Lost boy : Character Profiles
Dan Brazell is the father of Dave’s friend Paul. He is known as the “Mr. Goodwrench” of the neighborhood, always working on some mechanical project in his garage. He is wary of Dave at first but eventually warms up to him.
Paul Brazell and Dave Howard
Paul Brazell and Dave Howard are the two boys who become friends with Dave when he moves with the Walshes to a more affluent neighborhood. The three of them go through a few adventures together, including bike races in the street.
Carlos is a shy Hispanic boy who does not speak much English. Dave meets him while he is living with Jody and Vera Jones and attending Fernando Riviera Junior High. Carlos and Dave have much in common and they become friends. Dave says that Carlos “didn’t have a mean bone in his body” (p. 239).
Lilian and Rudy Catanze
Lilian and Rudy Catanze are the foster parents who take Dave in after he leaves Aunt Mary. They have been foster parents to many children over a period of many years. Dave gets fond of Lilian, who tries her best to give Dave a good home. Eventually, however, the rambunctious Dave proves too much for them to handle, and he is sent to juvenile hall. Lilian stays loyal to him, however, and Dave is eventually released and sent back to the Catanzes. But he soon has to move on as two other children are assigned to the Catanzes. He has stayed with them for about a year in all.
Chris is a foster child who lives with the Catanzes while Dave is there. He is seventeen years old and has cerebral palsy. He was abandoned as a child and has lived in a dozen foster homes. He is worried about how he will take care of himself when he turns eighteen, as then he will have to leave foster care. Larry Jr. enjoys hurting his feelings.
Ms. Gold is a social worker with the county Child Protective Services who is assigned to Dave’s case when he is first removed from his family home. She has long blond hair and Dave thinks of her as an angel. He trusts her and thinks of her as his best friend, and she always does her best for him. She accompanies him to the court hearing that will decide whether he is to become a ward of the court or be returned to his mother. She coaches him on what to say.
Gordon Hutchenson is Dave’s probation officer. He is assigned to Dave when Dave is living in the detention center and has been accused of arson. Gordon is an experienced probation officer who does a good job for Dave. In court he opposes the prosecution’s argument that Dave should be sent to an institution, arguing instead that he should be returned to his foster parents. After Dave leaves the Catanzes, Gordon works extremely hard to find him another foster home.
John is a boy Dave meets at school. Like Dave, he wears worn-out clothes but Dave notices that no one picks on him. Dave finds out that John leads a gang, and John wants him to join it. John hatches a plot to get even with his teacher who scolded him in front of the class. The plot is to burn the teacher’s classroom down. John goes ahead with his plan, but Dave, who at first agreed to help, gets blamed for it, even though he tried to put out the fire.
Johnny Jones is a boy at school who tricks Dave into stealing a model airplane for him from a store. After Dave is caught, it transpires that the store manager is Johnny Jones’s father, and Johnny told him what Dave was going to do.
Vera and Jody Jones
Vera and Jody Jones are an African-American couple who become Dave’s foster parents for a short after he leaves the Nullses. Dave is one of eight foster children who live there. Dave has to leave after Jody is accused of statutory rape of a girl who had been living there. One of the foster children tells Dave that he does not believe the accusation is true.
Big Larry is a foster child who lives with the Catanzes while Dave is there. He is older than Dave, and Dave likes him, finding him childlike and shy. They go to the movies together and both get in trouble with their foster parents when one day they ride down the street where Dave’s mother lives.
Larry Jr. is a foster child who lives with the Catanzes while Dave is there. He takes a dislike to Dave and torments him, calling him “Momma’s little boy” (p. 113) and becoming physically aggressive with him. Eventually Dave fights back.
Mark is a cook in a pizza house. Before Dave is taken from his family home, he turns up hungry in the pizza house. Mark is kind to him and gives him a Coke and a pizza.
Aunt Mary is an elderly woman who runs a temporary foster home where Dave is first placed after being removed from his family home. She is strict but kind.
Michael Marsh and his wife and two small children are neighbors of Dave when he lives with the Walshes. Michael befriends Dave, and Dave spends many hours at his house reading books about aircraft. Michael later advises him to join the armed services.
