A Child Called ‘It’ Quotes: 3 Meaningful Passages

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "A Child Called 'It'" by Dave Pelzer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are some A Child Called “It” quotes? How do the quotes from A Child Called “It” show the key messages?

A Child Called “It” is a book about horrific child abuse and the boy who survived it. Quotes from A Child Called “It” show how Dave Pelzer lived through that trauma.

Keep reading for 3 A Child Called “It” quotes and what they mean.

Quotes From A Child Called “It”

“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.”

The first of the A Child Called “It” quotes highlights the issue of a childhood lost to abuse. Though, David’s experience was not always this way.

David’s earliest childhood memories are happy ones. He looks up to his fireman father, and he loves his warm, caring mother who goes to great lengths to create memorable and magical experiences for David and his two brothers. 

Around the time David’s in first grade, Mother’s behavior shifts dramatically. 

Mother limits the severity of her abuse when Father is home, but he works 24-hour shifts at the fire station and is often out of the house. Mother singles out David among his brothers and subjects him to increasingly cruel punishments, including:

  • Shoving David’s face into a mirror and then forcing him to stand in front of it, looking at his reflection and repeating, “I’m a bad boy!”
  • Leaving David at his aunt’s house with no explanation while the rest of the family goes on their annual vacation, and then beating him when she finds out he tried to run away to join the family.
  • Giving David no gifts for Christmas—while his brothers each get dozens—and berating Father for getting David two small gifts. 

One day, the abuse reaches a turning point when Mother holds David’s arm over a flame on the stove and then tries forcing him to lie on top of the stove. That day David vows to take responsibility for his survival and outsmart Mother any way he can. 

“Inside, my soul became so cold I hated everything. I even despised the sun, for I knew I would never be able to play in its warm presence. I cringed with hate whenever I heard other children laughing, as they played outside. My stomach coiled whenever I smelled food that was about to be served to somebody else, knowing it wasn’t for me.”

The second of the quotes from A Child Called “It” is about the loss of hope. In David’s loss of hope, he comes to hate everyone around him because no one has stepped in to save him. 

First, besides hating Mother for the abuse, he hates Father for allowing it. Despite Father’s old promises that he would take David away from the madhouse, their relationship has deteriorated. David’s supposed bad behavior and abusive punishment is the source of so many arguments between Mother and Father that David is convinced that Father resents him. 

Making matters worse, Mother often literally brings David into her arguments with Father: She drags David into the room and forces him to say all the foul words Father had used against Mother in the argument. David feels backed into betraying Father, but he goes along with it to avoid the consequences of refusing Mother’s demand. 

Second, David hates his brothers—except his baby brother Kevin—who have been so brainwashed by their Mother that they go along with treating David as the family slave. In one instance, his brothers even take turns physically attacking David. 

(Shortform note: David’s younger brother Richard released a book, A Brother’s Journey, after this book was published. In it, Richard describes how he went from harassing David to becoming the new target of Mother’s abuse after David was taken out of Mother’s custody.)

Finally, David hates himself most of all and feels responsible for allowing the abuse to continue for so long. David is convinced that he’s weak and that he deserves his mistreatment—in no small part because Mother often forced him to repeat “I hate myself.” (Shortform note: Our summary of The Body Keeps the Score also explains that trauma survivors are often more haunted by unwarranted shame for their own actions or inactions than by their abusers’ actions.)

“It is important for people to know that no matter what lies in their past, they can overcome the dark side and press on to a brighter world.”

The last of the quotes from A Child Called “It” is about survivors. David shared his story of abuse for two reasons: 

  • To demonstrate the strength of the human spirit under even the worst conditions
  • To illustrate how a loving parent can morph into a cruel abuser

David emerged from his experience determined to overcome his troubled childhood by becoming a success. This drive inspired him to serve his country by joining the Air Force, and he feels that he continues to serve others by sharing his story, giving talks, and leading workshops. David wants other victims and survivors to know they’re not alone, and he wants everyone to know that it’s possible to endure anything and emerge triumphant.

A Child Called ‘It’ Quotes: 3 Meaningful Passages

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Dave Pelzer's "A Child Called 'It'" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full A Child Called 'It' summary :

  • How David Pelzer survived horrific abuse at the hands of his mother
  • How victims and survivors of abuse can find support and overcome their painful past
  • Why child abuse may go unnoticed by other adults

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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