Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

While poverty can effect a child’s life tremendously, it does not control the outcomes of a child’s life nor prevent the child from succeeding in the world. As demonstrated with the novel, Angela’s Ashes written by Frank McCourt who writes about the difficulties he endured as a child because of his poor social class status. Throughout the novel, Frank tells the story from his childhood perspective and gives bleak views of what is occurring, such as his family having to sleep at a police station, his family having to sleep on one mattress in Limerick and his mother Angela having to cut down wallboards from their home to use as firewood.

These challenges revolve around the lack of good housing for their family which forces Angela to depend on others and carry out extreme measures.

While Frank could let these hardships define who he is or make him resent his family, he does not and instead, tries to carry on with his life.

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Additionally, he tries to move forward by not holding a grudge against his parents who cannot provide a better life for him. Furthermore, despite growing up with many difficulties, Frank still adores his family and is able to get a job to support his mother and siblings. In the novel, Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt focuses on the lack of good housing for the poor people, such as his family, and shows how despite having to find shelter in unbearable environments, he still shows regard for his family by wanting to financially support them towards the end.

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Therefore, it is important that children not let their difficulties define their lives; but instead, learn from the challenges so that they can make a better life for themselves and their family. At the very beginning of the story, Frank McCourt shows the challenges with housing by how his father has no money to be able to put a roof over his children’s heads but instead they have to get help from others. This is demonstrated in chapter two, when Frank’s father Malachy takes Frank to the IRA pension office to try to get money. Unfortunately, Malachy does not get any money and so his family is left feeling hopeless with no place to live or sleep for the night. They meet a guard who sympathizes with them and allows them to sleep at the police barracks where they are given food and shelter. Frank says about the situation, “At the police barracks the sergeant tells us we can spend the night. He’s sorry but all he can offer is the floor” (McCourt 55).

This scene demonstrates how the McCourts are too poor to afford housing or even a place to sleep for the night and now they must depend on the aid from others. Furthermore, Angela and the children depend on Malachy for housing and Malachy cannot be trusted to carry out his duty of providing shelter for his family. Angela is disappointed with her husband’s lack of effort and now feels guilty, as a mother, that she did not work harder to get her children a better place to sleep for the night. Now Angela feels embarrassed for having to get help from others but she is also grateful that the guards are willing to allow them to sleep there. These guards eventually are able to collect enough money to be able to pay for their train fares to Limerick. Angela reacts with tremendous gratitude for their kind actions and Franks seems to learn from these challenges they endure here, as well as, from the kind actions of others.

Frank McCourt uses this situation to show the inequality with housing for poor people and how those who did not have any money were left with no shelter or they had to be at the mercy of others for providing any lodging, as demonstrated with the guards giving them a place to sleep. When the family arrives in Limerick, finding adequate housing becomes another challenge with their poor status as they must sleep on one mattress together in a single room on Windmill Street as this is the only place they can financially afford. As demonstrated in chapter two when Frank says, “It didn’t matter that there were six of us in the bed, we were together, away from grandmothers and guards, Malachy could say ye ye ye and we could laugh as much as we liked” (McCourt 59).

While it is not the greatest living conditions for the McCourts as they are crowded into one tiny room, Frank seems to look past this obstacle and enjoys having his family around in such a close environment. Furthermore, this shows that Frank is very close to his family because despite living in a poor housing environment, he is not angry at his parents but instead, enjoys having his family around. During this time, it was common for the poor to have to live in crowded settings, but Frank seems to be fine with this place because he does not have to sleep on the floors anymore. Additionally, while sleeping on the mattress, the family notices that they are being bit by fleas and Frank says, “We slapped at them and slapped but they hopped from body to body, hopping, biting” (McCourt 59).

Having to deal with flees, is another difficulty that the poor had to manage with in unsanitary living situations unlike those who were amongst the middle or rich class. Therefore, showing the inequality in suitable housing and how the poor either did not have any housing or had very little that was unsafe and put their health at risk. Author Frank McCourt shows how the poor, such as his family, did not have many choices in terms of suitable housing and so they often had no other choice but to take whatever they could afford, even if the living environment was unbearable, unsanitary and too crowded for a family. The McCourt family takes the risk of living in this small, one room apartment and despite the challenges, they grow closer together and Frank seems to enjoy the close intimacy they all have together. Although, Frank realizes that this housing is not sufficient enough for his family; but he does not let these obstacles affect his life and instead, he learns from the challenges his family endures so that he can eventually give himself and his family a chance at a better life.

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Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. (2022, Jan 24). Retrieved from

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