Angela’s Ashes

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Malachy McCourt Sr. Character Analysis

Malachy McCourt Sr. is an alcoholic, underachieving man, who goes through life without finding success of any kind. He comes to marry Angela Sheehan after having sex with her at a party. Angela discovers that she’s pregnant, and her strict Catholic cousins force Malachy to marry her to avoid a scandal. Malachy Sr. goes on to have many other children with Angela—since they’re both Catholic, they don’t use birth control. Faced with the challenge of finding work that can provide for his large family, Malachy Sr. turns to drinking, squandering what little money he has instead of using it to buy food. As Frank McCourt grows older, he comes to see his father for what he truly is: a lazy, incompetent alcoholic. And yet Frank isn’t entirely unsympathetic to Malachy Sr. It is Malachy Sr. who first instills in Frank a fondness for storytelling—the same fondness that one day leads Frank to write the memoir itself. And Malachy Sr.’s inability to find a job isn’t entirely his fault. Because he was born in Northern Ireland, he’s despised in Limerick, where the people regard the Northern Irish as a dangerous clan of England-lovers.

Malachy McCourt Sr. Quotes in Angela’s Ashes

The Angela’s Ashes quotes below are all either spoken by Malachy McCourt Sr. or refer to Malachy McCourt Sr. . 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 1 Quotes

The minute she losses one child there is another one on the way. We don't know how she does it. She's married four years, five children and another on the way. That shows you what can happen when you marry someone from the North for they have no control over themselves up there a bunch of Protestands that they are. He goes out for work every day but we know he spends all his time in the saloons and gets a few dollars for sweeping floors and lifting barrels and spends the money right back on the drink. It's terrible, Aunt Margaret, and we all think Angela and the children would be better off in her native land. We don't have the money to buy the tickets ourselves for times is hard but you might be able to see your way. Hopping this finds you in fine form as it leaves us thank God and His Blessed Mother.

Related Characters: Delia Fortune (speaker), Philomena Flynn (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr. , Angela Sheehan McCourt, Margaret Sheehan
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Angela's cousins, Delia and Philomena, write a letter to Angela's mother, Margaret, who lives in Ireland. They use the letter as an opportunity to air their grievances with regard to Angela's husband, Malachy Sr. Malachy Sr. is a drunken, lazy man—but even worse (in Delia and Philomena's eyes), he's from Northern Ireland, the part of the country that's usually associated with British culture and Protestantism—everything that Angela's Catholic family despises.

The quotation is important because it also establishes a hierarchy of loyalty—family comes even before religion and nationality. In spite of Delia and Philomena's hatred for Malachy Sr., they know that Angela is bound to stay married to him forever (due to her strong Catholic convictions), so Malachy is family now. As a result, Delia and Philomena feel a sense of duty to take care of Malachy Sr. and his children (including Frank), and ask Margaret for her help in bringing the family to Ireland. Delia and Philomena seem not to have much affection for Angela or Malachy; rather, they're acting out of a strong sense of obligation to "blood."

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Angela’s Ashes quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 2 Quotes

A man with a pink patch on his eye tells us we're on the right street, Charlie Heggarty lives at number fourteen, God blast him. The man tells Dad, I can see you're a man that did his bit. Dad says, Och, I did my bit, and the man says, I did me bit, too, and what did it get me but one eye less and a pension that wouldn't feed a canary.
But Ireland is free, says Dad, and that's a grand thing.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr. (speaker), Mr. Heggarty (speaker)
Page Number: 51-52
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Malachy Sr. crosses paths for a former IRA official—someone who fought for Irish independence in the 1910s. The IRA was successful in achieving independence for Southern Ireland, but when Ireland was granted independence, it struggled to take care of itself. The quotation exposes some of the problems that arose after the 1910s: there were still massive problems of hunger and unemployment afflicting the country. Worse, people who'd done their "bit" (i.e., sacrificed their health and happiness to fight for Ireland) often found themselves wounded, alone, and unemployed—without reward for their service.

The irony of this quotation is clear: all the "grandness" of Irish independence doesn't amount to anything if people can't feed their families. As we'll quickly see, Malachy Sr., as an irresponsible alcoholic, focuses on the abstract glory of his country as a way of dodging responsibility for taking care of his children—but also as a way of finding hope and meaning in his rather depressing existence. We'll also see that Malachy, while lazy and ultra-patriotic, is hardly the exception among Irishmen: the Irish are an incredibly proud, patriotic people, even when patriotism gets in the way of their happiness.

