Synonyms for Angela's Ashes essay
tragic disaster calamity misfortune adversity
funny witty comic comedy jokes
relieves eases lightens tempers mitigates
influence notable effect exerts influence(s) importance significant significance
Chapter I-pages 12-46
The Frank McCourt's purpose in chapter 1 is to introduce the topic of the novel, his miserable childhood to the reader.
"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" (11).
- was born in 1930 in the United States, in Brooklyn, New York. He is an American
- His birth was the result of a "knee-trembler" (15).
- The McCourt family is extremely poor
Malachy McCourt-Frank's father
- is considered strange because he is "from the North of Ireland"
- he is a drunk, who cannot hold a job
- was a soldier in the Old IRA and came to America as a fugitive from the British government
- a good story teller
Anglea McCourt-Frank's mother
- born in Limerick, Ireland
- named after the Angelus Church Bells, that are rung on midnight of the New Year.
- Angela cannot get a job in Ireland and is sent to America by her mother.
- She gets pregnant and is forced to marry Malachy
- Angela is quite fertile, giving birth to Frank, Malachy, the twins, Eugene and Oliver and a baby girl Margaret in just a few years.
Baby Margaret's Death
- Margaret is loved and cherished by all, especially her father.
- Malachy gets sober and holds down a job because of the new baby
- Margaret dies suddenly and the family literally falls apart.
- Malachy goes out for cigarettes and does not come back for days.
- Angela goes into a depression, lays in bed for days on end and ignores her other children
- Frank who is about 4 or 5 years old finally goes to the neighbors for help
- Eventually, the family moves back to Limerick.
- Frank has good memories of the short time he lived in America.
- Generous neighbors who gave the family food.
- Shop keepers who secretly gave the family food when Malachy was drinking.
- A park across the street where he played.
- Indoor plumbing and an indoor bathroom
The last thing Frank sees as the family leaves America is the Statue of Liberty, "where all the immigrants came in"(46).
Chapter II pages 47-90
The purpose of Chapter 2 is to inform the reader about:
Malachy's cold and uncaring family in Ireland
- The McCourts go to Northern Ireland, to Malachy's family. The McCourts are given a cold reception, get no help and told to go to the IRA for pension money.
- The IRA has no record of Malachy's military service. He leaves with no money, but not before asking for enough money to buy a pint.
Angela's Family is not happy to see Angela return
- Angela's mother finds the family a furnished apartment "in the lanes of Limerick" (the slums)
- The apartment has a large bed that the entire family shares.
- The mattress has fleas, all of the McCourts are bitten and end up throwing the mattress outside and try to drown the fleas.
Angela miscarries, her 5th pregnancy but 6th child
- While Angela is in the hospital, Frank and his family stay with Angela's sister, Aunt Aggie.
- She cannot have children and is a mean to the children
- Her husband, Uncle Pa Keating, however is a generous and happy man
Emphasize Malachy's drinking
- Malachy gets one job after another
- The first week Malachy will bring home all of his paycheck for the family
- As time goes on however, Malachy "drinks the wages" and eventually loses any job he has
- Malachy loves to go to the pubs and buy everyone drinks
- He often returns at night drunk and makes his children sing patriotic IRA songs
Emphasize the poverty and misery the family faces
- the family receives charity from the St. Vincent DePaul Society and receives money from the dole (welfare)
- During chapter 2, the family survives mostly by accepting charity and welfare.
- Angela must constantly humiliate herself and beg for money and food for the family.
More tragedy strikes the family
- Oliver dies from pnuemonia
- 6 months later Eugene dies from pnuemonia, as well
- The entire McCourt Family sleeps in the same bed, so Frank discovers his brothers are dead when he wakes up and their bodies are cold.
Frank is disillusioned about his father
- On the day of Eugene's funeral, Frank is forced to go looking for his father.
- Malachy gets money from the Labour Exchange for Eugene funeral, the first thing he does is head to the pubs.
- Frank finds his father sitting in a pub drinking a pint, resting his glass on Eugene's white coffin
As chapter 2 ends Frank states:
"We are back in the bed where Eugene died. I hope he's not cold in that white coffin in the graveyard. I know he's not there anymore because angels come to the graveyard and open the coffin and he's far from the Shannon dampness that kills, up in the sky in heaven with Oliver and Margaret where they have plenty of fish and chips and toffee and no aunts to bother you, where all the fathers bring home the money from the Labour Exchange and you don't have to be running around to pubs to find them" (90).
By the end of chapter 2, Angela has had a miscarriage and 3 of her living children have died. Only Frank and Malachy Jr. are alive. The family is living in the slums of Limerick, hungry all the time and Malachy continues to spend the dole on drinking.
Chapter III (3) pages 91-112
In chapter 3, Frank McCourt's purpose is to illustrate:
- How the family falls deeper and deeper into poverty and misery
- Malachy continues to drink and lose one job after another
- Malachy's pride
- Angela has another baby
- How the Irish Catholic religion affects him and his family.
The family moves to Roden Lane
- Angela insists that family must move so she can escape the memories of the dead twins
- The new house seems nice at first, but the outhouse outside their house is used by all 11 families on the street
- When it rains the first floor of the house floods, the family moves to the second floor where it is warm and dry. They nickname this part of the house "Italy"
The River Shannon
- A symbol of death and freedom
- Frank’s family believes the river, the rain and the dampness of Ireland kill
- The river traps Frank in Limerick, Ireland
- Frank knows he must sail down the River to America (freedom and opportunity)
"I can't sleep in a place where there's a river sending poison to us in mist and fog" (95).
Malachy and the collar and tie
- Frank's father is proud and vain
- He always wears a shirt with a collar and tie
"He puts on a shirt and attaches a collar with studs. He puts on his tie and his cap and goes to the Labour Exchange for the dole. He will never leave the house without collar and tie. A man without collar and tie is a man with no respect for himslef...what will they think if you appear without collar and tie?" (94).
Malachy, Jobs and Drinking
- Malachy continues to find work, but drinks the wages and gets fired
- Malachy does have a hard time finding jobs because of his Northern Ireland accent
"Bosses and foremen always show him respect ans say they're ready to hire him, but he opens his mouth and they hear the North of Ireland accent, they take a Limerickman instead" (94).
Malachy is Proud
- At Christmas, the only meat the family can afford is a pig's head
- While walking home the neighborhood children see the pig's head and make fun of Frank's family and their poverty.
"if Dad came he wouldn't be much use because he never carries anything, parcels, bags, packages. If you carry such things you lose your dignity. that's what he says...He tells Malachy and me tht when you grow up you have to wear a collar and tie and never let people see you carry things" (98).
- When men from Welfare inspect the McCourts house, Angela asks for new boots for the boys
- Malachy is upset that Angela begged for boots
- Malachy makes new soles for the boys shoes from rubber tires
- Frank and Malachy Jr. are teased at school about the boots
The Angel of the 7th Step
- Angela gives birth to her 6th child, another boy named Michael.
- Malachy tells Frank a story, that the baby was left by an angel of the 7th step of their house. Counting Angela's miscarriage, this would have been their 7th child.
- The "Angel on the Seventh Step" becomes an invisible friend for Frank.
- He tells the Angel all his troubles.
Unemployment in Limerick
- Frank describes the many men of Limerick who are unemployed
"The men sit because they're worn out from walking to the Labour Exchange every morning to sign for the dole, discussing the world's problmes and wondering what to do with the rest of the day" (107).
- The men are "worn out" from collecting the dole
- They sit around, drink, smoke cigarettes, place bets with the bookies, go to the library to read the papers.
"to keep up with things because all the other men on the dole are experts on what's going on in the world" (107).
The Women of Limerick
"Women stand with their arms folded, chatting. They don't sit because all they do is stay at home, take care of the children, clean the house, and cook a bit and the men need the chairs" (107).
Easter-Religion confuses Frank
- Frank goes to Church for Easter.
- It is all a mystery to Frank, the Baby Jesus in the manger who is also die on the cross for our sins
- Adults do not explain to Frank.
"There's no use asking more questions. If you ask a question they'll tell you it's a mystery, you'll understand when you grow up, be a good boy, ask y our mother, ask your father, for the love o' Jesus leave me alone, go out and play" (108).
Malachy gets a job at the Cement Factory
- The family is overjoyed that Malachy has a job
- Malachy goes to work, but drinks the wages again.
- When Malacy comes home drunk again, he tries to give the boys their Friday Penny.
- Frank and Malachy Jr. are finally old enough to realize they don't want the Friday Penny from a drunk.
- Angela refuses to let her husband sleep in their bed.
- Malachy misses work the next day and loses the job.
"He makes his way downstairs with the candle, sleeps on a chair, misses work in the morning, loses the job at the cement factory, and we're back on the dole again" (112).
