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Extract from “A Man Named Dave” by Dave Pelzer

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1 Extract from “A Man Named Dave” by Dave Pelzer
Natasha Lau

2 Themes: Fear “Upon…seeing Mother’s silhouette, my entire body locked up” This gives the reader the illusion that his mother seems to invoke fear in the narrator. This causes the reader to question why it is that he is so scared of his mother and why his body ‘locks’ up. Perhaps some form of physical abuse was committed and his body ‘locking up’ is a defense mechanism. Similarly, his recognition of her mere ‘silhouette’ striking fear in the narrator suggests that this was a repeated process of abuse rather than just a one time thing. The use of a silhouette similarly provides the atmosphere of tension and suspicion from the beginning of the extract as it does not reveal her character as a whole but rather a ‘hidden’ view of her.

3 Themes: Fear “my hands fused to my sides, my chin fastened to my chest, and my eyes staring at the multicolored spots on the floor.” The use of listing here is prominent in insinuating the narrators fear to the audience as it reflects on the automatic physiological process that the mothers character invokes. It seems to describe it as an almost endless process as the list goes on to show this. The actual actions themselves similarly seems to reflect the loss of dignity and the narrators sense of guilt he feels. As he says ‘my chin fastened to my chest’ suggests the deep bowing of his neck not as a sign of respect but rather to reflect the loss of identity as the imagery created here suggests.

4 Themes: Overcoming Fear
“I didn’t back away. I stood my ground. ” Taken near the beginning of the extract, it already shows character development in which he seems to mature already and overcome the fearful sensation when her character was first introduced. The use of caesura creates the effect of short and blunt sentences done to reflect on his new found confidence within the scene. Repetition of ‘I’ similarly focuses the audiences attention on the narrator rather than the mother. This sudden shift in tone is reflective on the change in mind-set and thinking pattern of the narrator allowing us to witness this surge in power. Perhaps the word ‘ground’ was specifically chosen in this context as has the connotation of strength and sturdiness; two traits that the speaker has found himself possessing.

5 Themes: Unorthodox relationship between mother and son
“By the sickening sound of her chuckle, Mother had just witnessed my automatic response.” The use of the word ‘sickening’ here is prominent as it juxtaposes the typical description of a mothers voice. Whilst a generic element of mothers are caring and loving, the narrators lexical choice of ‘sickening’ is effecting in conveying his attitude towards her character. This may be because of actions she has done in the past or on-going actions during the present. Similarly, capitalization of ‘Mother’ is interesting to consider as it seems to regard it as a name itself rather than a title. This effectively distances the narrator and his mother using a cold tone is created rather than loving one.

6 Literary Technique: Similes
“she flashed me one of her snake-like smiles” The use of the simile ‘snake-like’ has negative connotations to describe her character as snakes are often associated with being sinister and untrustworthy. This could reflect on the persona of the mother as she has proved to be double sided in the past. Then in a vindictive tone she hissed This further establishes the running theme of an unorthodox relationship between a mother and son. Whilst a mothers voice is often described in terms of comfort, the hatred in her voice is clear through the lexical choice of ‘vindictive’ and ‘hissed’. Whilst it insinuates that the narrator has wronged the mother, it is more likely the other way round or shown to be a common occurrence suggested through the narrators monosyllabic description.

7 Characterisation: The Mother
“With a dramatic flair Mother threw up her hands” The narrators (seemingly) familiarity to this situation suggests that the mother of the narrative regularly dramatizes her actions and reactions to things. The effect of this on the reader is the creation of imagery to emphasise what is currently going on in the scene. This furthers readers from the mother as it casts them as the observer in contrast feeling as part of the story itself. “She acted as if she were under and overwhelming strain.” Once again, the narrator seems familiar to this situation as shown through the confidence in his tone. Whilst ‘overwhelming strain’ is a rather serious topic, the use of the word ‘acted’ depicts the mother as creating unnecessary drama and stress for others. As an effect of this, she is seen as a rather selfish character.

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