Chapter 3 Quotes

Easter is better than Christmas because Dad takes us to the Redemptorist church where all the priests wear white and sing. They're happy because Our Lord is in heaven. I ask Dad if the baby in the crib is dead and he says, No, He was thirty-three when He died and there He is, hanging on the cross. I don't understand how He grew up so fast that He's hanging there with a hat made of thorns and blood everywhere, dripping from His head, His hands, His feet, and a big hole near His belly.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr. (speaker)
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

As Frank adjusts to his life in Ireland, he becomes increasingly familiar with the staples of Irish culture—most importantly, the Catholic church. In this quotation, Frank (who's still a little boy) tries to understand Christianity. Because he's witnessed the deaths of no less than two of his own young brothers, Frank naturally assumes that Jesus (the "baby in the crib") is dead, too. Frank's reaction to the sight of the baby Jesus demonstrates how important religion is for the miserable families of Ireland: when tragedy strikes, people turn to Christianity to come to terms with the tragedy (just as Frank does, albeit in a very crude way). And yet Christianity also seems to be an extension of the misery of life in Ireland, not an escape from it. The sight of Jesus fully grown, on the cross, terrifies the young Frank. It's key to note that Frank can't understand how baby Jesus turns into adult Jesus—by the same token, he can't understand how he, a young boy, will ever "turn into" a fully-grown man. Manhood seems so far away, and death is such a constant part of his life, that growing up seems impossible.

Dad stands for a minute, swaying, and puts the penny back in his pocket. He turns toward Mam and she says, You're not sleeping in this bed tonight. He makes his way downstairs with the candle, sleeps on a chair, misses work in the morning, loses the job at the cement factory, and we're back on the dole again.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Angela Sheehan McCourt (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr.
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Malachy Sr. tries to turn a new leaf by getting a job at a cement factory. He attempts to drink less, but fails miserably: he comes back to his home late at night, extremely drunk. Angela's behavior toward her husband shows that she knows full-well the harm he's doing to his family: because he's blowing through so much money on alcohol, his children are literally starving. And yet Angela is powerless to do much about her husband's drinking problem. She can be angry with him, but she can't stop him from spending the money he earns on beer.

At this early point in the novel, we're still getting a feel for the pattern of Malachy's drinking: every so often, he resolves to stop drinking, gets a job, then starts drinking again and loses his job. Because the novel is told from a child's point of view, McCourt doesn't offer any judgment for his father's behavior. Interestingly, the absence of any big statement about Malachy Sr.'s selfishness makes Malachy's behavior seem even more despicable.

Chapter 5 Quotes

Dad holds my hand going through the streets and people look at us because of the way we're saying Latin back and forth. He knocks at the sacristy door and tells Stephen Carey, This is my son, Frank, who knows the Latin and is ready to be an altar boy.
Stephen Carey looks at him, then me. He says, We don't have room for him, and closes the door.
Dad is still holding my hand and squeezes till it hurts and I want to cry out.
He says nothing on the way home. He takes off his cap, sits by the fire and lights a Woodbine. Mam is smoking, too. Well, she says, is he going to be an altar boy?
There's no room for him.

Related Characters: Malachy McCourt Sr. (speaker), Stephen Carey (speaker), Frank McCourt
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Malachy Sr. takes Frank to one of the local Catholic schools—one of the best schools in the area—and tries to obtain a place for Frank. By this time, Frank has shown aptitude as a writer and a thinker; he'd probably make an excellent student. And yet Frank is turned away from the school without any explanation beyond "We don't have room."

While McCourt never explicitly says so, it's strongly implied that Frank is turned away because of his father's unpopularity. Malachy is well-known to be a North Irishman; in spite of his proven commitment to the IRA, Irish independence, and Catholicism, nothing he does can change the fact that he's an outsider. As a result, Malachy is treated like a second-class citizen, and his children, by extension, aren't offered a good education. Malachy is a lazy, loutish man, but it's possible to feel some sympathy for him: even if Malachy were a responsible father, he'd still be treated like an enemy (and it's also probable that this treatment contributes to the alcoholic behavior that makes him a bad father).

Chapter 7 Quotes

I'm hungry but I'm afraid to go home till I find my father.
He's not in Naughton's fish and chip shop but there's a drunken man asleep at a table in the corner and his fish and chips are on the floor in their Limerick Leader wrapping and if I don't get them the cat will so I shove them under my jersey and I'm out the door and up the street to sit on the steps at the railway station eat my fish and chips watch the drunken soldiers pass by with the girls that giggle thank the drunken man in my mind for drowning the fish and chips in vinegar and smothering them in salt and then remember that if I die tonight I'm in a state of sin for stealing and I could go straight to hell stuffed with fish and chips but it's Saturday and if the priests are still in the confession boxes I can clear my soul after my feed.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr.
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Frank steals some food from a passed out drunken man, and then struggles with his Catholic sense of guilt. The scene suggests that Frank adopts something like a "shoot first, ask questions later" attitude toward sinning: he doesn't make a point of sinning, but when his need is great enough, he'll sin, reasoning that he can always repent later on.

