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Angela?s Ashes: The Setting Effects The Actions Of The Characters

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The autobiography Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt tells the life of the McCourt family while living in poverty in Limmerick, Ireland during the 30’s and 40’s. Frank McCourt relates his difficult childhood to the reader up to the time he leaves for America at age nineteen. The book has many prevailing themes, but one of the most notable is the settings relationship to the family. The setting of the book ultimately influences the choices and lifestyle of the McCourt family in many ways.

Living in poverty and not being able to meet basic needs leads the characters to result to desperate measures such as stopping Frank McCourt’s education and taking a job to support the family. Frank is forced to take the job mostly because his father is an alcoholic and uses all the dole money and his wages to buy beer instead of feeding his family. Frank describes this pattern of drinking away the money by saying " When Dad comes home with the drink smell there is no money and Mam screams at him till the Twins cry."(42) This situation lasts until Mr.McCourt leaves to work in England and is never heard from again which forces Frank to take a job at fourteen years old. Frank takes on the role of the head of the family proudly and comments " Its hard to sleep when you know you know the next day you’re fourteen and starting your first job as a man." (p.309) Frank’s ability to provide financial stability leads to greater comfort and living conditions for the family.

The members of the McCourt family are also forced to beg and steal in order to help the family’s well being. Mrs.McCourt begs charities especially the St. Vincent de Paul Society for help with basic necessities for the family such as food, clothing, and furniture. Mrs.McCourt is even forced to beg for the family’s Christmas dinner. The butcher who she begs to tells her " What you can have now missus, Is black pudding and tripe or a sheep’s head or a pig’s head."(97) Mrs.McCourt reluctantly accept the pig’s head and is ridiculed walking home it. Also, the children are forced to pick up scraps of coal for the fire from a road on Christmas Day. Frank describes the children’s humiliation by saying, " Even the poorest of the poor don’t go out Christmas Day picking coal off the road." (99)

Unlike their mother the McCourt children would rather steal than beg for what they need. The ...

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...e’ll put stuff on a paper on the scale with the paper hanging down on her side behind the counter where she thinks you can’t see it." (66)

Also, the religious of Limmerick discriminate against poor children as in the case when Frank McCourt tries to become an alter boy but is denied. Mrs.McCourt explains why he is denied by saying " They don’t want boys from lanes on the alter. Oh, no they want the nice boys with hair oil and new shoes that have fathers with suits and ties and steady jobs"(149). The Mc.Court family is constantly aware of the discrimination it faces because of the poverty they live in.

The various settings of " Angela’s Ashes" effect the characters’ actions and lifestyle in various ways. Living in poverty challenges the family to meet basic needs through begging and stealing as well as children getting jobs to help the situation. Also, the poor housing causes the family to be subjected to disease and coldness. The society the McCourts were part of causes the family to be aware of social prejudice and learn actions to take in order to protect their rights. The setting of the book influences the McCourt family’s actions and style of living.
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