A Child Called It

Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer Character Analysis

Catherine Roerva Pelzer is the antagonist of A Child Called “It”. For years, she abuses her son, Dave Pelzer, for reasons that are never made clear: she hits him, burns his arm, forces him to eat feces and vomit, and starves him for days at a time. While Dave suggests that Mother is a heavy drinker and may suffer from depression, he doesn’t offer any theories about why she singles him out for abuse, or what motivates her to continue abusing him year after year. Sometimes, her cruel behavior seems sloppy and half-accidental—for example, when she drunkenly stabs Dave. But on other occasions, the memoir shows that Mother’s cruelty is premeditated and cunningly designed to make Dave suffer as greatly as possible. Even more bafflingly, Mother sometimes treats Dave with love and tenderness and then returns to abusing him—again, readers never understand why. The result is that, even by the end of the memoir, Mother embodies evil, which can be neither explained nor understood. She’s a force of pure malevolence, which Dave must escape at all costs.

Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer Quotes in A Child Called It

The A Child Called It quotes below are all either spoken by Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer or refer to Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Health Communications edition of A Child Called It published in 1995.
Chapter 1 Quotes

After I count her steps, making sure she’s gone, I breathe a sigh of relief. The act worked. Mother can beat me all she wants, but I haven’t let her take away my will to somehow survive.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

From above, I felt someone hug my shoulders, I thought it was my father. I turned and became flushed with pride to find Mom holding me tightly. I could feel her heart beat. I never felt as safe and as warm as that moment in time, at the Russian River.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

Mother would simply grab me and smash my face against the mirror, smearing my tear-streaked face on the slick, reflective glass. Then she would order me to say over and over again, "I'm a bad boy! I'm a bad boy! I'm a bad boy!"

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer
Page Number: 30-31
Explanation and Analysis:

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While I was cleaning the bathroom, I overheard an argument between Mother and Father. She was angry with him for "going behind her back" to buy me the paintings. Mother told Father that she was in charge of disciplining "the boy" and that he had undermined her authority by buying the gifts. The longer Father argued his case, the angrier she became. I could tell he had lost, and that I was becoming more and more isolated.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer, Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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Standing alone in that damp, dark garage, I knew, for the first time, that I could survive. I decided that I would use any tactic I could think of to defeat Mother or to delay her from her grizzly obsession. I knew if I wanted to live, I would have to think ahead. I could no longer cry like a helpless baby. In order to survive, I could never give in to her. That day I vowed to myself that I would never, ever again give that bitch the satisfaction of hearing me beg her to stop beating me.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

When I returned from school the next afternoon, Mother smiled as if she had won a million-dollar sweepstakes. She told me how she had dressed up to see the principal, with her infant son Russell in her arms. Mother told me how she had explained to the principal how David had an overactive imagination. Mother told him how David had often struck and scratched himself to get attention, since the recent birth of his new brother, Russell. I could imagine her turning on her snake-like charm as she cuddled Russell for the benefit of the principal.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer, Russell Pelzer
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

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Sometimes at the grocery store, if I felt things weren't just right, I didn't steal anything. As always, I finally got caught. The manager called Mother. At the house, I was thrashed relentlessly. Mother knew why I stole food and so did Dad, but she still refused to feed me. The more I craved food, the more I tried to come up with a better plan to steal it.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer, Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

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I knew no one could help me. Not my teachers, my so-called brothers or even Father. I was on my own, and every night I prayed to God that I could be strong both in body and soul. In the darkness of the garage, I laid on the wooden cot and shivered until I fell into a restless sleep.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer, Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

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The more I tried to focus on my options of what she might do to me, the more my inner strength drained away. Then an idea flashed in my brain: I knew why Mother had followed every step I took. She wanted to maintain a constant pressure on me, by leaving me unsure of when or where she would strike.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 5 Quotes

I stuttered, "Father . . . Mo . . . Mo . . . Mother stabbed me."
He didn't even raise an eyebrow, "Why?" he asked.
"She told me if I didn't do the dishes on time, she...she'd kill me."
Time stood still. From behind the paper I could hear Father's labored breathing. He cleared his throat before saying, "Well . . . you ah . . . you better go back in there and do the dishes."

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer
Page Number: 89-90
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

To survive her new game I had to use my head. Lying on the tiled floor I stretched my body and, using my foot, I slid the bucket to the door. I did this for two reasons: I wanted the bucket as far away from me as possible, and in case Mother opened the door I wanted her to 1et a snoot full of her own medicine.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

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Mother's hand on my shoulder brought me back to reality. "'Well, tell her, sweetheart," Mother said, smiling again. "Tell her that I starve you and beat you like a dog," Mother snickered, trying to get the lady to laugh, too.

