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Angela's Ashes Study Guide
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Angela's Ashes By Frank McCourt
Frank McCourt, born in Brooklyn in 1930, was the eldest son of Malachy and Angela McCourt. His siblings were several: brother Malachy Jr. in 1931, twins Oliver and Eugene in 1932, and a sister, Margaret, in 1935, who died after only a few weeks alive. This sad event triggered the family's move back to Ireland, where Oliver and Eugene died in the first year, but new brothers Michael (1936) and Alphie (1940) were born.
The McCourt family lived in a lane of broken-down houses that flooded regularly, and they shared a single outhouse with the entire neighborhood. Malachy Sr. taught his children Irish culture, but was constantly out of work, and what money he did make went toward his alcoholism. The family lived on the dole and charitable donations while Malachy Sr. drank the money away. For several years, the family lived mostly on bread and tea.
When World War II started, Malachy Sr. finally found gainful employment at a defense plant in England -- but he continued to drink his money away, only once sending money back to his family. His mother was forced to beg for money, and Frank and his brothers regularly scavenged, scrapped, and stole to survive.
The children had only one set of clothing each, with no coats or boots and only patched-up shoes - not appropriate for the damp cold of Ireland. Frank caught typhoid and was hospitalized, then while helping move coal for a lame neighbor, developed chronic conjunctivitis. To ward off the cold, Frank took a hatchet to his own home and burned the beams for heat, which caused the ceiling to collapse and his family to get evicted from their home.
Forced to move in with a distant relative who eventually ended up repeatedly raping Frank's mother Angela, the family continued to barely survive. Frank started working for the Post Office delivering telegrams, and for the local lender, threatening people who weren't paying back their loans. Finally, nineteen and still alive despite it all, Frank made enough money to return to the United States, where the story closes as his boat arrives in Poughkeepsie, NY.