“Mother can beat me all she wants, but I haven’t let her take away my will to somehow survive.”
p. 4 Dave’s state of mind on the morning of March 3, 1973, the day he is taken from his abusive mother by the school authorities.It encapsulates one of the main themes of the book—Dave’s will to survive.
“My two brothers and I were blessed with the perfect parents. Our every whim was fulfilled with love and care.”
p. 17. Dave is referring to the very early years of his childhood, before his mother began to abuse him. Before then, Catherine Roerva Pelzer was a loving mother.
“Mother then ordered me to climb up onto the stove and lie on the flames so she could watch me burn.”
p. 41 This is one of the earliest and most horrifying examples of the abuse that Dave suffered. His mother has just burned his arm by deliberately holding it to the flame on the stove. Then Dave struggles and manages to avoid being forced to lie on the hot stove.&
“She grabbed me by back of the neck and led me to the kitchen. There, spread out on the counter top, was another full diaper. The smell turned my stomach. ‘Now you are going to eat it!’
she said. p. 56 This is another sickening example of Mother’s depraved mind.She repeatedly tries to get him to eat the dirty diaper. Only the return of the rest of the family stops her.
“After I finished, I felt as though I had won the Olympic Marathon. I was so proud of beating Mother at her own game.”
p. 78 Dave celebrates the fact that on this occasion, he did not allow his mother to win. She tried to get him to swallow some soap. But he managed to hold it in his mouth while he did his assigned chores and then spat out the soap when he went downstairs to empty the trash.
“I felt proud of myself. I imagine 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.”
p. 98 Dave celebrates another victory over his mother. This is in the aftermath of the stabbing incident, when Mother stabs him in the stomach. Three days later the wound is still opening up. Knowing that his mother will not help him, he tends to himself in the garage, cleaning his wound with water and then improvising a bandage out of an old rag.
“Of all Mother’s punishments, I hated the gas chamber game the most.”
p. 109: The gas chamber is Dave’s name for the punishment in which his mother placed a mixture of ammonia and Clorox in a bucket in the bathroom and locked the door with Dave inside. The noxious fumes make it almost impossible for him to breathe.
“At the core of my soul, I hated myself more than anybody or anything. I came to believe that everything that happened to me or around me was my own fault because I had let it go on for so long. I wanted what others had, but saw no way to get it, so I hated them for having it.”
p. 136 These are Dave’s feelings during the summer of 1972. His rescue is only about eight months away, but he has no way of knowing this. He has been ground down for so many years by the stream of emotional and physical abuse that he has nothing left but self-hatred. Like many abused people, he has been taught to believe that he is to blame for his own abuse.
“You are a nobody! An It! You are nonexistent! You are a bastard child! I hate you and I wish you were dead!”
p. 140: Dave’s mother’s words after she reads a letter his teacher, Mr. Ziegler, has written to her telling her that Dave is one of the best students in the class.
“You are all mine now. Too bad your father’s not here to protect you.”
p. 152: Mother’s words to Dave. Mother and her husband have finally separated for good, and she has just dropped him off at a motel. She and the boys are now returning home in the car.