Chapter IV (4) pages 113-131
In Chapter 4, Frank McCourt's purpose is to alleviate some of the constant misery. Frank is about 7 years old. No one dies and most of the stories are funny. School and Frank's First Holy Communion are the core of this chapter. Frank gets a "formal education" at school but this is contrasted with "the education" he gets from stories, on the streets and from his friends, especially Mikey Molloy.
“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.” (113)
- Mikey Molloy is is 11 years old, he is cross-eyed and the neighboorhood expert on the female body and "dirty things in general"
- Mikey's father is "the champion pint drinker of Limerick", He earns money by betting he can drink more than any other man, drinks, pukes and drinks more!
- "Mikey's father, Peter, is a great champion. He wins bets in the pubs by drinking more pints than anyone. All he has to do is go out to the jakes, sticks his finger down his throat and bring it all up so that he can start another round" (115).
- Mikey's mother Nora is constantly baking bread and going to the insane asylum. It is not clear whether Nora is really crazy are going for a "rest" from her family
- Mikey has epilepsy, so he can never be a proper Catholic because he can't take Communion in case he has "a fit"
- According to Mikey Molloy, the best part of Communion Day is getting money from your neighbors, going to the movies and eating sweets.
"He's eleven, he has fits and behind his back we call him Molloy the Fit. Mikey knows everything because he has visions in his fits and reads books. he's the expert in the lane on Girls' bodies and dirty Things in General" (114).
Brendan "Question" Quigley
- Asks too many questions in class
- Gets in trouble with the teacher for asking questions
"We call him Question Quigley because he's always asking questions. He can't help himself...The master rolls his eyes to heaven. He's going to kill Quigley...'You're not here to be asking questions'" (118).
- The poorest boy in Frank's class
- He has NO shoes
- His head is shaved because of lice
- Frank relates a story about giving a raisin he found in his muffin to Paddy
"Paddy Clohessy has no shoe to his foot, his mother shaves his head to keep the lice away, his eys are red, his nose always snotty. The sores on his kneecaps never heal becasue he picks at the scabsa and puts them in his mouth. His clothes are rags...when he comes to school with a bloody nose or black eye you know he had a fight over the clothes that morning" (120).
- New School Master
- Teaches the boys about Communion, using pieces of newspaper
- Constantly threatens the boys
"The master, Mr. Benson, is very old. He roars and spits all over us every day. The boys in the front row hope he has no diseases for it's the spit that carries all the diseases andhe might be spreading consumption right and left" (117).
Confession-Rite Of Passage
- Frank's first confession goes well
- He does not really have any sins to confess
- The priest is actually amused by Frank's confession of sins
"Am I the worst of all the boys, Father? No, my child, you have a long way to go. Now say an Act of Contrition and remember Our Lord watches you every minute. God Bless you, my child" (127).
Communion Day-Rite Of Passage
- A disastorous comedy
- The family wakes up late
- Grandma uses her spit to get Frank's hair to lay flat
- The family gets to Church late, but Frank is just in time for Communion
"I had God glued to the roof of my mouth. I could hear the master's voice. Don't let that host touch your teeth for if your bite God in two you'll roast in hell for eternity" (128).
- Back at home, Grandma feeds Frank a breakfast fit for a saint on his Communion Day
- Frank throws up his entire breakfast and the Body and Blood of Jesus in the backyard
"The food churned in my stomach. I gagged. I ran to her backyard and threw it all up...Look what he did...Thurn up the body and blood of Jesus. I have God in my backyard" (129).
- Grandma insists that Frank go to confession again and find out what to do about cleaning up "Jesus" in the backyard.
- Frank ends up going to confession twice to find out what kind of water to use, ordinary or holy water
"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned...I overslept. I nearly missed my First Communion. My grandmother said I have standing up, North of Ireland hair. I threw up my First Communion breakfast. Now Grandma says she has God in her backyard and what should she do...tell your grandmother to wash God away with a little water and for your penance say one Hail Mary and one Our Father. Say a prayer for me and God bless you, my child...Holy water or ordinary water? Ordinary water and tell your grandmotehr not to be bothering me again" (129).
- Frank misses "the Collection" and has no money for the movies or sweets.
Mikey Molloy to the Rescue
- Mikey pretends to have "a fit" in front of the movie theater
- Frank is able to sneak in for free to see the movie
Chapter V (5) pages 132-150
In Chapter 5
- Frank explains how his mother's family is always angry and not speaking to each other.
- It becomes apparent that Malachy is quite intelligent. He knows how to read and write and knows the entire Catholic Mass in Latin.
- Frank realizes in this chapter that his family cannot afford any luxuries in life (sweets, cigarettes and movies).
- Frank also begins to notice class distinction in this chapter. Protestant vs. Catholic, rich vs. poor and loyal Irish vs. British supporters.
- Chapter is generally humorous, except when Frank is not accepted as an altar boy because he is a boy from the lane (poor).
"Everyone talks to Mam's brother Uncle Pat, because he was dropped on his head, he's simple, and he sells newspapers. Everyone calls him The Abbot or Ab Sheehan and no one knows why" (132).
Uncle Pa Keating
"Everyone talks to Uncle Pa Keating becasue he was gassin the war and married Aunt Aggie and if they didn't talkto him he wouldn't give a fiddler's fart anyway adn that's why the men in South's pub call him a gas man" (132).
"She'll only bite your head off. they say she's always angry because she has red hair or she has red hair because she's always angry" (133).
- Malachy writes letters for all the neighbors on the lane
- He refuses to take any money for this work
"he has a lovely way with the English language and a fine fist for writing. The offer him sixpence for his trouble but he waves it away and they hand it to Mam because he's too grand to be taking a sixpence. When the people leave he takes the sixpence and sends me to Kathleen O'Connell's shop for cigarettes" (135).
- Frank's grandmother takes in a boarder at her house and she agrees to make and deliver his lunch everyday at the lime kiln
- Grandma is upset that Bill is a Protestant
- Frank earns a sixpence a week delivering Bill's lunch
- Frank gets in trouble with this job when he eats Bill's lunch on the way to the lime kiln because he is desperately hungry
Cigarettes and False Teeth
- One of the few luxuries for Frank's parents
- Frank's parents will often buy cigarettes instead of food
- All of Malachy's and Angela's teeth are rotten from smoking
- They get all of their teethed pulled and get dentures
- Malachy Jr. plays with his father's dentures and gets them stuck in his mouth, somehow this is Frank's fault
- Malachy Jr. has to go to the hospital to get the teeth removed
- The next day, Malachy gets candy and Frank has to go to the hospital for surgery tonsils?
"Next day Malachy gets a big piece of toffee as a reward for sticking in teeth he can't get out and I have to go to the hospital to have an operation that will close my mouth" (140).
"Mam says. I'm a martyr for the fags and so is your father...They tell us every day we should never smoke, it's bad for your chest, it stunts your growth, and they sit by the fire puffing away. Mam says, if 'tis a thing I ever see you with a fag in your gob I'll break your face. They tell us the cigarettes will rot your teeth and you can see they're not lying" (138).
Irish Dancing Lessons
- Angela decides Frank will take Irish Dancing lessons
- Frank hates dancing
- Frank takes the sixpence for dancing, but goes to the movies and buys toffee instead
- This continues for weeks, unitl Frank loses a tooth eating candy and his parents find out
- Malachy makes Frank go to Confession for lying to his parents and stealing the sixpence
"I sinned by taking my mother's sixpence and lying abnd ther's a hot place in hell for the likes of me, say a decade of the rosary and ask God's forgiveness for you're daning at the gates of hell itself, child" (145).
Ages 7, 8 and 9
"I'm seven, eight, nine going on ten and still Dad has no work. He drinks his tea in the morning, signs for the dole at the Labour Exchange, reads the papers at the Carnegie Library, goes for his long walks far into the country. If he gets a job at the Limerick Cement Company or Rank's Flour Mills he loses it in the third week. He loses it because he goes to the pubs on the third Friday of the job, drinks all the wages and misses the half day of work on Saturday morning" (145).
- Frank joins a Catholic Church club called the Confraternity.
- Angela thinks this will show that she raising the boys to be good Catholics
- The boys in the club get in trouble if they miss a meeting
"I'll tell you what it is, she says. 'Tis class distinction. Theydon't want boys from lanes on the altar. They don't want the ones with scabby knees and hair sticking up. Oh, no, they want 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 on to the Faith with the snobbery that's in it" (149).
- Malachy and Angela want Frank to be a altar boy
- Malachy has the entire Latin Mass memorized and helps Frank to prepare
- The priests don't want Frank because he is a poor boy from the lane (old shoes and clothes)
"Dad says when he was my age in Toome he served Mass for years and it's time for me to be an altar boy. Mam says, What's the use he doesn't have the proper clothes for school never mind the altar. Dad says the altar robes will cover the clothes and she says we don't have the money for robes and the wash they need every week. He says God will provide...he has the whole Mass in his head and I have to know the responses...Dad holds my hand going through the streets and people look at us because of the way we're saying Latin back and forth. he knocks on the sacristy door and tells Stephen Carey, This is my son, Frank, who knows the Latin and is ready to be an altar boy. Stephen Carey looks at him, then me. He says, We don't have room for him, and closes the door" (149).