In general, the quotation dramatizes the way that Irish youths must learn to navigate their ways through poverty and religion. As a boy who never has enough food, Frank is often put in a position where he has to sin to save his own life: there are times when he has to steal food or risk starving to death. But by this point, Frank is a practicing Catholic—he has plenty of doubts about the religion, but he still goes to confession and attends church on Sundays. Frank has the strong sense that he's doing something wrong by eating the food in this scene—according to the Catholic rules he's been taught, he could be risking going to hell forever. And yet because his hunger is more pressing than his faith in this particular moment, he takes the risk.

Chapter 8 Quotes

I know when Dad does the bad thing. I know when he drinks the dole money and Mam is desperate and has to beg at the St. Vincent de Paul Society and ask for credit at Kathleen O'Connell's shop but I don't want to back away from him and run to Mam. How can I do that when I'm up with him early every morning with the whole world asleep? He lights the fire and makes the tea and sings to himself or reads the paper to me in a whisper that won't wake up the rest of the family. Mikey Molloy stole Cuchulain, the Angel on the Seventh Step is gone someplace else, but my father in the morning is still mine. He gets the Irish Press early and tells me about the world, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco. He says this war is none of our business because the English are up to their tricks again. He tells me about the great Roosevelt in Washington and the great De Valera in Dublin. In the morning we have the world to ourselves and he never tells me I should die for Ireland.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr. , Angela Sheehan McCourt, Mikey Molloy
Page Number: 208-09
Explanation and Analysis:

In this complex passage, Frank tries to come to terms with his father: a man who's both a good, loving father, and an unbelievably neglectful alcoholic. Frank can't deny that his father is endangering his (Frank's) own health by spending so much money on alcohol instead of food. Yet he also admires his father for his intelligence, his talent for storytelling, and his kindness towards Frank in these private morning sessions.

So how can Frank love and hate someone at the same time? The paradox of loving and hating simultaneously lies at the heart of Frank's childhood. Again and again, he's put in a situation where he both loves and fears something, whether it's God, his father, his education, or his family. As a young man, Frank tends to move back and forth between love and hatred for his father, and it's only much later (as an adult, when he's writing this novel) that Frank looks back at his family and accepts that his father was both despicable and admirable at the same time.

Chapter 9 Quotes

And what's your name?
McCourt, sir.
That's not a Limerick name. Where did you get a name like that?
My husband, sir. He's from the North.
He's from the North and he leaves you here to get the relief from the Irish Free State. Is this what we fought for, is it?
I don't know, sir.
Why don't you go up to Belfast and see what the Orangemen will do for you, ah?
I don't know, sir.
You don't know. Of course you don't know. There's great ignorance in the world.

Related Characters: Angela Sheehan McCourt (speaker), Mr. Coffey (speaker), Mr. Kane (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr.
Page Number: 233-234
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Angela goes to the local Irish Free State office (a public place where the families of soldiers who fought for Irish independence can collect benefits) and tries to get some money to feed her family. The two men working at the office, Mr. Coffey and Mr. Kane, are polite to Angela at first, but then turn on her when they realize that she's married to Malachy, a Northern Irishman.

Coffey and Kane's taunts remind Frank of the prejudices he's forced to weather because of his father's outsider status in Limerick. Although Malachy drinks away his wages and starves his family, it's important to remember that he's not entirely to blame for his family's poverty: he can barely get a job or collect relief because his town is prejudiced against people from his part of the country. The scene is a stark reminder of the vast importance of geography, culture, and religious affiliation in Ireland.

Chapter 10 Quotes

The next Saturday there's no telegram nor the Saturday after nor any Saturday forever. Mam begs again at the St. Vincent de Paul Society and smiles at the Dispensary when Mr. Coffey and Mr. Kane have their bit of a joke about Dad having a tart in Piccadilly. Michael wants to know what a tart is and she tells him it's something you have with tea.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr. , Angela Sheehan McCourt, Michael McCourt , Mr. Coffey , Mr. Kane
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Frank describes how his father leaves Limerick to find work in London. The fact that Malachy doesn't send letters or telegrams of any kind seems to suggest that he's abandoned his family altogether: never really at home in Limerick (where he's shunned by his territorial neighbors), Malachy makes a new life for himself in a new city. There are even rumors that Malachy has taken a new lover—rumors that are too adult for Frank's little brother, Michael, to understand, as is shown in this tragicomic discussion of the "tart."

