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 forms of resistance that Dave uses against Mother are physical. For example, at times, when Mother forces him to clean the house and do the dishes, he makes a point of doing a particularly sloppy job. On another occasion, Mother forces Dave to clean the bathroom with ammonia and Clorox, forcing him to inhale harmful gases. Dave cleans the bathroom, but positions the ammonia and Clorox next to the door in the hopes that Mother will inhale some of the gas herself when she walks inside. Although Dave finds small ways to undermine Mother’s rules with action, his actions exemplify resistance because they give him pleasure, not because they have any discernible effect on Mother. Indeed, Dave’s most important forms of resistance are psychological: even when Mother hurts his body and limits his physical freedom, Dave refuses to allow her to control his mind and his interior life. Early in the book, Dave makes himself a promise never to allow Mother to see him begging for mercy. For the remainder of the book, he takes great care to protect his dignity and his pride, honoring his promise to himself and denying Mother the satisfaction of seeing him beg. When Mother stabs Dave in the chest, for instance, Dave refuses to ask her for help; instead, he treats his own wound. Afterwards, Dave feels a deep sense of accomplishment at having taken care of himself and kept his dignity. Publicly, Dave is forced to go along with Mother’s authority. Privately, however, he resists her by preserving his dignity, refusing to become any more dependent on her than he must be.
Dave’s private resistance to Mother’s authority consists of more than preserving his dignity; he also resists Mother by continuing to hope for freedom. Throughout his years of abuse, Dave has an active fantasy life, and he dreams of flying away from his home and escaping Mother for good. In fantasy, Dave takes refuge from the horrors of his waking life. Later, when his life becomes so miserable that he contemplates suicide, his fantasies give him the strength to resist despair and continue living. Dave also resists Mother’s cruelty with the help of religion: throughout the book, he prays to God to free him from Mother. Although Dave doubts God’s existence at many points in the book (surely God wouldn’t allow a child to suffer so greatly), he continues praying in the hope that he’ll be saved. Immediately before the police rescue him from Mother, Dave prays for deliverance from evil—implying that Dave maintains his faith throughout his long ordeal (and, perhaps, that God answers Dave’s prayers when the police come). By praying to God, hoping for the best, and refusing to surrender his dignity, Dave manages to resist Mother’s tyranny. He’s too young to rebel against Mother outright, but by maintaining his sanity, his self-respect, and his cautious optimism, he makes a courageous stand against her.
Resistance Quotes in A Child Called It
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.
The police officer and I walk outside, past the cafeteria. I can see some of the kids from my class playing dodge ball. A few of them stop playing. They yell, "David's busted! David's busted!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
I willed the wound to heal. Somehow I knew it would. I felt proud of myself. I imagined myself like a character in a comic book, who overcame great odds and survived. Soon my head slumped forward and I fell asleep. In my dream, I flew through the air in vivid colors. I wore a cape of red … I was Superman.
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.
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.
It was a comforting thought that promised an escape from Aggie, her friends and all that I hated in the world. But my better senses returned, and I looked up and fixed my eyes directly on John’s eyes and tried to hold my stare. After a few moments, he must have felt my anger because he turned away taking Aggie with him.
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.