Chapter VI (6) Pages 151-169
Chapter 6 centers around Leamy's National School, the teachers and students. There is real contrast in the chapter between people who "have" and the "have nots". The "haves" are mean and do not share. The "have nots" are more generous.
Mr. Dotty O'Neill and Mr. O'Dea
- Mr. O'Neill teaches the 4th class at school.
- The boys call him Dotty because he is small like a dot.
- He stands on a platform, threatens them with an ash branch and calls them "omadhaun" (fools or idiots).
- He loves geometry and Euclid, which are subjects for the 5th class.
- Mr. O'Dea teaches the 5th class is annoyed the Mr.O'Neill teaches geometry in the 4th class
- The headmaster orders O'Neill to stop teaching geometry.
"Without Euclid, boys, mathematics would be a poor doddering thing. Without Euclid we wouldn't be able to go from here to there. Without Euclid the bicycle would have no wheel. Without Euclid St.Joseph could not have been a carpenter for carpentry is geometry and geometry is carpentry. Without Euclid this very school could never have been built" (152).
"Brendan Quiqley rasises his hand...We expect Dotty to lash at Brendan the way all the masters do when you ask them a question but he looks at Brendan with a little smile...This is a boy who will go far...Indeed and he will. The boy who wants to know something about the grace, elegance and beauty of Euclid can go nowhere but up" (152).
- Irish for fool
"Clohessy, you are an omadhaun. Do you know what an omadhaun is? I don't sir. It's the Irish, Clohessy, your native tongue, Clohessy. An omadhaun is a fool, Clohessy. You are an omadhaun. What is he, boys? An omadhaun, sir. Clohessy says, That's what Mr. O'Dea called me, sir, a diddering omadhaun" (155).
- Mr. O'Neill peels an apple every day in class.
- It is torture to watch him do this, because all the boys are so hungry
- Dotty will give the apple peel to a good boy who knows the answers
- Mr. O'Neill often throws the apple peel away in front of the starving boys
"It is torture to watch Mr.O'Neill peel the apple every day, to see the length of it, red or green, and if you're up near him to catch the freshness of it in your nose. If you're the good boy for the day and you answer the question he gives it to you and lets you eat it there at your desk...There are days when the questions are too hard and he torments us by dropping the apple peel into the wastebasket" (155).
- Very religious
- Beautiful curly blonde hair
- Has food and money
- The boys at school hate him
- Fintan is very effeminate (possibly gay)
"Of course Fintan knows who stood at the foot of the cross. He's always running off to Mass with his mother, who is known for her holiness...Fintan say the rosary every night...he'll pray for you...He wants to be a saint when he grows up...everyone knows he wears a blouse at home and curls his hair with hot tongs every Saturday night so that he'll look gorgeous at Mass on Sunday" (156).
Fintan takes Frank and Paddy home for Lunch
- Fintan shares the apple peel from Dottie's class with Paddy and Frank
- Fintan asks Frank and Paddy home for lunch (they agree because they are hungry and Fintan promises them food).
- Fintan takes Frank and Paddy home and feeds them a "sangwidge" (sandwich)
- Fintan "watches" Frank use the bathroom, and tells Frank "I like to look at you, Francis. That's all" (159).
- The next time Fintan takes Frank and Paddy home for lunch he taunts them by eating a sandwich in front of them and not giving them any food
- On the way back to school Paddy gets angry and he and Frank decide to cut school
"Fintan, you had your lunch. We had nothing. Paddy explodes. You're a feckin'chancer, Fintan. That's what you are an' a feckin' begrudger too with your feckin' sangwidge an' your feckin' Sacred Heart Of Jesus on the wall an' your feckin' holy water. You can kiss me arse, Fintan" (160).
"On the mooch" (cutting school)
- Frank and Paddy Clohessy go on the mooch (cut school) that afternoon
- They steal apples from the orchard
- Drink milk straight from the cow
- They poop in the woods
- Play in a stream
- Frank remembers this as one of the happiest days of his childhood
"Paddy and I sit under a hedge eating the apples till we can't swallow another bit and we stick our faces into a stream for the lovely cool water. Then we run to opposite ends of a ditch to shit and wipe ourselves with grass and thick leaves. Paddy is squatting and saying, There's nothing in the world like a good feed of apples, a drink of water and a good shit, better than any sangwidge of cheese and mustard and Dotty O'Neill can shove his apple up his arse...Paddy says, Bejasus 'tis milking time and he's over the wall, stretched on his back under a cow with her big udder hanging in his face. He pulls on a teat and squirts milk into his mouth. He stops squirting and says, come on, Frankie, fresh milk. 'Tis lovely" (161).
The Clohessy's Home
- Frank is afraid to go home after cutting school
- He goes home with Paddy
- The Clohessy are much, much, much more poor than the McCourts
- Frank sleeps over at the Clohessy's house
- Even though the Clohessy's are poor they feed Frank and let him sleep over
"Paddy lives in one of the tall houses on Arthur's Quay looking at the river. Everyone in Limerick knows these houses are old and might fall down any minute...The people down there are wild and ye could get robbed and killed...some of the steps are missing and there is shit on the ones that are still there...Paddy's family lives in one big room with a high ceiling and a small fireplace...Paddy's brothers and sisters are on mattresses on the floor...There's a baby with no clothes crawling" (164).
Mr. Clohessy is Dying
He has consumption (tuberculosis)
He lays in bed and coughs up blood that he spits into a bucket
"he has a coughing fit which brings up all kinds of stuff from his insides and has him hanging ove the bucket. When the cough passes he falls back on the pillow...He hangs over the bucket again. He gasps for air and reaches his arms out to get it. He suffers" (164).
Mr. Clohessy and Angela
- Mr. Clohessy knew Frank's mother Angela when they were young
- He tells Frank that Angela was beautiful and a great dancer and singer
- Frank is shocked that his mother was once young and beautiful and happy
"Champion dancer she was, Frankie. Not skinny mind you but a feather in my arms and there was many a sorry mans when she left Limerick" (164).
Angela comes to the Clohessy's House
- The next morning Angela and the school guard comes to the Clohessys
- Angela has been very worried
- Mr. Clohessy is thrilled to see Angela
- Angela says she will light a candle for him and pray
- Mr. Clohessy tells Angela "Save your money my dancin' days are over"
- He asks Angela to sing for him
- Angela sings and cries
- Angela takes Frank and Paddy to school
- She speaks to the teacher Dotty O'Neill and tells him that Mr. Clohessy is dying
Chapter VII (7) pages 170-186
In Chapter 7...
Frank believes in the power of prayer and meets an Irishmen who is not Catholic
Angela has her 7th baby. She has been pregnant 7 times in 9 years. Angela has given birth to 7 children, 3 have died and she has had a miscarriage. Angela is in her late 20's, only about 26 years old.
Malachy continues to drink any money the family receives whether it is from wages or the dole. Frank, age 9, will become really angry about his father's drinking in this chapter and he begins to lose respect for his dad.
- Mickey's brothers and sisters are dying off one by one from consumption (tuberculosis)
- Frank is jealous of Mickey, whenever someone dies in Mickey's family he gets a whole week off from school
- During the summer, Mickey's sister Brenda is near death from consumption
- Mickey asks Frank and Billy to pray that his sister dies in September after school has started
- Mickey promises them they can come to Brenda's wake and eat all they want
- Their prayers are answered, Brenda dies after school has started
- Frank and Billy do NOT get invited to her wake
- Frank and Billy are angry and vow to pray that everyone in Billy's family will die in summer from now on
"I have a pal, Mickey Spellacy, whose relations are dropping one by one of the gfalloping consumption...One of our prayers must have powerful because Brenda stays alive and doesn't die till the second day of school...We'll go back to St Joseph's and pray that from now on everyone in Mickey Spellacy's family will die in the middle of the summer and he'll never get a day off from school for the rest of his life. One of our prayers is surely poserful because nest summer Mickey Spellacey is carried off by the galloping consumption and he doesn't get a day off from school and that will surely teach him a lesson" (172).
- Frank is working after school helping his Uncle Ab Sheehan deliver the newspaper
- Frank meets Mr. Timoney, who pays Frank to read the newspaper to him
- Mr. Timoney treats Frank like an adult
- He introduces Frank to literature by Jonthan Swift
- Frank has never met any adult in Ireland like Mr. Timoney, he was a British soldier, he married an Indian woman, he says he is a Buddhist
- Frank loses his job reading to Mr. Timoney when he is taken away to the City Home (an insane asylum) for laughing when his dog bit 3 people
Alphie-Alphonsus Joseph McCourt
- Frank is 9 going on 10 and his mother Angela has another baby
- There are now 4 children in the family, Alphie, Michael, Malachy and Frank
- Frank "knows" the Angel is coming to leave the baby on the 7th step
- Frank is horrified at the new baby's name
"Mam, what's the baby's name? Alphonsus Joseph. The words fly out of my mouth. That's a studpid name. It's not even Irish...Aphie the new baby is chirping away enjoying his baptism day too innocent to know his name is an affliction" (183).
