A Child Called It

Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father Character Analysis

Dave Pelzer’s father, Stephen Joseph Pelzer, is a weak, frequently drunk father, who rarely stands up to Catherine Roerva Pelzer, his wife. Over the course of the book, Father represents a beacon of hope for the young, terrified Dave—he thinks of Father as his protector, even after it becomes increasingly clear that Father is turning a blind eye to his child’s suffering. As he grows older, Dave comes to hate Father for allowing Mother to hurt him. In the end, Father becomes so fed-up with Mother’s anger that he packs his bags and leaves the family for good. He’s a weak, selfish man who only cares about his own happiness, not the happiness and safety of his children. However, it’s worth noting that Dave names his beloved son after his father (at least in the memoir—Pelzer has said that he changed some of the characters’ names to protect them from the public). This might suggest that Pelzer still feels some love and respect for Father, since Father was the only person in the family who showed any consistent love for him. (It could also suggest that Dave wants to remind himself how not to raise his child.)

Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father Quotes in A Child Called It

The A Child Called It quotes below are all either spoken by Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father or refer to Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father. 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 3 Quotes

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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Chapter 4 Quotes

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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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 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:

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Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father Character Timeline in A Child Called It

The timeline below shows where the character Stephen Joseph Pelzer / Father appears in A Child Called It. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Good Times
Child Abuse Theme Icon
...in a nice house with a beautiful view 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... (full context)
Chapter 3: Bad Boy
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Father works long hours—sometimes twenty-four hours at a time. In times like this, Mother punishes her... (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... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
...Santa only brings presents for good boys and girls. Later, Dave hears Mother arguing with Father, who’s bought Dave a few gifts. After the argument, Dave senses that Father will no... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Fight for Food
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
...part of the family anymore. Mother no longer uses his name, and Ron, Stan, and Father mostly ignore him. Sometimes, Father feeds Dave when Mother is especially drunk. Father and Mother... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
...is gone. One day, Mother yells at Dave for making too much noise. While Dave’s Father and brothers are out of the house, Mother takes one of Russell’s diapers and smears... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
...friends make fun of him for wearing the same clothes and stealing food. At home, Father tries to sneak scraps to Dave, but “with little success.” Dave is so desperate for... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
...and orders Dave to scoop the vomit into a small bowl. That evening, Mother shows Father the bowl and insists that Dave has been stealing food. Father, who looks very tired,... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
...bed. The next evening, Mother makes Dave swallow more ammonia, this time in front of Father, who watches, “lifeless.” This time, Dave tries to fight back; however, he still swallows some... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Accident
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
...around his chest. Mother often said that she’d intended to be a nurse before meeting Father, and Dave trusts her nursing abilities completely. Dave feels a strange sense of relief—he senses... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
Father walks into the house. Dave gasps, “Mother stabbed me.” Without raising an eyebrow, Father asks,... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
As Dave is finishing the dishes, he succumbs to the pain and collapses. He feels Father helping him to his feet. Father tells Dave to change his shirt, and Dave looks... (full context)
Chapter 6: While Father Is Away
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
After Dave’s stabbing, Father spends less and less time at home. He makes excuses, but Dave doesn’t believe them.... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
During one period when Father is gone for work, Mother starves Dave for ten days. She makes sure that Dave... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
When Father is away, Mother forces Dave to clean the bathroom with ammonia and Clorox. She locks... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
...to scream. Later, Mother goes into the bathroom and orders Dave to go sleep in Father’s bed. Lately, Dave notes, Mother has been sleeping in the same bedroom as her sons,... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
In March, Mother goes into labor, and Father takes her to the hospital. Dave is very relieved to have Mother out of the... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
Early in the mornings, Father wakes up in the same bed as Dave and kisses him goodbye, whispering, “Try to... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Lord’s Prayer
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
...thinks about killing Mother, and making her feel his pain and loneliness. He also despises Father for being a coward and failing to protect him from Mother. Sometimes, when Mother argues... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
...on the phone, and then takes out her anger on Dave. She also yells at Father, calling him a “drunken loser,” and even bans him from the house for a few... (full context)
Child Abuse Theme Icon
Psychological Trauma Theme Icon
Resistance Theme Icon
Neglect and the Normalization of Evil Theme Icon
That year, for Thanksgiving, Father comes to the house and Mother allows Dave to eat with the rest of the... (full context)