I looked at the lady, My face felt flushed, and I could feel the beads of sweat forming on my forehead. I didn't have the guts to tell the lady the truth. "No, it's not like that at all," I said. "Mom treats me pretty good."

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer (speaker)
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

As I sat alone in the garage, or read to myself in the near darkness of my parents' bedroom, I came to realize that I would live like this for the remainder of my life. No just God would leave me like this. I believed that I was alone in my struggle and that my battle was one of survival.

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer, Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

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Father shook his head and said in a sad voice, “I can’t take it anymore. The whole thing. Your mother, this house, you. I just can't take it anymore.” Before he closed the bedroom door I could barely hear him mutter, "I . . . I'm . . . I'm sorry.”

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

As Mother drove out of the McDonald's parking lot, she glanced back at me and sneered, "You are all mine now. Too bad your father's not here to protect you."

Related Characters: David Pelzer / Dave (speaker), Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer (speaker), Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer Character Timeline in A Child Called It

The timeline below shows where the character Mother / Mom / Catherine Roerva Pelzer appears in A Child Called It. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Rescue
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
...going hungry again, he frantically tries to rinse the dishes in scalding hot water. Suddenly, “Mother” hits the narrator in the face, and he falls to the floor. He begs, “Please,... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
Later that morning, Mother drives the narrator and his brother to school. She tells the narrator that, tomorrow, she’s... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
...that he’s had “enough of this.” Frightened, the narrator begs Mr. Hansen not to call Mother again, but Hansen promises he won’t. (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
The police officer asks the narrator to tell him about Mother, but the narrator refuses, afraid that Mother will find out. When Miss Moss assures the... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
...drives Dave to a police station. After completing some paperwork, he asks Dave for his Mother’s phone number. Dave is initially reluctant to give him the number, since he’s afraid that... (full context)
Chapter 2: Good Times
Child Abuse Theme Icon
...of the Golden Gate Bridge. Dave’s father, Stephen Joseph, is a fireman, and his mom, Catherine Roerva , is a determined, loving homemaker. She’s extremely neat, and spends hours scouring disinfecting kitchen.... (full context)
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
...still has vivid memories of celebrating the holidays with his family. The day after Thanksgiving, Mom would begin decorating for Christmas, and Dave loved decorating the Christmas tree and singing carols.... (full context)
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
...to watch the sunset. As he watches the sun set over the nearby Russian River, Mom hugs him. He says he’s never felt as safe and warm as he does then. (full context)
Chapter 3: Bad Boy
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Dave’s relationship with Mom changes very quickly, however, to the point where things get so bad he has “no... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
Mother begins to punish Dave more and more harshly. At first, she punishes him for being... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Father works long hours—sometimes twenty-four hours at a time. In times like this, Mother punishes her children especially harshly. She forces them to search the entire house for something... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
One day, while Father is at work, Mother yells for her children. While Dave’s brothers run away, Mother—whose eyes are bloodshot—hits Dave again... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
Dave loves school because it’s an escape from Mother. He makes friends and gets good grades. One day, however, Mother yells that Dave will... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
...Dave. One day, when Dave does well on an assignment, he shows the assignment to Mother; Mother responds by telling Dave that he won’t be receiving anything for Christmas. On Christmas,... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
In the spring, Mother becomes “den mother” for the local Cub Scouts team. She invites children to the house... (full context)
Resistance Theme Icon
...on, he decides that he’ll try as hard as he can to delay or defeat Mother—he’ll never, ever give in to her or give her the pleasure of begging her to... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Fight for Food
Child Abuse Theme Icon
After Mother burns Dave, school becomes his refuge. In September, he returns to school with new clothes;... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
At home, Dave is barely a part of the family anymore. Mother no longer uses his name, and Ron, Stan, and Father mostly ignore him. Sometimes, Father... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
The year Dave goes to the second grade, Mother becomes pregnant. Miss Moss, Dave’s teacher, asks Dave why he has so much trouble paying... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
...of the family drive out to Russian River to go camping. Dave gets along with Mother better than he has in a long time, but the “magical feeling” is gone. One... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
...school, wearing the same clothes he wore last year. Instead of driving Dave to school, Mother forces Dave to run to school. At school, Dave’s old friends make fun of him... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
...again, while also stealing from the store. One day, the manager catches him and calls Mother; Mother beats Dave. (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
After dinner, Mother scrapes leftovers into the garbage can and then makes Dave wash the dishes with scalding... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
...the classroom, he’s proud that he’s fed himself. But when he comes home that day, Mother punches him in the stomach and forces him to stick his finger down his throat... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
After Dave eats his vomit, Mother throws some old newspapers at him and informs him that, from now on, he’ll be... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Suddenly Mother calls Dave upstairs. She tells him, “I have a cure for your hunger,” and orders... (full context)
