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Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt.

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Introduction

Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt, was written in the 1990's but reflects life in Ireland during the Depression. Frank McCourt, the novel's protagonist, was fortunate to be born in America, but his family faced many difficulties due to the economic crisis. Ultimately, they decided to find support back in Ireland. What they found in there, however, instead of help, was more economic struggles and many families in the same desperate situation as them; with limited room for living, scarce amounts of food, and hardly any money. It was hard for the McCourts to raise their children as Irish Catholics because they were often exposed to the stereotype of the drunken father, emotionally wrecked mother, and kids running around that haven't been bathed in weeks. Angela's Ashes portrays a typical lifestyle of a lower class family living in Ireland during the late 1930's and early 1940's. One of the many problems the McCourt family experienced was often the lack of money. Frank's father would often drink away the dole money shortly after receiving his paycheck. Malachy McCourt's actions kept his family living in poverty. The deaths of his three-year-old twin sons and his infant daughter due to illness (that could have been prevented with ordinary medications), and the fact that he enjoyed drinking, lead him to the pubs of Limerick to release his anger and dull his pain. ...read more.

Middle

After payday on Friday (when he was lucky enough to have a payday), he was often found at the pubs drinking all the money away that he just earned. His habits after visiting the pubs, coming home roaring and heavily intoxicated demanding that his sons die for Ireland, were confusing to his children on what to believe in. It was a time when Catholicism prevailed and faith came before everything. Frank's teachers and the Catholic priests often taught that it was an honour to die for one's faith. His father said it to be an honour to die for their country, Ireland. "The master says it's a glorious thing to die for Faith and Dad says it's a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there's anyone in the world who would like us to live" (113). Hearing this from his father and from the priests, and seeing his brothers and baby sister die, it's a wonder that Frank never gave up hope. Being such a young boy and not only hearing about "glorious death," but also experiencing it firsthand, combined with his family's living and economic situations, one can only speculate what his willpower forged on and how he, the first-born, survived their extreme poverty. ...read more.

Conclusion

The boys know it to be an empty hope because they knew their father would rather spend his earnings on alcohol than support the family. The plague of hunger took over Frank's entire family. The McCourts never had enough food to eat and often had to borrow some bread and water from neighbours or Angela's sister or mother. Hunger is mentioned over and over again in the memoir until it becomes a major underlying theme of the book. Hunger played a prevalent role in Frank's life. The McCourt family may have been able to afford a small amount of proper food, if it wasn't for Frank's father. It becomes obvious from the very beginning of the novel that everywhere Frank looks, hunger is right there in his face. The hunger is almost like an extra gene that he inherited from one of his parents. Angela's Ashes shows the strength of one small boy. Frank McCourt didn't just merely overcome poverty, he fought and used all of his might to support not only himself, but his family as well. This shows the reader how independent Frank had become in just a short amount of time, because he was propelled into maturity by his father's lack of care and responsibility towards the family. ...read more.

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