"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic... read more
Protagonist and first-person narrator Frank McCourt begins his memoir of his early life in Limerick, Ireland, with a description of how his parents Angela Sheehan and Malachy McCourt met in New York City and were forced to marry by Angela's cousins Delia andPhilomena after Angela became... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Protagonist and first-person narrator Frank McCourt begins his memoir of his early life in Limerick, Ireland, with a description of how his parents Angela Sheehan and Malachy McCourt met in New York City and were forced to marry by Angela's cousins Delia andPhilomena after Angela became pregnant with Things bad almost immediately. Malachy can't find work in Depression era New York City and any money he does earn goes into the pubs of New York. Angela struggles to feed her family and relies heavily on her Brooklyn neighbors for help. Malachy is steadier after the birth of Margaret but the baby dies shortly and Angela falls into a deep depression. The cousins save the day once more and arrange for the McCourts to return to Ireland and it's here that things go from bad to worse. Angela's mother "Grandma" is not happy to see her daughter back in Ireland with a ne'r do well husband and four young children but helps them find lodgings. Malachy continues his cycle of finding work, drinking, and losing work. Soon, Frank's little twin brothers Oliver and Eugene die from pneumonia caused by poor living conditions and the lack of nutritious food. Frank describes his life of horror in Limerick and makes it more palatable with large doses of humor. For instance, the family has to sleep on one mattress that is filled with fleas and they run and jump around in the lane outside. Their house floods but they move upstairs and call it Italy because it is warm and dry. Malachy takes time with his son and tells him stories and sings him songs of Irish heroes but continues to drink heavily to the great economic detriment of the family. Soon Angela gives birth to two more sons, Michael and Alphie. Although Frank and his brother Malachy Jr. initially experience a difficult time at school because they are "yanks," in time Frank becomes one of the brightest boys in school and demonstrates a natural ability for reading and writing. He has no trouble with studying the catechism for his first Communion and Confirmation. At the age of ten he falls ill with typhoid fever and, near death, he must be hospitalized. Here a girl dying from diphtheria introduces him to Shakespeare and he is immediately struck by the brilliant words. This serves him well in. Jughhh His father Malachy leaves the family during World War II to work in a British factory with the intent of sending home his wages but while the families prosper around them from fathers working in England, Malachy never sends money home and the McCourts sink even deeper into poverty, now having to rely on public aid. Angela on occasion must stand outside a Church begging for the remains of the priest's dinner. When she becomes ill, Frank must care for the family and is forced to steal food and milk from outside Limerick's richer houses.
By the time he is thirteen, Frank is working for his neighbor Mr. Hannon delivering coal. The boy always has some job or other going on while he goes to school. He works reading the newspaper for the Buddhist Mr. Timoney,delivering newspapers for his nasty Uncle Ab, delivering telegrams as a messenger boy at the post office, writing collection letters for the mean-spirited Mrs. Finucane,and delivering newspapers once again for Mr. McCaffrey at Eason's shop. The youngster is excited about working because it makes him feel like a man and it helps him feed his family.
Eventually, the McCourts get evicted after burning down one of the house's walls for fuel and are forced to move in with Angela's cousin Laman Griffin who treats Frank with great meanness. Angela also begins sleeping with Laman which makes Frank angry and after Laman beats him Frank is forced to move in with his uncle Ab, where he very nearly starves.
Frank suffers from guilt over his sexual feelings which are constantly in direct opposition to the Catholic Church's teachings. On one occasion while delivering a telegram he encounters Teresa Carmody who suffers from consumption. The girl, who knows she is going to die, takes Frank inside her house and the youngsters make love. Frank is torn by the wonderful feelings of love and the resultant horrible guilt. Soon after, Teresa dies and Frank suffers terribly with guilt until a priest he meets at St. Francis's Church hears his confession and grants him forgiveness.
