It” is that for many years, and in spite of the obvious signs that Dave’s parents are abusing him, nobody alerts the authorities. Although Dave’s teachers, along with the principal and the school nurse, make the decision to call Child Protective Services when Dave is in fifth grade, Pelzer makes it clear that there had been signs of abuse years before: Dave regularly…

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