Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Synopsis

Angela's Ashes redefines poverty

“Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt portrays his childhood in an impoverished town of Ireland. Born in New York to Angela and Malachy McCourt, Frank and his family soon move back to Ireland when they face economic difficulties due to his father’s uncontrollable drinking habits. Unfortunately for them, the drinking doesn’t stop and on top of that, it appears that finding a job is harder than finding one back in New York. When World War II strikes, however, opportunities open up for Malachy and he takes one in England. In this way, the author manages to portray World War II, one of the most horrifying tragedies in human history, as a blissful moment in his life that provided work for his father. Besides poverty, the other factor that plays against their already-struggling family is the death of family members – Margaret, Oliver, and Eugene – which prompt even more depression in the household.Like most characters in autobiographies, the characters in “Angela’s Ashes” suffer in a seemingly inescapable prison of tragedy, but later find opportunities that get them out. This is the case with Frank when, as he grows older, takes more responsibility and finds a number of jobs on his own. It comes to a point where he earns more than his father does and contributes more to the family than his father ever did. The plot has a constant change in mood and it keeps the readers on their toes not knowing what to expect. When things finally seem to come together in the McCourt household, another tragedy befalls them, leaving the McCourts and the readers devastated yet again.

Review

Conveys an important message

Frank McCourt conveys a message with this novel depicting a deprived childhood and extreme poverty: At the end of the day family is the most important value. He shows this through his experiences with relatives who welcome them with open hands and those who openly express enmity toward them. But when the McCourts face a tragedy that causes their lives to fall apart, every relative gives a helping hand whether they like them or not, because they are family. The value of family is what motivates Frank to take matters into his own hands and search for jobs. It even motivates the miserable alcoholic, Malachy, to come home with his daily payment instead of squandering them at the pub. However, when Margaret, the source of his joy and purpose of life dies, he doesn’t hesitate in his transition back to an alcoholic. Despite the importance of family to Frank’s life (everything he does is for his family), he carries out a dream of his own – to go to America and start a life there. When the time comes for him to leave, he hesitates at the sight of his crying family and the sight of Limerick, where he spent his childhood and regardless of how devastating it was, he realizes that he will miss it. It takes the effort of a priest from Los Angeles to persuade him that greater things await him in America. During his trip overseas to America, he constantly thinks about his family and how he is willing to sacrifice his dreams for their well-being.

Author Biography
Frank McCourt
Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt returned to America when he was nineteen. He became an English teacher at Stuyvesant High School in New York City for a number of years until he moved to Connecticut. Angela’s Ashes became an international bestseller and won the author the Pulitzer Prize. The novel was created into a film and its sequel, Tis’, was published in 1999.

Links

Frank McCourt Short Biography
Summary of Angela's Ashes