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Valerie Triolo

OConnor
Studies in British Literature
5/11/15
Novel Writing Project Angelas Ashes
Summary:
In the story Angelas Ashes, by Frank McCourt, the author and narrator of this memoir, is living
the majority of his life in Limerick, Ireland. Coming from a place like New York, he is stricken
by the hardships of poverty. Living the Irish Catholic childhood life in Limerick is the worst
part of all. From his childhood, Franks father spent the only money they were given on alcohol,
and was lucky to get an education. But a poor one, of course. He grew to love literature as he got
older and experienced many different things that aren't the usual parts of growing up. From
learning how to steal to stay alive, and getting jobs as early as 11, he experienced illness, famine,
lust, sin, and death that helped him appreciate the little things in life. Throughout the story, we
see Frank McCourt and his family progress and grow through the many struggles of the
depression. And in the end, he ends up in America, where he continues on his path to maturity,
although we can see much of his maturity in Angelas Ashes.
Setting:
The setting in Angelas Ashes is a big part in the lives of the McCourt family. The story took
place in the 1930s and 1950s, where the majority of the troubles is a result of the great
depression, affecting everyone in the world. In the introduction of the novel, they are living in
New York, New York, where they think things were worse in that situation than they would be in
Ireland, the home of Angelas family. Boy, were they wrong. On top of the poverty resulting
from the great depression, just the fact of living in Ireland has been hard. Frank describes
Limerick with many different aspects, such as the amount of ill people, the mud from all the rain,
and the colder weather. He says how nobody goes to church really for the sacraments, but to get
out of the depraved circumstances everyone has been living in.
The key aspects of the settings described in this memoir play a huge correlation in the
development and living aspects of all of the characters. Think how Franks life would have
changed if he was living in a summer home in warm, welcoming Miamicompletely different.
He wouldnt have had to experience the cold, wet, and paucity-filled atmosphere which was the
main reason for the whole story. He and Angela, mostly, would not have to go through drastic
measures to just stay alive. In the depression setting, there is a correlation within the actions
Frank and his family must take in order to survive, although many dont.
It is clear how the depression affects the family. There is no money for rational food portions for
this family, and they are forced to beg for food, steal it, and burn their house for wood, and so on.
At the time of the depression, the prices of everything were rising, and the people of Ireland were
not getting any richer. This was up until WWII was starting where men were able to go to
England, work for wages, and send money back to Ireland. This was a good thing for families
around the McCourts, and the father, Malachy Sr., seemed to be the only hope for them. In the

end, he left them with nothing after he sent one pays to them, and they never heard from him
again.
But, in the midst of the hard times Frank was going through, he still found hope, and was able to
make things more satirical and humorous than gloomy and depressing. Since Frank, the narrator,
was looking back at those times, and no longer in them, he was able to make a joke out of many
of the things that happened to him in those Irish Catholic childhood settings.
Title:
The title of this memoir, Angelas Ashes, may seem somewhat confusing. Why would Frank, the
main character of the story, choose to name his book something so belittle as Angelas ashes. The
ashes from her cigarettes, or her ashes that she stares at in the fire. The significance of this title is
somewhat simple. Ashes are the dirty, lifeless leftovers of the once hopeful fire. There is always
a sense of disappointment and loss within her life, and she looks at the ashes how she sees her
lifecrumbling. The ashes represent the hopelessness of Angelas life. She is always struggling
to feed her children, get them to school, have a roof over their heads, and have clothes on her
back, but it always seems that, in the end, her life is just a pile of gritty ash.
Later, though, I found out that frank was going to write this book all the way to when he and his
brother cremate their mothers ashes and pour them out back in limerick.
My Life:
As Frank takes his journey throughout his life, my life kept relating back to his several times.
Although my father is still in my life, my mother has to do a lot to give me and my sister things
that we consider necessities, but are really luxuries. I also relate back to Frank on how much I
appreciate my mother and what she does for me. Although Frank may not describe this deep love
for his mother, Im sure in the novel he felt empathy for her struggles, and later in life realized
how much she really did for them.
Another aspect of Franks life that relates back to mine is his want of education. Frank
progresses throughout the story to grow to want an education further in America, as well as learn
to work. I have the same stride to get a great education and go on to get a job, rather than just go
to some trade school or, in Franks case, work in some factory for minimal pay. I strive to be
better and show pride in my work, just like Frank McCourt, even though I was lucky enough to
not have to experience the hardships he did.