Joanne and Michael Nulls
Joanne and Michael Nulls are Dave’s foster parents for a short period. Joanne fusses over him too much and treats him like a child. Michael only agreed to take him in because Joanne cannot have children of her own and she is lonely. When their marriage breaks down and they announce they are divorcing, Dave is moved to another home. Joanne tells him that Michael was having an affair with another woman, but Dave still thinks he has had something to do with their break up.
Dave Pelzer is the author and subject of the memoir. He has been severely abused by his mother for about eight years, beginning when he was four. He is finally taken away from his home by the local authorities, who place him in foster care. This begins a long learning process for the boy as he adjusts to his new environment. He lives in six foster homes in all, covering a period of six year until he is eighteen. As a child who has never known love and acceptance in his family (except as a very small boy) Dave has a difficult time learning how to behave in a way that is acceptable to his new family and to society. Wanting to fit in with other boys, he falls into bad habits such as stealing from stores, and he also for a while gets involved with the wrong crowd at school. When he is blamed for starting a fire at the school he is taken out of foster care and placed in juvenile detention. Fortunately for him, he has a number of people, including his foster parent Lilian and probation officer Gordon, who support him, and he is fairly soon returned to foster care. Eventually, as an intelligent and inquisitive boy, Dave gets his life sorted out, and when he is eighteen and leaving foster care, he joins the U.S. Air Force. He knows he has the ability to create a decent life for himself, and he is grateful to his various foster parents for making it possible.
Mr. Pelzer is Dave’s father. He is a firefighter. He played no part in Dave’s abuse but was too weak to stop it happening. Unlike Dave’s mother, his father is allowed to contact him and visit him at any time, but he rarely does so, to Dave’s great disappointment. When he finally does visit his son in juvenile detention, he says he cannot forgive him for starting a fire. Later, he is forced to retire from his job, and he has little left to live for. His alcoholism has ruined his life. Dave goes to visit him in San Francisco and is shocked by his decline.
Mrs. Pelzer is the villain of the story. She abused her son Dave for many years before he was removed from her custody. After that she makes several attempts to get him back. Dave fears she will come for him and has nightmares about her. Dave sees her several times—at Aunt Mary’s where she visits him and is unpleasant, and then again in the courthouse for the hearing that will determine whether he is returned to her. He writes her a note asking her to forgive him but she tears it up. She does seem to have some spark of goodness left in her, though, since after the court has ruled against her she gives Dave presents and seems genuinely sad about what has happened. Later, however, she plays the villain again when she tries to have him committed to a mental institution, claiming that he was out of control and violent when he lived at her house. The relationship between Dave and his mother does not break down irrevocably, however. Some years later, when Dave is about to join the U.S. Air Force, she calls him and they talk for over an hour. She claims that she always wanted the best for him. But Dave concludes that she is toying with his emotion and does not really love him.
Russell Pelzer is Dave’s younger brother. Dave meets him by chance one day at the school Dave used to attend. At this time Dave is living with Vera and Jody Jones, less than a mile from his mother’s house. He thinks Russell looks withdrawn, and he notices bruises on his arms which indicate possible abuse by his mother. Russell says that since Dave left, their mother’s behavior has become even worse.
Dr. Donald Robertson
Dr. Donald Robertson is the second psychiatrist Dave is sent to. Dave likes him much better than the first one, and finds he can talk to him about his past life. Dr. Robertson’s manner is more informal and he tells Dave to call him by his first name. Dave always peppers him with questions, and Dr. Robertson recommends some books for him to read.
Mrs. O’Ryan is Dave’s second probation officer, who is responsible for moving him away from the Walshes and back to the Turnboughs.
Harold and Alice Turnbough
Harold and Alice Turnbough are foster parents to Dave. First they take him in for only a few days because they have little room. But later, after leaving the Joneses, Dave is returned there. Again, it is considered a very temporary arrangement but Dave stays there longer than planned. He gets along well with Alice and Harold. Harold is a carpenter and doesn’t talk much but Dave respects him. He fantasizes about one day working on a project with him. He also talks at length with Alice about his future. After moving out and living with the Walshes, Dave returns for his third spell in the Turnbough home, which is where he lives out the rest of his time in foster care. He thinks of Alice and Harold as his mom and dad.
John and Linda Walsh
John and Linda Walsh are a young couple in their twenties with children of their own who become Dave’s foster parents for a while. Dave likes them because they are easy going and allow him to do pretty much what he wants to do. But they also have regular fierce quarrels and this proves too much for Dave, so he asks to be moved to another home.