”Angela’s Ashes”: mother’s love vs. father’s love

by Idalia Stillman, April 2015

900 words

3 pages


“Angela’s Ashes” is quite a grim story, despite its humorous way of presentation. It is a story of a young Irish boy and his family trying to survive through extremely difficult and hopeless times of the Great Depression, which engulfed not only the United States, but all of Europe too. The feeling of depression persists throughout the whole story and only the end, when matured Francis arrives to the US indicates that there is still hope for him to find better life. The author in his memoirs shows in detail all nuances of his childhood life, how his family struggled for survival, how relationships among his siblings were developed and what it took to survive in the cold and heartless world out there. While the author provides an extremely and personal account of his early life, one cannot help but look at the way his parents are trying to interact with the family and how their love for their children differs, and how these differences influence the author’s life and that of his siblings.

Malachy McCourt Sr., the narrator’s father, is seemingly a straight-forward character: a hopeless drunkard, a Protestant and having been born in the North (which makes him an “odd manner” person even for all of Ireland), has neither strong character and will nor ability to resist his shortcomings. He is a person, who is unwilling to build and create his own happiness with his family. Moreover, he was forced into marriage after impregnating Angela and attempted to run away from his responsibilities. Only because of his cowardice he succumbs to the stern will of McNamara sisters and agrees to start a family. Malachy is not that stupid and heartless as he seems in the beginning. He truly loves his children, albeit in his own weird way: while he tells his elder sons marvelous stories of Cu Chulainn. He quits drinking while the youngest daughter Margaret is alive and is capable of finding a decent job and bringing home decent wages – in other words he is able to fully support his family even in times of the Depression. Alas, when little Margaret leaves for a better world, he goes back to the vanity circle and starts the same routine of earning some quick cash and then investing all of it in a glass of whiskey. Surprisingly enough, he tries to raise his boys as diehard patriots and every now and then used to wake them up in the middle of the night and said to them: “Up, boys, up. A nickel for everyone who promises to die for Ireland.” (Chapter 1) They promised to do that, however they never got a nickel for such solemn promises. In the end, Malachy ends up leaving them after the move to Ireland and to be honest, I, as a reader, was quite surprised that it did not happen earlier in the story.

Frankie’s mother, Angela, is a whole different story. She is of a much better background than her …

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