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A Child Called It Argument Essay

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Chapter 3: Bad Boy


As a small child, Dave becomes mischievous, and his mother starts to punish him. He becomes afraid of her. Her behavior changes entirely. Sometimes she doesn’t bother to get dressed and lies on the couch all day watching television. The punishments become severe:  she would smash his face against a mirror and verbally abuse him. His brothers do not receive the same severe treatment. 


On one occasion Dave is sent by his mother to search for something. He forgets what he is supposed to be looking for and asks her. She responds by hitting him in the face, making his nose bleed. She  often sends him on fruitless searches to find things, and she continues to verbally abuse him when he cannot find whatever it is that he is supposed to be looking for. 


Mother is different when her husband is home. She behaves more normally, and Dave comes to see  his father as his protector. Once when he is about to go to work, his father tells Dave to be a “good boy,” and Dave assumes that  he is the opposite, a “bad boy.” But after that his mother calms down and for a while is not abusive. But a month or two later, the abuse starts again. Mother, her breath smelling of alcohol, beats Dave up, punching him many times in the face. She loses her balance and wrenches his arm and shoulder in the process. His left arm is injured and is painful. His mother does nothing to aid him until early the following morning, when she drives him to the hospital. She tells the doctor that Dave fell from a bunk bed, although Dave can tell the doctor does not believe her.  At home, Mother lies about the incident when she tells her husband about it. 


At that time, Dave is happy at school, because it gives him a chance to get away from his mother. But one day his mother tells him that he is going to be held back from the first grade “because I was a bad boy” (p. 36). She is angry. She bans him from watching television, makes him go without dinner, beats him, and sends him to the garage. 


That summer he is sent to live with his Aunt Josie while the family goes on vacation at the campsite. He tries to run away, and when his mother later finds out, she kicks and punches him. Then she rams a bar of soap into his mouth. 


Dave starts to enjoy school again the fall. He has his younger brother Stan with him in the first grade. Mother is again abusive, saying she has received a letter from Santa Claus saying that Dave was a bad boy and would get no gifts at Christmas.  The only gifts he gets that year are two from relatives. He does also get  two other gifts, it seems—paint-by-number pictures. But he finds out when he overhears an argument between his mother and his father that his father had bought him the gifts against his mother’s wishes. She insists that it is her job to discipline him. 


One day he returns from school to change and go to a Cub Scout meeting. His mother is angry and smashes his face against the mirror. Then she drives him to the den mother’s house, but a tearful Dave tells the den mother that he cannot attend because he has been bad. When they get home, Mother makes him take off his clothes and stand by the stove. She tells him that he broke the rules by playing on the grass at school, which Dave denies. She turns on the gas burners and holds his arm to the flame. Then she tells him to climb onto the stove and lie on the flames. He refuses, but she tries to force him. He manages to hold out, knowing that soon his brother Ron will be home and that his mother never acts so badly when he is there. Mother keeps hitting Dave, but then Ron returns. Dave grabs his clothes and escapes to the garage. He realizes that he has won and his mother has lost. He resolves never to give in to her, no matter what she does to him. 




The story is told from the point of view of the child. As Pelzer puts it in his “Author’s Notes,” “The tone and vocabulary reflect the age and wisdom of the child at that particular time.” What this means is that the reader is left somewhat in the dark about why Dave’s mother is so abusive to him. He never attempts any serious interpretation of the cause of her behavior. All we learn is that “As a small child, I probably had a voice that carried farther than others. I also had the unfortunate luck of getting caught at mischief, even though my brothers and I were often committing the same ‘crime’” (p. 29). From this and other hints all that can be gleaned is that Pelzer may have been what is sometimes called an “overactive” child. Such children may be loud and mischievous and hard to control. They can be frustrating for parents but they can of course be well raised if the parents pursue the right strategies in dealing with them. If Pelzer was an overactive child, it is clear that his mother had no idea of how to handle him and did everything wrong. Her discipline of him was cruel, stupid, and completely outrageous. The worst example in this chapter, when she deliberately burns him on the stove, is unfortunately not the worst incident Dave will relate during the course of this book. The reader may wonder, How can she possibly do this to her child? The clue Pelzer leaves is that Mother is often drunk. It appears that something happened in her life that caused her to sink into depression and alcoholism. This is suggested by Dave’s descriptions of how some days she would not dress and would lounge all day on the couch watching TV and drinking. Often when she abuses him, he smells alcohol on her breath. Perhaps it was her marriage that went sour—she and her husband are depicted having fierce arguments—but nothing can be known for sure about this mysterious, highly disturbed woman. However, it is well known that alcoholics can engage in seriously destructive, violent behaviors that can destroy a family. 


A thesis statement is the main idea of what a paper is about. Typically, this statement allows a reader of the paper to know exactly what the paper is going to say without having to reader the paper at all.

Before writing your paper, you need to know exactly what type of paper you are going to be writing. The three main types of essays are analytical (used to break down ideas and evaluate them),...

A thesis statement is the main idea of what a paper is about. Typically, this statement allows a reader of the paper to know exactly what the paper is going to say without having to reader the paper at all.

Before writing your paper, you need to know exactly what type of paper you are going to be writing. The three main types of essays are analytical (used to break down ideas and evaluate them), an expository (where one explains something to an audience), and a argumentative (where you present your argument on a given topic).

Examples of each, in regards to "A Child Called It" would be:

Analytical: David's life held many challenges. One would describe the challenges that David faced as a result of living in an abusive home.

Expository: David Pelzer was an abused child whose abuse was horrific. One would be explaining David's life as one as an abused child.

Argumentative: David Pelzer did not deserve the life he lived as a child. One would take a stand on a point they believed to be true about a work. (Unfortunately, this would not be a good essay given many people would already agree with your stand. A more aggressive paper would state that David deserved the abuse that he suffered from at the hand of his mother. This being said, a thesis like this could be offensive to readers and the writer would never be able to persuade the audience.)

To create a thesis statement for the novel, one could consider the things that David had to do to survive. David had to steal food so as not to starve. Also, David had to hide the truth about his abuse so as not to be abused more. Lastly, David had to be strong (physically and mentally) so as to be able to survive the abuse.

These supporting ideas would lead the essay to be one of an expository nature. You, as the writer, would be explaining what it took for David to survive his childhood of abuse.

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