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One day, Mother squeezes soap into Dave’s mouth and makes him swallow. Secretly, Dave doesn’t—he just keeps the... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Accident
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...1971, Dave is ten years old. He’s come to learn what punishments to expect from Mother—above all, beatings. He’s also learned to reflexively tense his body whenever Mother is nearby. He’s... (full context)
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...the family eats dinner—Dave isn’t allowed to eat with the rest of his family. Suddenly, Mother shouts for Dave to come into the kitchen and clear the dishes. As he clears... (full context)
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As Dave clears the dishes, Mother continues to yell, brandishing a big knife at him and threatening to kill him if... (full context)
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When Dave wakes up again, Mother is wrapping a cloth around his chest. Mother often said that she’d intended to be... (full context)
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Father walks into the house. Dave gasps, “Mother stabbed me.” Without raising an eyebrow, Father asks, “Why?” Dave explains that he’d been doing... (full context)
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...looks down and sees that his shirt is covered in blood. Dave goes upstairs, where Mother removes his shirt and dresses him in an oversized T-shirt. Mother allows Dave to rest... (full context)
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Before going to bed, Mother feeds Dave some food. He sleeps in the garage, trying not to think of the... (full context)
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Three days after the “accident,” Dave feels awful, but Mother is back to her old ways. Dave doesn’t ask Mother for any help. In private,... (full context)
Chapter 6: While Father Is Away
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...time at home. He makes excuses, but Dave doesn’t believe them. When Father is home, Mother doesn’t hurt Dave as often. One evening, Father helps Dave do the dishes, and tells... (full context)
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During one period when Father is gone for work, Mother starves Dave for ten days. She makes sure that Dave eats no food, locking the... (full context)
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When Father is away, Mother forces Dave to clean the bathroom with ammonia and Clorox. She locks him inside, so... (full context)
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During the summer, Mother makes Dave mow lawns and give her the money he earns. The previous Easter vacation... (full context)
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One day, Mother summons Dave to the bathroom, where he finds her filling the tub with cold water.... (full context)
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In the coming weeks, Mother begins to use the “bathtub and backyard treatment” on Dave more and more often. Dave’s... (full context)
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...listen to another record. Then Dave runs home, where he begins his chores, and afterwards, Mother forces him to sit in the backyard in the cold. Dave begins to cry—the substitute... (full context)
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...even worse. Bullies tease him, and he has a hard time finding food. After school, Mother makes him vomit to prove that he hasn’t eaten anything that day. She whips him... (full context)
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...Dave is sent to the school nurse. At first, Dave tells the nurse the lies Mother has instructed him to repeat. But gradually he begins to trust the nurse, and tells... (full context)
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...carve pumpkins for Halloween while Dave sits alone in the cold bathtub. Dave can hear Mother telling her other children ghost stories and treating them with love and warmth—he’s so furious... (full context)
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...receives a pair of roller skates, which he later learns are another instrument of torture: Mother forces Dave to skate outside without a jacket in the cold while the other children... (full context)
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In March, Mother goes into labor, and Father takes her to the hospital. Dave is very relieved to... (full context)
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One Sunday, Mother tells Dave that she’s sorry, and that she wants to “make up for all the... (full context)
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...asks Dave if he’s happy; Dave says that he is. When the woman asks if Mother ever hits him, Davis hesitates. He realizes that Mother has been spoiling him recently so... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Lord’s Prayer
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...grade, Dave decides that there is no God: he’s convinced that no God would let Mother beat him. On the surface, Dave has learned to appear calm and emotionless, even when... (full context)
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Dave thinks about killing Mother, and making her feel his pain and loneliness. He also despises Father for being a... (full context)
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...slogan for the school newspaper, Ziegler makes a point of praising Dave, and even writes Mother a letter complimenting Dave. Mother reads the letter and laughs derisively. She tells Dave that... (full context)
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In the coming weeks, Dave begins doing his chores more and more carelessly. He wants Mother to know “I didn’t care anymore.” Once, when Mother takes Dave to a grocery store,... (full context)
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...thing that keeps Dave sane is his baby brother Kevin, who he loves. Shortly before Mother gives birth to Kevin, she tries to choke Dave, and Dave fights back by kicking... (full context)
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As the holiday season approaches, Mother argues with her own mother on the phone, and then takes out her anger on... (full context)
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That year, for Thanksgiving, Father comes to the house and Mother allows Dave to eat with the rest of the family. The dinner is silent and... (full context)
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As Mother drives home, Dave clasps his hands together and silently prays. As the car pulls into... (full context)