Angela’s Ashes

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Aunt Aggie Character Analysis

The maternal aunt of Frank McCourt, Aunt Aggie is a strict, severe woman who frequently criticizes Frank and his siblings for being sinful, lazy, etc. Nevertheless, she helps Angela Sheehan McCourt, her sister, to take care of her offspring, giving them food and shelter when Malachy Sr. has spent all his money.

Aunt Aggie Quotes in Angela’s Ashes

The Angela’s Ashes quotes below are all either spoken by Aunt Aggie or refer to Aunt Aggie . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of Angela’s Ashes published in 1999.
Chapter 2 Quotes

Grandma whispers to Aunt Aggie, Who'll put the child in the coffin? and Aunt Aggie whispers, I won't. That's the job for the mother.
Uncle Pat hears them. I'll put the child in the coffin, he says. He limps to the bed and places his arms around Mam's shoulders. She looks up at him and her face is drenched. He says, I'll put the child in the coffin, Angela.

Related Characters: Margaret Sheehan (speaker), Aunt Aggie (speaker), Patrick Sheehan / Uncle Pat (speaker), Angela Sheehan McCourt, Oliver McCourt
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

After the death of her child Oliver (Frank's little brother), Angela and the rest of the family attends the funeral. Angela, it's agreed, has a responsibility: bury her child in a coffin. Angela finds herself unable to perform this task, however, as she's too miserable. And yet Angela at least recognizes that she has a duty to place Oliver in the coffin. Her grief and misery contrasts markedly with her husband Malachy Sr.'s drunkenness during the even. Whereas Malachy Sr. escapes or represses his grief with drinking, Angela faces her feelings head-on, painful though this is.

The quotation also demonstrates the power of family in Ireland. When a family member is too weak or sad to perform a duty, it's the responsibility of someone else in the family (here, Uncle Pat) to carry it out. Not for the last time in the novel, another Sheehan will give aid and comfort to Angela and her children.

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Chapter 10 Quotes

The three of us burst out laughing and Alphie grins with his dirty face and says Goo goo again till we're helpless and Aunt Aggie roars out of the room pulling her dress down and gives me a thump on the head that sends me against the wall baby and all. She hits Malachy too and she tries to hit Michael but he runs to the other side of her round table and she can't get at him. Come over here, she says, and I'll wipe that grin off your puss, but Michael keeps running around the table and she's too fat to catch him.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Malachy McCourt Jr. , Michael McCourt , Aunt Aggie , Alphonsus Joseph “Alphie” McCourt
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:

In this amusing scene, Frank and his siblings rebel against their family in the most satisfying of ways: they outrun their Aunt Aggie, since she's too fat to catch up. Aggie is irritated that Frank and his siblings are disturbing the new baby, Alphie, but McCourt makes it clear that Aggie is overreacting—there's no reason for her to threaten to hit her nephews.

The scene is a good example of how McCourt mixes comedy and tragedy into the same family scenes. On one level, this scene is hilarious—we can picture a bunch of little kids outrunning a fat old lady. On another level, however, the scene becomes rather tragic: the children are clearly used to corporal punishment (the norm in Ireland at the time), and they're running to save themselves from pain, not just to amuse themselves. The prevalence of corporal punishment in Frank's family reminds us that the family isn't just a site of love and affection—family life can be intimidating and frightening. Aunt Aggie seems not to love her nephews in the slightest, even though she takes care of them: she's acting out of a sense of family obligation, a rigorous code that everyone in Limerick is bound to follow.

Chapter 14 Quotes

I can't tell her about Mam and Laman Griffin and the excitement in the loft. I tell her I was thinking of staying here a while because of the great distance from Laman Griffin's house to the post office and as soon as I get on my feet we'll surely find a decent place and we'll all move on, my mother and brothers and all.
Well, she says, that's more than your father would do.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Aunt Aggie (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr. , Gerard “Laman” Griffin
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

Frank chooses to leave Laman Griffin's house, because he can't stand arguing with Laman, and can't stand the idea that his mother is sleeping with him. Instead, Frank goes to stay with his Aunt Aggie, a woman whom he dislikes greatly. Frank gives Aggie a half-truth: he claims that he's moving to be closer to work. To Frank's surprise, Aggie praises Frank for his determination and drive.

It's important to keep in mind that the compliment Aggie gives Frank ("that's more than your father would do") isn't actually much of a compliment, considering what Aggie thinks of Frank's father, Malachy Sr. Aggie seems not to expect much of Frank, because he's the son of a lazy, drunken Northerner—so she's impressed that he's making any effort at all to provide money for his family. And yet even if Aggie's compliment isn't all that kind, it reminds us that Frank is growing into a responsible young man. Instead of escaping into drink, like many in his community, he turns to hard work to support himself and offer help to his mother and siblings.

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Aunt Aggie Character Timeline in Angela’s Ashes

The timeline below shows where the character Aunt Aggie appears in Angela’s Ashes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...see how packed his new living situation is. Margaret, his grandmother, lives with Angela’s sister, Aunt Aggie . Aggie and Angela will have to sleep together, and Frank will sleep with his... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...home the next morning, saying that Angela will be all right soon. Frank overhears his Aunt Aggie saying, “The child is lost.” (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...in the street gives Angela an onion and pepper—supposedly a good medicine for young children. Aunt Aggie and Pa Keating also help to support Frank and his siblings—they’re amazed that the children... (full context)
Chapter 10
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...sent to the hospital immediately—in the meantime, Frank and his siblings should live with their Aunt Aggie . (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Frank and his siblings go to live with Aunt Aggie . During their first afternoon in their new home, Aggie is sharp and cruel with... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
As the days go on, Frank settles into his new routine with Aunt Aggie . Aggie feeds Frank bread and tea every morning, and then forces Frank to write... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
After a few weeks, Frank gets word from Aunt Aggie that Malachy Sr. is coming back from England to see Angela. Frank and his brothers... (full context)
Chapter 14
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...giggle and laugh at him. During his walk to the store, Frank crosses paths with Aunt Aggie , who laughs at his ridiculous appearance. Nevertheless, when Frank explains to her that he’s... (full context)
Chapter 18
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...He takes forty pounds for himself. Frank then notices Mrs. Finucane’s ledger, which claims that Aunt Aggie owes her nine pounds. Frank leaves the house and throws the ledger into the river,... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...the party, Frank’s family attends, and sings him loud, boisterous songs. Halfway through the party, Aunt Aggie remembers that there’s a lunar eclipse that night. Pa Keating says this is a good... (full context)