Malachy Drinks the Money for the New Baby
- The grandfather from the North (Malachy's father) sends a telegram with a 5 pound note for the new baby
- Malachy takes the money and heads to the pubs
- Angela sends 9 year old Frank out to the pubs to find his father before he drinks away all the money
- The family is broke and hungry
- While Frank looks for his father, he sees a drunk man asleep at a table with fish and chips
- Frank steals the man's food
- Frank goes to a church to confess he has stolen food because "there was nothing in my belly"
- Frank cannot find his father
- Frank is angry and disappointed in his father, he has lost respect for his father.
"My heart is banging away in my chest and I don't know what to do because I'm raging inside...he's there drunk and buying pints with the baby's money...soon the pubs will close and he'll be home singing and offering us a penny to die for Ireland and it will be different this time because it's bad enough to drink the dole or the wages but a man that drinks the money for a new baby is gone beyond the beyonds as my mother would say" (186).
Chapter VIII (8) pages 187-21
- A very long chapter, Frank is 10 years old, his first year in double digits!
- The importance of stories, storytelling, literature, books and Malachy's influence on Frank,, as a writer, is apparent. Remember, Frank will become an English teacher and author as an adult.
- Frank is rewarded for writing as essay.
- Frank is confirmed and gets typhoid fever. He will spend 14 weeks in the hospital, his first time away from the crushing poverty of his home. Being in the hospital is ironically almost a vacation for Frank.
- The character of Hoppy O'Halloran is introduced. This teacher will inspire Frank to "hunger" for more in his life.
Frank struggles with his father's drinking.
- The story of Finn the Horse is important--WHY?
- Called Quasimodo after the Hunchback of Notre Dame, because he has a hunchedback
- He has a "lovely English accent"
- Wants to work for BBC radio as an announcer
"Before he leaves the house he always sticks his head out the door and tells the lane, Here's me head, me arse is coming...When he was twelve Quasimodo decided that with the way he looked and the way the world looked at him the best thing would be to prepare for a job where he could be heard and not seen and what better than sitting behind a microphone at the BBC in London reading the news" (188)
Whanking on the rainspout
- It is the night before Frank's confirmation
- Quasimodo has 9 sisters
- Quasimodo is trying to earn money to go to London to be on the BBC
- He charges the boys in the lane sixpence to get a look at his sisters' naked bodies
- Mikey Molloy (the Fit) pays Quasimodo and climbs the spot
- He begins to masturbate, has a seizure and falls into the yard
- Mrs. Dooley comes out in the yard, kicks Mikey Molloy out and locks her son in the coal cellar
- Angela show up and Mrs. Dooley insists that Frank needs to go to confession before he is Confirmed
- Anglea refuses
"we promise to pay him a shilling each he'll let us climb up the rainspout behind his house this very night to look in the window and see his sisters' naked bodies when they take their weekly wash...Billy says, I have my own sister. Why should I pay to see your naked sisters? Quasimodo says, that looking at your own sister's naked body is the worst sin of all and he's not sure if there's a priest in the world can forgive you, that you might have to go to the bishop...The Fit is up hanging on to the spout with one hand. The other hand is in his pocket moving, moving and when the spout itself starts to move and creak Quasimodod hisses, Molloy there's to be no whankin' up the spout...Mikey's hand goes faster in his pocket, so fast the spout gives a lurch and collapses and Mikey is rolling on the ground yelping, I'm dead, I'm destroyed. Oh God, You can see the froth on his lips and the blood that comes from biting his tongue...Quasimodo's mother comes screaming through the door...She kicks Quasimodo into the hall. He's on his hands and kees and she drags him to coal hole under the stairs and locks him in...He's crying and calling...Mamma, Mamma, let me out. The rats is here. I only want money for the BBC...Mikey is still on his back, herking and twisting around the yard. The ambulance takes him off to the hospital with a broken shoulder and his tongue in ribbons. ..Mrs. Dooley says, them boys are in a state of sin and should be taken to the priest for confession before their Confirmation tomorrow" (189-190).
Confirmation-Rite of Passage
- Frank is Confirmed the next day "The Bishop pats my cheek and that makes me a soldier of the True Church" (190).
- Frank gets sick
- Doesn't want to do the Collection
- Frank is very ill.
- He is running a fever, he has no appetite, he is vomiting, has diahrrea and is having nosebleeds.
- Malachy says, " I'm going through growing pains...when boys go from the one number year, which is nine, to the two number year, which is ten, they're changing and prone to nosebleeds" (191).
- Frank is ill for several days
- A doctor comes and tells Angela, "I have typhoid fever. Mam cries, Oh, God, Oh God, am I to lose the whole family? Will it ever end?" (191).
Extreme Unction-Rite of Passage (prayers before you die)
- Frank is taken to the hospital
- He receives a blood transfusion, "sister Rita says, You're getting blood, Francis, soldier's blood" (192).
- Frank is given Extremem Unction "Father Gorey is touching me with oil and praying in Latin. I know it is Extreme Unction and that means I am going to die and I don't care" (191).
- Frank realizes he will survive because the doctor farts "Doctor Campbell is sitting by my bed...He tilts over on the chair and farts and smiles to himself and I know now I'm going to get better because a doctor would never fart in the presence of a dying boy" (192).
- Frank's father visits him in the hospital
- He kisses Frank on the forehead
- It is the first time in Frank life he can remember getting attention and affection from his father
"When I wake it's dark and Dad is sitting by the bed with his hand on mine...Dad nods and puts his hand on mine again. He looks at me, steps away, stops, comes back kisses me on the forehead for the first time in my life and I'm so happy I feel like floating out of the bed" (193).
- A patient at the hospital
- She has diptheria (deadly lung disease)
- Patricia introduces Frank to POETRY and English stories
- The nuns separate Frank and Patrica because "There's to be no talking between two rooms especially when it's a boy and a girl...There's to be no laughing for you could be doing serious damage to your internal apparatus" (194).
- Patrica dies using the lavatory "she got out of the bed to go to the lavatory when she was supposed to use a bedpan and collapsed and died in the lavatory...'Tis a rotten dirty thing to die in a lavatory when you're lovely in yourself" (199).
- Frank is more upset that he will never learn the end of a story Patrica was telling him than that she died.
- Frank has experienced so much death that her death does not effect him
- A custodian at the hospital
- He is a very happy man, very loyal to Ireland
- He gives Frank a book that contains a few lines from Shakespeare
"The book has the first bit of Shakespeare I ever read.
'I do believe, induced by potent circumstances
That thou are mine enemy.'
I don't know what it means and I don't care because it's Shakespeare and it's like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words. If I had a whole book of Shakesperae they could keep me in the the hospital for a year" (196).
- Frank is in the hospital for 14 weeks
- He is NOT looking forward to going home
- Frank lived in luxury at the hospital
"I lie in bed and think of the hospital where the white sheets were changed every day and there wasn't a sign of a flea. There was a lavatory where you could sit and read your book till someone asked if you were dead. There was a bath where you could sit in hot water as long as you liked" (203).
Frank stays back in school
- Frank missed 2 months of school and has to be put back in the 5th form
- This means that Frank will be in the same class with his brother Malachy
- Frank is devastated and embarassed by this
"The new headmaster, Mr. O Halloran, says he's sorry, I've missed over two months of school and I have to be put back in fifth class...I don't want to be in fifth class. Malachy is in that class..Malachy and all his friends are sneering at me because I was put back" (204).
Jesus and the Weather
- Frank is assigned to write an essay, "what would it be like if Our Lord had grown up in Limerick...the holiest city in Ireland" (205).
- Frank's essay is about Jesus and the weather PAGE 206.
- The essay is so good Frank put back in the 6th class with Mr. O'Halloran
- Teaches 6, 7 and 8th form
- Hoppy is a true teacher, he tells the boys the truth about Ireland's part in the war with the British
- He does not yell
- He likes to answer questions
- He asks the boys if they understand
"We call him Hoppy because he has a short leg and hops when he walks...He loves America...Hoppy doesn't call us idiots and if you ask a question he doesn't go into a rage. He's the only master who stops and says, Do ye understand what I'm talking about? Do you want to ask a question?...Mr. O'Halloran can't lie" (207).
Stock your Mind-Themes: Class Distinction and Hunger
- Hoppy thinks all the boys have potential despite their poverty
- Hoppy wants the boys to understand the importance and freedom of an education
"You have to study and learn so that you can make up your 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 workd can interfere with it. Your mind is your house and if you fill it with rubbish from the cinemas it will rot your head. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace" (208).
