Angela's Ashes Summary


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Angela's Ashes Summary

Angela's Ashes Summary



Frank, our narrator, author and protagonist, begins the memoir with a regret: he and his family should have stayed in New York. He describes how his parents met, wed, and had five kids in New York but are now on a ship heading back to Ireland after the death of Margaret, Frank's little sister. Margaret's death caused Angela and Malachy Sr. to spiral into depression (and Malachy Sr. into even worse drinking) and to neglect their still very alive brood. Conditions in New York become desperate, and they think that they should be around family back home.

But things in Ireland aren't any better. Grandpa and Grandma McCourt don't want anything to do with them and they end up in Angela's hometown of Limerick. Angela's mother sets them up in a small flea-infested room. Malachy Sr. signs up for the dole; it's barely enough to cover food, rent, and clothing and Angela's forced to go to the St. Vincent de Paul Society to get food vouchers. In six months, Frankie's twin baby brothers are dead from disease and malnutrition.

Angela's unable to continue living in the same home where the boys died and so the McCourts move again to another rundown house right in front of the only latrine for the entire lane. In the summer, the stench is unbearable. It also floods during the rainy season. Angela gives birth to another baby boy, and Malachy Sr. gets a job at the cement factory but loses it after he goes on an all night bender and doesn't wake up for work the following day. Through all this deprivation, Angela tries to give her sons a warm and loving home but she's clearly totally stressed out.

Malachy Sr. spends the next several years either unemployed or between jobs. He loves his kids and spends a lot of time with Frank, but his lack of ambition and serious drinking leave the family hungry, cold, and broke. Frank's a resourceful kid who loves Shakespeare and movies and dreams of being able to help out his family and move back to America when he grows up. He gets odd jobs that bring in a few shillings here and there. He survives a serious bout of typhoid fever and spends fourteen weeks in the hospital.

WWII is erupting and Malachy Sr. gets a job in a munitions factory in England. He promises to send his family money when he gets paid, but true to form, he ends up drinking it all away. The McCourts are soon evicted from their home and have to move in with Angela's cousin, Laman Griffin. Frank and Laman have a huge falling out and Frank moves in with his uncle. He gets a job at the post office delivering telegrams. Frank meets Theresa Carmody while delivering a telegram to her home. Since Theresa is dying from consumption she "knows there's little time left and makes them [the telegraph boys] mad for love." (15.103) Frank loses his virginity to Theresa. She dies a few weeks later and Frank's convinced he's doomed her to hell until a kind Franciscan priest reassures him that's not the case.

Back at the post office, there's a possibility for a permanent position and Frank's all ready to take the exam until his Uncle Pa tells him, "If you pass the exam you'll stay in the post office nice and secure the rest of your life" (16.83). In other words, it'd be saying goodbye to Frankie's dream of returning to America. Frank decides not to take the postal exam and gets a job distributing newspapers and finally saves up enough money to go to America when he's nineteen.

Due to the tide, Frank's ship is forced to dock in Poughkeepsie. Sometime in the middle of the night, an Irish fellow invites Frank and a few others ashore. The men end up at a party and Frank ends up sleeping with one of the women there. Once back on the ship, Frank stares at the twinkling skyline and reflects on his new life in America.

Angela's Ashes Summary

Angela's Ashes Summary

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Angela's Ashes Summary



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 and Philomena after Angela became pregnant with Frank.

Things turn 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 school.

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.

Angela’s Ashes – Brief Plot Summary



In Angela’s Ashes, the author Frank McCourt gives his whole self in the telling of this story. It is his life’s journey- the hardship, horrors, pain and suffering that he endures.

Set in 1936, Angela’s Ashes follows the difficult lives of Angela McCourt, her husband, Malachy and their children. The oldest child of the family Frank McCourt was born into the worst kind of poverty in Brooklyn, New York. Frank and his family wore nothing more than rags and the little food they had came from the charity of kind people. His mother, Angela didn’t work and his father always drank his paycheck away. Even with out steady income to support one child, the McCourt family kept on growing extending to Malachy, Margaret, the twins- Eugene and Oliver, and eventually Michael and Alphonsus. Thus, beginning at a young age, Frank had the responsibility of tending to his brothers and sisters while his mother was desperately trying to find food to feed the family, and his father was getting drunk in the bars.
Although Frank’s father was not around for most of Frank’s life, Malachy did nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he could provide: a story. Throughout Angela’s Ashes Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain and The Angel on the Seventh Step, Frank’s very own angel who also brings his mother babies.

“Would the Angel on the Seventh Step tell you what to do, if
you didn’t know what to do?”
“He would son, he would. That’s the job of an angel. Even the one of the Seventh Step.”
I know he’s there because the seventh step feels warmer
Than the other steps
(Pg.125)
After the death of Margaret, the McCourts move to Ireland where the situation only worsened. Frank’s father continued to drink the money away and most nights the family was left to starve.

“I want ye to stand in the middle of the pub and tell every
man your father is drinking away the money
for the baby. Ye are to tell the world there isn’t a scrap of food
in this house, not a lump of coal to start the fire,
not a drop of milk for the baby’s bottle.”
(Pg.183-184)
Life for the McCourts was testing and difficult. The children wore rags for diapers, Malachy and Frank wore torn shoes in the winter, and Angela was forced to gather scraps of coal and paper from the roadside just to light a fire. Frank’s mother, Angela did all she could to keep her family alive. However, throughout all these tribulations, young Frank is determined that there must be a better life out of the slums of Ireland. He feels there must be more meaning to life than tormenting poverty, condescending priests and discriminating schoolmasters.

Tis class distinction. They don’t want boys from lanes on the altar.
They don’t want the ones with the scabby knees and
Hair sticking up. Oh, no, they want the nice boys with
Hair oil and new shoes that have fathers
With suits and ties and steady jobs. That’s what it is, and tis hard to hold
Onto the Faith with the snobbery that’s in it.
(Pg.149)
When Frank’s father left to work in England and did not send any money home, Frank was left to take on the role of father, brother and son.

My heart is pounding and I want to cry
But I can’t because my father isn’t there
And I’m the man of the family.
(Pg.182)
Over the years, Frank witnesses the deaths of many loved ones, deaths of friends and the deteriorating health of his mother. However, Frank McCourt remains strong within himself and never gives up. He goes on with fierce courage and the determination to make life better. Even though his own health is in danger, he eats scraps from the ground and has to deal with the wild emotions of being a teenager himself.

How could I with my hair sticking up, pimples dotting my
Face, my eyes red and oozing yellow, my teeth
Crumbling with the rot, no shoulders,
No flesh on my arse after cycling thirteen thousand miles
To deliver twenty thousand telegrams to every door in
Limerick and regions beyond.
(Pg.338)
Through all of this Frank remains a rock, a steady foundation for the sake of his family.

In Angela’s Ashes, Frank endures poverty, near starvation and the cruelty of relatives and neighbours- yet he overcomes his misfortunes. Although Frank McCourt faced numerous impediments, he is ready to start over and better his life.
On my days off from work I walk around Limerick
And look at all the places we lived, the Windmill Street,
Hartstonge Street, Roden Lane, Rosbrien Road, Little
Barrington Street, which is really a lane.
I stand looking at Theresa’s Carmody’s house till her mother comes
Out and says, What do you want?
I sit at the graves of Oliver and Eugene in the Old St.Patrick’s burial
Ground, and cross the road to St.Lawrence’s Cemetery
Where Theresa is buried.
Wherever I go I hear voices of the dead and I wonder
If they can follow you across the Atlantic Ocean.

Angela's Ashes Summary

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