Angela’s Ashes

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Gerard “Laman” Griffin Character Analysis

A cousin of Angela Sheehan McCourt, Laman Griffin is a charismatic yet unpredictable man. After Angela and her family move in with Laman, Frank McCourt begins to like Laman, admiring his fondness for reading and music. But as time goes on, Frank begins to see that Laman is actually a violent alcoholic. As a result, Frank leaves Laman’s house and never comes back. It’s suggested that another factor in Frank’s decision to leave Laman’s house is his discovery that Laman and his mother are sleeping together.

Gerard “Laman” Griffin Quotes in Angela’s Ashes

The Angela’s Ashes quotes below are all either spoken by Gerard “Laman” Griffin or refer to Gerard “Laman” Griffin . 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 13 Quotes

I can hear Mam crying when she blows into the globe of the paraffin oil lamp and everything goes dark. After what happened she'll surely want to get into her own bed and I'm ready to go to the small one against the wall. Instead, there's the sound of her climbing the chair, the table, the chair, crying up into the loft and telling Laman Griffin, He's only a boy, tormented with his eyes, and when Laman says, He's a little shit and I want him out of the house, she cries and begs till there's whispering and grunting and moaning and nothing.
In awhile they're snoring in the loft and my brothers are asleep around me.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Angela Sheehan McCourt (speaker), Gerard “Laman” Griffin (speaker)
Page Number: 294-95
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Frank hears the sound of his mother sleeping in the same bed at Laman Griffin, discussing Frank's future. As Frank listens, we the readers become aware that Angela and Laman are having sex—the implication being that Angela is pleasuring her cousin in order to protect Frank; i.e, to ensure that Laman will continue to give Frank food and shelter. Frank himself, as a boy growing quickly more mature, also seems to recognize the implications of what he hears.

The quotation shows how other people in Limerick—not just Frank—struggle to reconcile their Christian faith with their real-world needs and desires. Angela is still married to Malachy Sr., meaning that she's forbidden from having sex with anyone else. And yet because of her desire to provide for Frank, her child (and also her own desire to survive), she has sex with Laman. For all her Catholic faith, Angela's priority is always her family's survival. In this way, Angela and Frank are kindred spirits: as we've seen, Frank almost always favors his own literal needs over the spiritual requirements of his religion. Angela will do anything to protect her children—even endanger her own soul.

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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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Gerard “Laman” Griffin Character Timeline in Angela’s Ashes

The timeline below shows where the character Gerard “Laman” Griffin appears in Angela’s Ashes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Angela and her children go to stay with Angela’s cousin, Gerard “Laman” Griffin. They sleep in different corners of the same room, which reeks of whiskey. Over... (full context)
Chapter 13
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...on a bicycling trip to the nearby town of Killaloe. Frank borrows a bike from Laman, and looks forward to his trip. In the meantime, he entertains himself by reading. He’s... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Frank is scheduled to go off on his biking trip to Killaloe tomorrow. That night, Laman Griffin comes home, very drunk. Frank reminds Laman that he’ll need his bike for tomorrow.... (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
...America. As he climbs into his bed, he hears the sound of Angela walking to Laman’s bed and lying down with him. That night, he continues to hear her crying and... (full context)
Chapter 14
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...with Ab Sheehan. Angela and Michael visit him and ask him to come back to Laman’s house, but Frank, still angry, refuses. He imagines making money for himself and giving it... (full context)
Chapter 15
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...Angela begins to spend more time at Ab’s place, until eventually she’s moved out of Laman’s house too. Over time, it comes to the attention of the unemployment office that Angela’s... (full context)
Chapter 17
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...day, Frank goes to visit Angela. They remember the cause of their argument years ago: Laman Griffin. (full context)