Malachy-Good Father or Bad Father?
- Frank is aware whenever his father is drinking
- Frank is feeling very torn and conflicted about is father
- Malachy is the good father-reads to them, tells them stories, helps them with their homework, takes them for walks and pays attention to them
- Malachy is also the bad father that drinks the wages and loses his job
"I know when Dad does the bad thing. I know when he drinks the dole money and Mam is desperate...I don't want to back away from him...I'm up with him early every morning with the whole world asleep. He lights the fire and makes the tea and sings to himself or reads the paper to me in a whisper that won't wake the rest of the family...my father in the morning is still mine...When you have your father to yourself by the fire in the morning you don't need Cuchulain or the Angel on the Seventh Stop or anything. At night he helps up with our exercises...the sums, The English, the Irish, the history...Before bed we sit around the fire and if we say, Dad, tell us a story, he makes up one...After the story he takes us upstairs and kneels with us while we say our prayers...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 witth 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. I feel sad over the bad thing but I can't back away from him because the one in the morning is my real father and if I were in America I could say, I love you, Dad, the way they do in the films, but you can't say that in Limerick for fear that you might be laughed at. You're allowed to say you love God and babies and horses that win but anything else is a softness in the head" (208-210).
The McCourt's Home, The stink of the Lavatory, the flies, the rats
- The McCourts home is at the end of the lane
- The lavatory for the entire street is next to their house
- The house floods when it rains and the contents of the outhouse seeps into their house
- There is a stable next to the lavatory as well and rats and flies from the stable invade their house.
"Day and night we're tormented in that kitchen with people emptying their buckets. Mam says it's not the River Shannon that will kill us but the stink from the lavatory outside our door...There is a stable next to the lavatory...and the stink travels to our house. The stink from the lavatory and the stable attracts rats and we have to chase them with our new dog Lucky. He loves to corner the rats and then we smash them to bits with rocks or sticks or stab them with the hay fork...Sometimes the rats escape and run into our house...Lucky is there to catch them in his teeth and shake the life out of them...We fight the rats and we fight the stink from that lavatory...The flies are nearly as bad as the rats...there's one good thing about fleas, they're clean, but flies are filthy, you never know where they came from and they carry diseases galore. We can chase the rats and kill them. We can slap at the flies and the fleas and kill them but there's nothing we can do about the neighbors and their buckets" (210-211).
Christmas at the Hospital
- Frank gets invited back to the Fever hospital for a Christmas dinner
- He goes and eats a delicious dinner all alone in an empty hospital ward
- Ironically, Frank remembers this as a good Christmas in his life "The dinner is delicious, turkey, mashed potatoes, peas, jelly, and custard and a pot of tea. The jelly and custard dish looks delicious and I can't resist it so I'll have it first" (213).
Finn the Horse
- This story is set apart from the chapter, pages 214-215
- It is the only story in the entire book that is designated as special
- Finn the Horse from the stable is sick and several unusual events happen
- It is the first time there is a motor car on the lane
- Men is suits come to the lane
- The men take out a gun and shoot the horse in the head
- Frank's younger brother Michael and Angela attack the men
- The stable man gets drunk that night, leaves a fire smoldering in the stable and the stable burns down that night
- Rats escape the stable and invade the streets, even the respectable people
Chapter IX (9) pages 216-234
In chapter 9, the McCourt's marriage is coming to an end.
Angela refuses to sleep with Malachy anymore.
Malachy goes to England to get a job, but essentially abandons his family, sending them no money.
Frank develops a serious eye infection that will effect him for years and years.
No More Children
- Angela and Malachy have 4 children and 3 children who have died
- Angela tells Malachy "no more children" which means no more sex
"Mam says, Alphie is enough. I'm worn out. That's the end of it. No more children. Dad Says, The good Catholic woman must perform her wifely duties and submity to her husband or face eternal damnation. Mam says, As long as there are no more children eternal damnation sounds attractive enough to me" (216).
World War II
- The war has created job in munitions factories in England for Irish men"Thank God for Hitler because if he hadn't marched all over Europe the men of Ireland would still be at home scratching their arses on the queue at the Labour Exchange" (217).
- The men who are working in England send money back to their families in telegrams
- The families on the lane who have money become snobs who show off their new wealth "The families with fathers in England are able to lord it over the families that don't...'Tis a real low class mind that will call out the door and tell the world what they're having for the supper" (218).
Malachy Goes to Work in England
- Malachy at first refuses to go to England to work. He feels in is unpatriotic for the Irish to help England and he was in the IRA
- Angela and Malachy fight about this as the family is so poor and she Malachy is being too proud
"He says he'll never go over there and help England win a war. Mam says, No, you'll stay here where there's no work and hardly a lump of coal to boil for the tea. No, you'll stay here and drink the dole when the humor is on you...God above, if I had the fare I'd be off to England myself for I'm sure they need women in the factories. Dad says, a factory is no place for a woman. Mam says, Sitting on your arse by the fire is no place for a man" (218).
- Malachy decides to go to England for work only after America joins the war
Eggs-a symbol of hope
- Angela feeds Malachy an egg on the day he leaves
- Malachy cuts the egg into 5 pieces to share with the children
- Frank and his brother Malachy dream about the first telegram that will come home with money, the family will buy eggs for Sunday breakfast
"An egg. Mam says, This egg is for your father. He needs the nourishment for the long journey before him. It's a hard boiled egg and Dad peels off the shell. He slices the egg five ways and gives each of us a bit to put on our bread...Dad says, What would a man be doing with a whole egg to himself?...The first telelgram money order I get I'll be in the shop buying a big breakfast so that we can all have our own egg of a Sunday morning..God above, if heaven has a taste it must be an egg with butter and salt, and after the egg is there anything in the world lovelier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?...Now that your father is gone to England surely our troubles will be over. Surely. (219-221).
Waiting for Telegrams and Money Orders that never come
- The McCourt wait week after week for money from Malachy
- The family falls even deeper into poverty
- Angela worries that the family will need to go on public assistance
"We see the telegram boys on their bicycles swing into the lane. They're happy telegram boys because the tips they get in the lanes are bigger than anything they get in the grand streets and avenues where rich people will begrudge you the steam of their piss...You don't know what to do with yourself when the first telelgram doesn't come...the Dispensary for public assistance. Mam says that's the worst thing that could happen to any family. It's worse than going on the dole, it's worse than going to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, it's worse than begging on the streets with the tinkers and knackers. It's the last thing you'd do to keep yourself out of the poor house and the children from the orphanage" (224).
Conjunctivitis-Pink Eye pages 224-230
- Frank gets an eye infection
- Grandma says the infection was caused by reading too much
- The family tries "home cures" spitting in Frank's eyes and using holy water and a caul (amniotic sack from childbirth) "The thing to do is give him St. Anthony's spit...Your fasting spit in the morning. Go to him before he wakes and spit on his eyes for the spit of a fasting mother has powerful cures in it" (225).
- The family waits weeks to take Frank to the doctor
- Frank must go to the Eye Ward at the City Home
- Frank is in the hospital for over a month
- Frank is reunited with Mr. timoney in the hospital who advices Frank to "rest your eyes and then read till they fall out of your head"
- Frank also sees Seamus the janitor again, who brings new poems for Frank
The Family gets news about Malchy in England
- Malachy is working and drinking his wages
- He sleeps in parks because he doesn't even save money for rent
- Angela considers putting the children in an orphanage for a year and getting a job, but can't stand the thought of an orphanage
Angela goes to the Dispensary for Help
- Angela is forced to go to the Dispensary for help
- She is publicly humiliated by Mr. Kane to get money
- Mr. Kane accuses Malachy of spending money on "tarts"
- Angela must smile and agree with everything that Mr. Kane says
Chapter X (10) pages 235-251)
Malachy retreats further and further from his family.
Frank who is 11 years old becomes more and more responsible for providing for his mother and younger brothers.
Angela's extended family (Aunt Aggie and Grandma) do the bare minimum to help her and the boys.
- Malachy is still in England, he is not sending money home.
- Angela gets sick
- Frank tries to take care of the family
- The children stop going to school
- Angela has a terrible fever and is begging for lemonade
- Frank goes out and steals lemonade for Angela from a pub and bread from O'Connell's Grocery
"In a second I have two bottles of lemonade up under my jersey and I saunter away trying to look innocent...it's no trouble for me to help myself to a loaf of bread. It's wrong to steal from Kathleen the way she's always good to us but if I go in and ask her for bread she'll be annoyed and tell me I'm ruining her moning cup of tea (235-238). .
- Frank continues to steal food from richer neighborhoods and tells his brother stories about these adventures
- The brothers think of Frank as a hero like Robin Hood
"I got the bread and the lemonade but then Malachy says it was only what Robin Hood would have done, rob the rich and give to the poor. Michael say I'm an outlaw and if they catch me they'll hang me from the highest tree in the People's Park...There's a box sitting outside the door of one of the big houses on Barrington Street...I might as well take the whole box. My mother would say you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. I lift the box and try to look like a messenger boy making a delivery and no one says a word" (235-238).