However, underneath it all Frank dreams of returning to America, the land of his birth and begins to save money from his wages for his ticket. One night, Mrs. Fineucne dies and Frank robs the money that she makes from the poor in Limerick and flings her ledger into the river so her customers will never have to pay. Then he has enough money for his fare and after a departing party leaves Cork for New York.
Upon his arrival, the ship, The Irish Oak, is forced to dock in Albany. On the way up, Frank attends a party on shore where he. meets an American woman named Freida. with whom he has a sexual encounter. He is able to put aside his feelings of guilt and suddenly the world looks very bright. school.
“Stock your mind. Stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it....You mind is your house and if you fill it with rubbish from the cinemas, it will rot in your head. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is your palace.”Frank's headmaster in school
“I’m on deck the dawn we sail into New York. I’m sure I’m in a film, that it will end and lights will come up in the Lyric Cinema. . . . Rich Americans in top hats white ties and tails must be going home to bed with the gorgeous women with white teeth. The rest are going to work in warm comfortable offices and no one has a care in the world.”Frank’s arrival in America at the conclusion of Angela’s Ashes is presented as a dream sequence.
“I know when Dad does the bad thing. I know when he drinks the dole money and Mam is desperate and has to beg . . . but I don’t want to back away from him and run to Mam. How can I do that when I’m up with him early every morning with the whole world asleep?”This quotation comes from Chapter VIII.
“The master says it’s a glorious thing to die for the 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. My brothers are dead and my sister is dead and I wonder if they died for Ireland or the Faith. Dad says they were too young to die for anything. Mam says it was disease and starvation and him never having a job. Dad says, Och, Angela, puts on his cap and goes for a long walk.”This quotation comes from Chapter IV.
“Mam turns toward the dead ashes in the fire and sucks at the last bit of goodness in the Woodbine butt caught between the brown thumb and the burnt middle finger. Michael . . . wants to know if we’re having fish and chips tonight because he’s hungry. Mam says, Next week, love, and he goes back out to play in the lane.”In Chapter IX, Frank observes his mother’s growing despondency as another week passes without the arrival of a paycheck from England.
“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. . . . nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years.”This passage introduces McCourt’s memoir.
“What is it you don't see our lord doing boys? Hanging on the cross sporting shoes sir!”
“A mother's love's a blessing. No matter where you roam. Keep her while she's living. You'll miss her when she's gone.”Angela Sheehan MCCourt (lyrics to a song)
“It's lovely to know the world can't interfere with the inside of your head.”
It’s lovely to know the world can’t interfere with the inside of your head.Highlighted by 64 Kindle customers
I think my father is like the Holy Trinity with three people in him, the one in the morning with the paper, the one at night with the stories and the prayers, and then the one who does the bad thing and comes home with the smell of whiskey and wants us to die for Ireland.Highlighted by 48 Kindle customers
The master says it’s a glorious thing to die for the 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. My brothers are dead and my sister is dead and I wonder if they died for Ireland or the Faith.Highlighted by 46 Kindle customers
You have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else but you can’t make up an empty mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it. If you won the Irish Sweepstakes and bought a house that needed furniture would you fill it with bits and pieces of rubbish? Your mind is your house and if you fill it with rubbish from the cinemas it will rot in your head. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.Highlighted by 42 Kindle customers
Love her as in childhood Though feeble, old and grey. For you’ll never miss a mother’s love Till she’s buried beneath the clay.Highlighted by 39 Kindle customers
When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.Highlighted by 37 Kindle customers
People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years.Highlighted by 36 Kindle customers
When Dad brings home the first week’s wages Mam is delighted she can pay the lovely Italian man in the grocery shop and she can hold her head up again because there’s nothing worse in the world than to owe and be beholden to anyone.Highlighted by 29 Kindle customers
And the child was named Angela for the Angelus which rang the midnight hour, the New Year, the minute of her coming and because she was a little angel anyway.Highlighted by 24 Kindle customers
When you have your father to yourself by the fire in the morning you don’t need Cuchulain or the Angel on the Seventh Step or anything.Highlighted by 19 Kindle customers
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