by Frank McCourt
reviewed by Grace Sadahiro
In the New York Times Bestseller first person novel Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, the author himself expressed his thoughts from when he was a child to a humorous, compassionate, luminous, and complicated memoir of his life during the Great Depression. Frank, growing up in Ireland, never boasted about his childhood. At a very young age, he acknowledges that his family was poor and realizes that the impact for this was all because of the father, Malachy Sr., having alcoholic problems. Frank describes the unfortunate events of his life as the novel develops.
When the book began, Frank revealed just how dreadful his childhood was, “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all… Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood” (McCourt 11). Frank only had his mother, his father and brother both named Malachy McCourt, twin brothers Oliver and Eugene, and a deceased sister Margaret. Angela McCourt, although she had an exceedingly irresponsible husband, manifested that her first priorities were her children because she maintained great expectations for them and raised them to be well-behaved, hardworking men. Malachy McCourt Sr., on the other hand, was evidently not the most helpful or supportive father. The illness that Frank’s father had, which decreased the welfare of the family, was his uncontrolling and endangering drinking. His several alcoholic consumptions after his children’s deaths were supposed to help him numb the pain. Frank’s other siblings charmed the hearts of Angela McCourt and worked hard to try to benefit the family.
Two major themes in Angela’s Ashes were class limitations and hunger. Although Frank McCourt was intelligent, he never had the opportunities to further his education because him and his family were paupers. Frank knew what he would have experienced in school because, “People everywhere brag and whimper about the oes 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… the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years” (McCourt 11). No matter how hard Angela McCourt tried, Malachy (Sr.) was always keeping his family on the low-class status because of the decline of prosperity. The McCourt family was so poor that because of Malachy McCourt Sr., they were always on the low-class status. Frank wanted to learn but did not have the money to pay for schooling. Frank’s figurative hunger was to get valuable teachings. Since Mr. McCourt was always alcoholic and health problems, he took more things away from his family than just hunger. Every McCourt desired to work hard except for Malachy Sr., who never learned how to control himself.