- Frank's younger brothers get in on the act and help him steal food
- Frank puts Alphie, a cute baby, in the pram (carriage) and little Michael knocks on the door to distract the maids, then Frank and Malachy steal food, milk and coal deliveries.
" We should take Alphie with us because he's small and he smiles and people will see him and feel sorry for us...We push the pram out to the rich avenues and roads...there's no use asking anymore, we should go around the backs of the houses and climb over the walls and take what we want. Michael can ring the front doorbells to keep the maids busy and Malachy and I can throw coal and turf over the walls and fill the pram around Alphie" (239).
The School Guard Comes Looking for Frank
- Frank and Malachy have been absent from school
- The guard comes to their home looking for them
- The guard finds Angela very ill, he sends for a doctor for Angela and Aunt Aggie and Grandma
- Angela is taken to the hospital with pneumonia
- The boys must go live with Aunt Aggie and Uncle Pa
- The school guard Mr.Dennehy is secretly amused that Frank and the boys have been stealing from the rich to survive
"Michael says, we're all outlaws now. Frankie was the first outlaw till we went raiding for coal all over Limerick...Guard Dennehy looks interested...in a few minutes we hear him laughing...The guard comes back...he keeps covering his face with his cap whenever he looks at me or my brothers. Desperadoes, he says, desperadoes...Guard Dennehy says I'm too young to be an outlaw and a father but I have a promising future in both departments" (241).
Aunt Aggie's House
- The boys go to live with Aunt Aggie
- A letter is sent to England telling Malachy about Angela's illness
- Frank is 11, Malachy is 10, Micahel is 5 and Alphie is 1.
- She resents Angela's children because she is unable to have any children of her own
"Forty-five she is now and if ther's another child we'll have to look for a star in the East" (244).
- She allows the children to live with her while Angela is in the hospital but she is mean to them, hitting them, yelling at them, giving them very little food and making them stay outside in the cold instead of inside by the warm fire.
"I don't know why she's always angry. her flat is warm and dry. She has electric light in the house and her own lavatory in the backyard. Uncle Pa has a steady job and he brings home his wages every Friday" (246).
Uncle Pa Keating
- Uncle Pa loves having the children around
- He is basically kind, generous and a happy man
- Uncle Pa served in the Army during the war and "swallowed the gas" he works in the coal yards
"There are good times with Uncle Pa...He says, I swallowed the gas, I drink the pint, I don't give a fiddler's fart about the world...Aunt Aggie would nag Uncle Pa for a month...that's what I don't understand. Why does he let her nag him like that? He went to the Great War, he was gassed, he's big, he has a job, he makes the world laugh. It's a mystery...I could easily have Uncle Pa for a father" (246-247).
Malachy comes Home from England
- Malachy comes home from England and a few days later Angela comes home from the hospital
- Malachy immedicately makes in clear he cannot stay long
- A few days later he goes back to England
- He sends the family money, but just once
"He says he can't stay forever, he has to go back to work in Coventry...He's up early on Holy Saturday and I have tea with him by the fire...Mam is still in bed and he calls to her from the bottom of the stairs, I'm going now...My father is going to England and she won't even get out of the bed...In a week there's a letter saying he arrived safely...In another week there's a telegram money order for three pounds and we're in heaven. We'll be rich, there will be fish and chips and jelly and custard, films every Saturday at the Lyric...The next Saturday there's no telegram nor the Saturday after nor any Saturday forever" (248).
Jesuit Priests-Class Distinction
- Frank goes to Church for Ash Wednesday
- He thinks about how it would be wonderful to be a priest when he grows up because the priests live a very comfortable life
- Frank knows this is impossible for a poor boy from the lanes
"It must be grand to be a Jesuit, sleeping in a bed with sheets blankets pillows and getting up to a nice warm house and warm church with nothing to do but say Mass hear confessions and yell at people for their sins have your meals served up to you and read your Latin office before you go to sleep...but there's no hope of that when you grow up in a lane. Jesuits are very particular. They don't like poor people" (245).
Chapter XI (11) pages 252-267
Chapter 11 is about several societal events or Rites of Passage that nearly everyone experiences in their life.
1. Frank discovers his parents were not perfect
2. Mikey Molloy's has his first pint (first drink)
3. Frank plays soccer and is the hero of the team (athletic achievment)
4. Frank gets his first job and makes money
- Angela has a trunk that has the important papers for the family and a red flapper dress from America "She wants to keep that dress forever to remind herself she was young and dancing" (252).
- Frank goes into the trunk to get Angela's dress, he cuts up her dress to make red hearts for soccer uniforms
- Frank finds his birth certificate and his parents' marriage certificate
- Frank realizes he was born just 4 months after his parents were married
- He assumes his birth must have been a miracle and he is excited
- Frank asks Mikey Molloy, the expert on Dirty Things in General about his birth and Mikey tells Frank that he is a bastard and doomed
" You're a bastard. You're doomed...That's what they call people who aren't born inside the nine months of the marriage, people conceived beyond the blanket. What's that? What's what? Conceived. That's when the sperm hits the egg and it grows and there you are nine months later...He whispers, the thing between your legs is the excitement. I don't like the other names, the dong, the prick, the langer. So your father shoves his excitement into your mother and there's a spurt and these little germs go up into your mother where there's and egg and grows into you...All bastards are doomed. They're like babies that weren't baptized...Your father and mother had the excitement and they weren't married so you're not in a state of grace" (254).
Mikey Molloy's First Pint-Rite of Passage
- Mikey "The Fit" turns 16, in Ireland it is a rite of passage to go to the pub for your first pint with your father on your 16th birthday.
- Frank goes with the Molloys to celebrate, he has a lemonade
- The men toast Mikey who no longer has seizures and remember Quasimodo who dies of consumption
- The bartender, who is doing a crossword puzzle, asks about opposites
- Mr. Molloy, the champion pint drinker of Ireland, gets the idea to be the opposite
- He gives up drinking that night.
"It's Mikey's sixteenth birthday and his father is taking him to Bowle's pub for his first pint...The mothers of Ireland are always the enemies of the first pint. My own mother tried to kill my father with a frying pan when he took me for the first pint" (253).
"The men wish Mikey all the best in the life to come and wasn't it a gift from God that he fell off the spout years ago and never had the the fit since and wasn't it a great pity about that poor little bugger, Quasimodo Dooley, carried off with the consumption after all his trouble talking for years like an Englishman so he could be on the BBC" (254).
Sports Hero-Rite of Passage
- Frank and his friends play football/soccer with a group of rich boys
- Frank scores the winning goal
"There's a whiteness in my head and I feel like a boy in heaven. I'm floating over the whole field till the Red Hearts of Limerick clap me on the back and tell me that was a great goal, Frankie" (256).
Frank's First Job-Rite of Passage-Pages 257-267
- Frank gets a job helping his neighbor Mr. Hannon deliver coal. He is 11 years old.
- Mr. Hannon has bad legs and needs help
- "What would you think Mrs. McCourt if your boy Frankie went on the float with him a few hours a week and helped him with the bags...Frankie could earn a shilling or two and John could rest his poor legs"
- Frank is thrilled to have a job, he loves making money to help his family
- Frank feels like a man
- I'm a man now so I light the fire early on Saturday morning and make my own tea and fried bread...Mr. Hannon show me how to put on the harness and lets me back the horse into the shafts of the float. He says, Jaysus, Frankie you have the knack of it. That makes me so happy I want to jump up and down and drive the float the rest of my life...I want the job. I want to bring home the shilling. I want to be a man
- The boys at school envy Frank because of this job, this is a first for Frank, someone envies him
- Frank's first job is the best Rite of Passage of his life.
- I work with Mr. Hannon after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and half the day of Saturday and that means three shillings for my mother though she worries all the time over my eyes...Mr. Hannon says he'll wait near Leamy's School for me on Thursdays after his deliveries...Now the boys will see me. Now they'll know I'm a workingman and more than a scabby-eyed blubber gob dancing Jap...I know dozens of Leamy's boys are committing the deadly sin of envy...It's the best day of my life, better thatn my First Communion day, which Grandma runied, better than my Confirmation day when I had the typhoid...I have the job and Mr. Hannon tells me I'm powerful"
- Frank's eyes are still infected, the infection gets worse and Frank must stop working, Frank is devastated
- Mr. Hannon has to give up his job eventually
- Mr. Hannon is only 49 years old and his body is worn out from working, he must go on disability.
- "Your eyes look atrocious, Frankie. Piss holes in the snow. My face is black and the eyes are worse than ever. The whites and the eyelids are red, and the yellow stuff oozes to the corners and out over the lower lids. If the ooze sits awhile it forms a crust that has to picked off or washed away...Mam says, that's the end of it. No more Mr. Hannon...And I can't stop crying now because this was my one chance to be a man and bring home the money the telegram boy never brought from my father".
