The Sadness of Poverty in Frank McCourt's Angela’s Ashes
“It is not the rich man you should properly call happy, but him who knows how to use with wisdom the blessings of the gods, to endure hard poverty, and who fears dishonor worse than death, and is not afraid to die for cherished friends or fatherland.”
In the novel Angela's Ashes, (1996) by Frank McCourt, a life of poverty is the only life this family knows. It is a memoir about a young boy born in New York City. Frank, born ten months prior to his brother Malachy, was raised in a small apartment with his parents, Angela and Malachy McCourt.
A dark haired boy with fair skin, little Frankie was forced to wear the same clothes day after day and be happy that he even had anything. The family's breakfast consisted of tea and sometimes bread. Dinner was usually a piece of fried bread dipped in more tea and supper was bread and tea and jam and sometimes mashed potatoes with butter and salt. Born to a father who became an alcoholic at a early age, Frank was used to those long waits on Friday nights, payday. The day when all the other fathers came home and gave the money to their families and then took some for themselves to go out and drink. Malachy McCourt was different, he took all his money, spent it on the drink and came home singing songs from his days in Ireland. He would stumble in the door and get the two young boys up and make them promise to die for Ireland. He would teach them his favorite song and they would all sing until Malachy passed out.
"Up the narrow street he stepped
Smiling and proud and young
About the hemp-rope on his neck
The golden ringlets clung,
There's never a tear in the blue eyes
Both glad and bright are they,
As Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today." (28).
Angela gave birth to twin boys when Frank was four, their names were Oliver and Eugene. Soon after that, she had a little girl named Margaret. Margaret lived for a month and then she died. That was the only month that Malachy never drank the whole paycheck and he never once came home late singing any songs. Angela loved her little girl more than anything, especially because of the way it reformed Malachy. After Margaret died, they moved to Ireland, hoping to get away from the poor streets of New York and back to their families.
They found a home in Limerick, if you could call it a home. It was a
room with a fireplace, a table, three chairs and a big bed. With a family of six, it was a tight fit, but after nights on boats and trains, it was heaven. Then came the fleas, which fed upon their slender bodies night after night.
Frank McCourt has a subtle yet striking way of telling his story like it was; miserable. The way he described how little food they had and how close their family came to being homeless is amazing. When telling about the twins' deaths he states it so simply, " I know Oliver is dead and Malachy knows Oliver is dead but Eugene is too small to know...