- Mrs. Hannon tells Frank he has been like a son to her husband.
- "Did you know you were a joy to him going around on that float...Mr. Hannon said you gave him the feeling of a son".
Chapter XII (12) Pages 268-283
In chapter 12 Angela and the boys experience one loss after another
- Malachy abandons the family forever
- The family has no clothes, no food and no coal
- Angela and the boys get evicted from their home
- Grandma dies
- Angela's brother and sister-in-law die and their children go to an orphanage
- Frank's brother Malachy leaves to go to school in Dublin
Malachy's Last Christmas
- Malachy sends a letter to Angela and the boys that he will be home for Christmas
- Angela and the boys wait at the train station, but Malachy does not show
- He arrives home a day late, missing his dentures and with a black eye
- The family asks if Malachy brought any money home, but he drank all the money
- All Malachy has brought home is a box of chocolates and he ate half of it!
- On Christmas Eve Malachy goes out drinking
- On Christmas Day the family has sheep's head and cabbage for dinner
- Malachy refuses to eat, he has a cup of tea and eats the sheep's eyes
- Malachy announces right after dinner that he is leaving for London to go back to wor
- As the family eats their chocolates Malachy leaves
- He never returns
"He kisses each of us on the forehead, tells us to be good boys, obey Mam, say our prayers...Dad watches us a moment eating our chocolates. He lifts the latch, goes out the door and pulls it shut" (271).
Frank gets a nut
- Franks's candy has a nut inside of it
- His brothers are jealous because Frank got the nut
- Angela telsss the boys that the nut will be good for his sick eyes
- In a tender moment Franks' brothers say if they got a candy with a nut they would give it to Frank to make his eyes better
Socks and Shoes and Shirts
- The family grows more and more poor
- The boys have just one pair of socks, one pair of shoes and one shirt
- When their socks gets holes in them, the boys use black shoe polish on the legs to hide the holes
- Their shoes also have holes and the boys use cardboard and scrap paper to cover the holes
"The shirt I wore to bed is the shirt I wear to school. I wear it day in day out. It's the shirt for football, for climbing walls, for robbing orchards. I go to Mass and the Confraternity in that shirt and people sniff the air and move away. If Mam gets a docket for a new one at the St. Vincent de Paul, the old shirt is promoted to a towel and hangs damp on the chair for months or Mam might use bits of it to patch other shirts. She might even cut it up and let Aplhie wear it a while before it winds up on the floor pushed against the bottom of the door to block the rain from the lane" (272).
Angela and Michael take in strangers and puppies and old men
- Angela cannot resist strangers in need, especially women with children
- Whenenver Frank comes home from school there are strangers sitting in front of the fire
"Michael is just as bad. He brings home stray dogs and old men. You never know when you'll find a dog in the bed with him. There are dogs with sores, dogs with no ears, no tails...Mam says that dog has to go tomorrow and Michael cries all night and cries worse in the morning when he finds the dog dead in the bed beside him...In the end she tells Michael, No more old men. One of them left us with lice and were plagued. The lice are disgusting, worse than rats...We all agree there will be no more stray women and children, dogs and old men. We don't want any more diseases and infections. Michael cries.( 273).
- Mrs. Purcell, Grandma's next door neighbor was given a radio because she is old and blind
- Frank is disappointed that his own grandmother hasn't gone blind and gotten a radio.
"My grandmother is old but she's not blind and what's the use of having a grandmother who won't go blind and get a government radio?" (274).
- Frank sits outside Mrs. Purcell's window and listens to her radio, hearing plays by the great Irish playwrights and Shakespeare on the BBC
- Frank listens to American Armed Forces Radio and falls in love with American Jazz and Billie Holiday
"Oh, Billie, Billie, I want to be in America with you and all that music, where no one has bad teeth, people leave food on their plates, every family has a lavatory and everyone lives happily ever after" (275).
The family get Evicted from Roden Lane
- Angela falls over a month behind on the rent
- The family has no money for coal, so they begin to take apart the interior walls of their house and burn the wood
- When the rental agent sees that the McCourts have taken down the wall he evicts the family
"The rent man. He says, Great God in heaven, where's the other room? Grandma says, What room? I rented ye two rooms up here and one is gone. Where is that room? Mam says, What room? There were two rooms up here and now there's one. And what happend to the wall? There was a wall. Now there's no wall. I distinctly remember a wall because I distinctly remember a room. Now where is that wall? Where is that room?...Mam turns to us. Do any of ye remember a wall? Michael pulls at her hand. Is that the wall we burned in the fire? The rent man says, Out missus, I'm puttin' ye out. One week from today" (276-277).
- The family sneaks away from their home in the middle of the night
- They go to live with Angela's cousin Laman Griffin
- Angela and the 4 boys move into Laman's house
- Laman gives up his bed on the first floor and now sleeps in the loft
- Laman at first is nice to the family
- But he becomes more and more demanding
- He sends Frank to the library to fetch his books
- Angela has to cook and clean
- Laman begins to humiliate Angela by demanding that Angela empty his chamber pot
Angela's Family Disappears
- Grandma catches pneumonia and dies in the hospital
- Angela's brother Tom and sister-in-law Jane both die of consumption
- Their 4 children are sent to an orphanage
- Malachy has a chance to escape the poverty of Limerick.
- He joins the Army School of Music and goes off to Dublin to study music and become a soldier
"Now I have only two brothers at home and Mam says her family is disappearing before her very eyes" (283).
Chapter XIII (13) Pages 284-296
- In chapter 13 Frank feels betrayed. Many of the Stories in this chapter are connected by betrayal or Frank's sexual awakening.
- Frank goes to the library. The book he is given excites him sexually--his body betrays him
- Hoppy O'Halloran sends Frank to the Christian Brothers to go to high school, they don't want poor boys--The Church betrays Frank
- Frank is constantly masturbating--His body betrays him and makes him feel guilty
- Frank makes a deal with Laman Griffin to borrow a bicycle, then Laman refuses--Frank is betrayed
- Frank's mother Angela sleeps with Laman after Laman has beaten Frank--Frank feels his mother betrayed him
The Lives of the Saints
- When Frank goes to the library, the librarian gives him a book about the Saints to read
- The stories in this book are horrifying and fascinating
- The librarian is impressed that Frank is so religious and sends a note his mother
- Frank is actually learning about sex from these religious books
"There are four big books, Butler's Lives of the Saints...The saints in these books are different. There are stories about virgins, martyrs, virgin martyrs and they're worse than any horror film at the Lyric Cinema...I have to look in the dictionary to find out what a virgin is...Now I have to look up inviolate chastity ...unlawful intercourse...copulatory leads to copulation, the union of the sexes...My favorite is St. Christina the Astonishing who takes ages to die. The judge says, Cut off her breast, and when they do she throws it at him and he goes deaf dumb and blind....They try to kill her with arrows but they just bounce off her and kill the soldiers who shot them. They try to boil her in oil but she rocks in the vat and takes a nap for herself. Then the judges get fed up and have her head cut off and that does the job" (286).
Hoppy O'Halloran loves America and Insists Frank must continue his Education
- Hoppy is the first teacher that insists the boys must continue their education
- Hoppy is aware of class distinction
- Hoppy realizes the boys in his class will NOT have the same opportunities as wealthy boys
- Hoppy does not want the smarter boys stuck working in factories
- Frank encourages Angela to take Frank to the Church so that Frank can get a scholarship and go to high school
"Frank must continue in school. He must not fall into the messenger boy trap. That leads nowhere. Take him up to the Christian Brothers , tell them I sent you, tell them he is a bright boy and ought to be going secondary school and beyond that university" (289).
- Hoppy O'Halloran loves America and all things American
- He encourages his students to immigrate to America for better oppourtunities
"If we don't want him tormenting us with algebra or Irish grammar all we have to do is ask him a question about America and that gets him so excited he might go on for the whole day" (287).
"You must get out of this country, boys. Go to America, McCourt. Do you hear me?" (290).
Frank wants to join the French Foreign Legion
- He wants to become a priest to escape Limerick
- He needs a letter from a priest and a physical from a doctor
- The doctor refuses to let him go because of his eyes
"And look at your eyes. They're bad enough here in Limerick. In the Sahara they'll fester and rot and fall out of your head. How old are you? Thirteen. Go home to your mother" (291).
Frank and the Excitement
- Frank feels guilty all the time about The Sixth Commandment, Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery
"which means impure thoughts, impure words, impure deeds and that's what adultery is, Dirty Things in General" (292).
"I wake up pushing and pumping. It's a sin when you're wide awake and going at yourself the ways the boys talked about it in Leamy's Schoolyard" (291).
"I can't stop interfering with myself" (292).
"The priest of Limerick have no patience for the likes of me. I go to confession and they hiss that I'm not in a proper spirit of repentance, that if I were I'd give up this hideous sin" (292).
- Frank goes all over Limerick confessing his sins about masturbation to every priest he can find
- Paddy Clohessy sends Frank to a priest who is 90 years old and deaf, hoping to be forgiven for his sins
- This older priest has seen and heard it all and is not shocked by Frank's confession
- Ironically Frank learns more about sex from this priest, beastiality
"Yes, my child, and what else?
I--I--I did dirty things, Father.
Ah, my child, was that with yourself or with another or with some class of beast?
Some class of beast? I never heard of a sin like that before. The priest must be from the country and if he is he's opening up a new worlds for me" (293).
Borrowing a bicycle
- Laman Griffin agrees to let Frank borrow his bicycle, if Frank will do chores around the house
- Laman demeans Frank by making him empty his chamber pot and runs his errands
- Frank is unable to empty the chamber pot one time and Laman reneges on the deal
- Frank and Laman have a verbal argument and then Laman smacks Frank around
Angela sleeps with Laman
- After their argument a drunk Laman Griffin climbs to the loft to sleep
- When Angela thinks the boys are asleep, she climbs up to Laman's bed and they have sex
- Angela prostitutes herself to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table
- She is willing to do anything to keep the boys out of an orphanage
- Frank is disgusted by his mother's actions and runs away to his Grandmother's house, where his uncle Ab Sheehan lives
Angela Willl do anything for her children
- St Vincent de Paul Society
- The Dispensary
- Picks coal in the street
- Begs at the church door
- Fights with rental agent
- Borrow/Beg from Kathleen O'Connell (store owner)
- Sleep with Laman Griffin
Chapter XIV (14) Pages 297-308
In chapter 14 Franks experiences several events that mark his Coming Of Age and Sexual Awakening
He is living away from his mother and brothers-he cannot go back to Laman's b/c he knows Angela is sleeping with Laman.
Waiting for 14th birthday so he can get a job and "be a man"
Frank spends most of his summer reading about sex and the human body and masturbating
Frank has run away to his Uncle Ab Sheehan's
- After his fight with Laman Grifin, Frank has gone to live at his Grandmother's house with his Uncle Ab
- Frank has finished 8th grade "It's July and school is over forever. In a few weeks I'll be delivering telegrams at the post ofice, working like a man" (297).
- Frank's brother Michael comes to visit, he begs Frank to come home because he needs a big brother.
- Frank will not go back to Laman's house
- Frank dreams about all the things he will be able to do for his mother and brothers once he gets a job
"When I start that that job at the post office I'll buy him shoes...I'll give him an egg and take him to the Lyric Cinema...we'll go to Naughton's and eat fish and chips till our bellies are sticking out a mile. I'll get money some day for a ouse or a flat with electric lights and a lavatory adn beds with sheets blankets pillows like the rest of te world...I'll buy proper clothes for the whole family so our arses won't be hanging out of our pants and we won't have theshame" (298).
- Uncle Ab lets Franks stay with him, but complains constantly about the cost of letting Frank live there.
- Uncle Ab actually removes the electrical fuses so Frank can't put the lights on in the house
- Uncle Ab won't give Frank any food
- Frank spends the summer wandering all around Limerick
- He masturbates all over Limerick
"Sometimes I'm up there alone on the heights of Carigogunnell ...I climb to the very top of the castle where there once was a tower and there in full view of Ireland I interfere with myself and spurt all over Carrigogunnell and fields below" (299).
- Frank steals food
"There's no harm if I borrow a loaf or a bottle with every intention of giving it back when I get my job at the post office. I'm not stealing, I'm borrowing, and that's not a mortal sin" (299).
Frank feels he is a great sinner, suffers from guilt
"That's a sin I could never tell a priest. Climbing to great heigths and going at yourself before all of Ireland is surely worse thatn doing it in a private place with yourself" (299).
"I'm not stealing, I'm borrowing, and that's not a mortal sin. Besides, I stood on top of a castle this morning and committed a sin far worse than stealing bread and milk and if you commit one sin you might as well commit a few more because you get the same sentence in hell. One sin, eternity. A dozen sins, eternity" (299).
"If your grow up in the lanes of Limerick you're bound to rob the odd orchard sonner or later. Even if you hate apples you hve to rob orchards" (301).
Frank, The Library and Sex
- To get away from Ab Sheehan's house Frank spends a great deal of time at the library
- He continues to read Butler's Lives of the Saints, he is fascinated by their gruesome deaths
- Frank gets kicked out the library one day for reading a Chinese book he found, he learns where babies comes from
- Frank ends up sleeping in the public park, he falls asleep and has a wet dream
"I wake up in a state of excitement with something hot and sticky pumping out of me oh God my male organ of copulation sticking out a mile people in the park giving me curious looks and mothers telling their children come over here love away from that fella someone should call the guards on him" (305).
Frank and Grandma's Clothes-Sad Tone
- Frank can start his job as a messenger boy when he turns 14
- The day before his 14th birthday Frank is a physical mess: torn and dirty clothes, red eyes, oozing yellow pus, pimples, shaggy hair and teeth black with rot
- Frank decides the least he can do is wash his clothes. he uses carbolic soap and leaves them to dry in the backyard
- Frank has no other clothes to wear, he is naked and spends the day in bed reading
- He finally decides to find clothes
"All I can find in the wardrobe is Grandma's old black dress. You're not supposed to wear your Grandmother's old dress when she's dead and you're a boy but what does it matter if it keeps you warm and you're in bed unde the blankets where no one will ever know" (307).
Aunt Aggie and Uncle Pa Show up-Humorous Tone
- Uncle Ab Sheehan gets drunk
- Aunt Aggie and Uncle Pa bring him home
- They catch him in his grandmother's dress
- Uncle Pa finds it hilarious
- Aunt Aggie is horrified
"What are you doin' in me poor mother's dress? " (309)
- Aunt Aggie demands to know why Frank is living at this Grandmother's house
- Frank refuses to explain to his aunt why he cannot go back to Laman Griffin's house
- Frank tells Aunt Aggie he is going to the post office tomorrow to get a job
- She is impressed that Frank is getting a job to help his mother and brothers.
Chapter XV (15) Pages 309-325
Chapter 15 is about Rites of Passage:
- 14th Birthday-finished with his formal education
- First Job with Wages
- First Sexual Encounter
Chapter 15 is also about Hunger.
- The Clohessey Family has jobs and is no longer physically hungry
- Frank blows his entire first week's wages on food and the movies
- Frank's dream to go to America
- He begins to hunger for a better life in America and the Shannon River becomes a symbol of the way out of Limerick.
Frank's 14th Birthday
- Aunt Aggie shows up and walks Frank to his first day at work
- The women at the post office make fun of Frank clothes and how dirty he is
- Frank will start work the next Monday
"My name is Frank McCourt , miss, and I'm here to start work.
What kind of work would that be now?
Telegram boy, miss.
The thin one cackles, Oh God, I thought you were here to clean the lavatories.
Your job starts Monday. Go away and wash yourself and come back then.
The telegram boys along the wall are laughing. I don't know why but I feel my face turning hot....on the way out I hear the thin one, Jesus above, who dragged in that specimen? and they laugh along with the telegram boys" (310)
Aunt Aggie is Kind
- Aunt Aggie meets Frank on his 14 birthday
- She criticizes Frank's clothes and appearance
- Aggie buys Frank new clothes and gives him money to buy a treat for his birthday.
"She says my clothes are a disgrace and what did I wash them in.
They smell like dead pigeons and you're making a laughingstock of the whole family.
She takes me to Roche's Stores and buys me a shirt, a gansey, a pair of short pants, two pairs of stockings and a pair of summer shoes on sale. She give me two shillings to have tea and a bun for my birthday..she buys me the clothes for my new job" (310).
The River Shannon-Hunger for a Better Life
"I turn toward Arthur's Quay with the package of new clothes under my arm and I have to satand at the edge of the River Shannon so that the whole world won't see the tears of a man the day he's fourteen" (311).
A telegram for the Clohessey's
- On Frank's first day as a telegram boy he delivers he first telegram with money to Paddy Clohessy's house.
- Frank learns that:
- Paddy is over in England working in a pub
- Mr. Clohessy refused to die of consumption in his bed and is working in England, too.
- Brendan "Question" Quigley is in England working and saving money to go to Canada and joing the Mounties.
- Ironically, the Clohessys one of the poorest families from the lane are climbing out of poverty because of WWII and Hitler and Mrs Clohessey feels sorry for Frank and his mother and gives him a tip
"If it wasn't for Hitler we'd all be dead an' isn't that a terrible thing to say...I seen her in the Dispensary and she looks worse than my Dennis did in the bed. You have to mind your poor mother. You look desperate, too, Frankie with them two red eyes starin' outa your head. Here's a little tip for you. Thruppence. Buy yourself a sweet" (313).
- was born in 1930 in the United States, in Brooklyn, New York. He is an American