The passage is a good example of how Frank has grown over the course of the book. A few chapters ago, it would have been Frank, not Michael, who failed to understand the meaning of the word "tart" (a promiscuous woman). But Frank is maturing emotionally and sexually, and so he has some understanding of the fact that his father might be having an affair. Most heartbreaking of all is Angela's behavior in this quotation: although she's surely frightened that her husband is abandoning her altogether, her first priority is protecting her children from the truth about their father. As Frank describes it, she steers Michael away from a conversation about sexuality without batting an eye.

Chapter 12 Quotes

He's not coming, Mam. He doesn't care about us. He's just drunk over there in England.
Don't talk about your father like that.

Related Characters: Frank McCourt (speaker), Angela Sheehan McCourt (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr.
Page Number: 269
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Frank finally speaks his mind about his father. Although Frank has previously admired his father and loved him despite his flaws, it becomes increasingly clear to Frank that Malachy is an alcoholic, lazy fool who's probably abandoned his children to starve. Frank's behavior indicates that he's coming of age very quickly, and as he grows up, Frank is forced to think more and more about how to support himself and his brothers. As he looks for work and begins making money, Frank begins to despise his father for not doing the same thing.

Angela's response to Frank—"don't talk about your father like that"—suggests that in spite of her own anger with Malachy, she doesn't want her children to grow up resentful and miserable because of Malachy's actions. Undoubtedly, Angela has thought of far worse things to say about her husband, but she has enough self-control—and perhaps a desperate kind of naïveté regarding the family unit—to keep them to herself. Instead of complaining to her friends and family, she continues to stand by Malachy. Angela exhibits a calm, even heroic devotion to her family, Malachy included.

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.

Get the entire Angela’s Ashes LitChart as a printable PDF.
Angela s ashes.pdf.medium

Malachy McCourt Sr. Character Timeline in Angela’s Ashes

The timeline below shows where the character Malachy McCourt Sr. appears in Angela’s Ashes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Frank’s father is named Malachy McCourt (Malachy Sr.) . He was born in Toome, and had a rough life, always getting in trouble.... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...career. Angela arrived in America just after the beginning of the Great Depression. She met Malachy Sr. , her future husband, at a party. She was attracted to his “hangdog look.” Together,... (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
Frank describes how his parents were married. Malachy Sr. was an unlikely candidate for marrying Angela, because his family wasn’t respectable at all—in fact,... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
A year after Frank was born, Angela and Malachy Sr. had another child, Malachy Jr. Frank and Malachy grew up playing around Classon Avenue in... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...Malachy Jr., on the other hand, was a happy child, and always laughed at everything. Malachy Sr. , an alcoholic, barely ate anything. Sometimes he would make money by sweeping out bars... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
When Malachy Sr. brought home money for the week, everything was good. Angela would go to buy groceries,... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Sometimes, Malachy Sr. wouldn’t come home at all. When this happened, Angela would take Frank, Malachy Jr., Oliver,... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
The next week, Malachy Sr. loses his job sweeping bars. He comes home on Friday with wages—but these will be... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Several months later, Malachy Sr. comes home after a day of looking for a job. He holds Margaret McCourt, the... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
At dinner in the evening, Malachy Sr. reads the paper and says that President Franklin Roosevelt will provide every man in America... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...leaves. For the rest of the day, the family tries to care for Margaret, and Malachy Sr. begins to drink whiskey for the first time since Margaret’s birth. (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
In the days following Margaret McCourt’s death, Malachy Sr. is barely present, and Angela barely leaves her bed. Frank tries to take care of... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...waves a massive bananas at a bird. When Frank tells his father about the dream, Malachy Sr. says that Ireland has no bananas. (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
...own mother, whose name is Margaret Sheehan. Together, they write about their own husbands, criticize Malachy Sr. for his laziness, and tell Angela’s mother that Margaret McCourt, Angela’s baby, has died. In... (full context)
Chapter 2
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...York. They arrive after a week, and then travel to Belfast, where “Grandpa McCourt” ( Malachy Sr. ’s father) lives. As the family travels through the countryside, the children are delighted by... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...the family and gives them pancakes and eggs. At breakfast, Grandpa McCourt asks his son, Malachy Sr. how he intends to find work in Ireland, since conditions there are worse than in... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
In Dublin, Malachy Sr. goes to speak with a Mr. Heggarty, an official in the IRA (Irish Republican Army).... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Malachy Sr. brings his family to a police station, where he’s forced to ask the officers if... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...money. In Limerick, Margaret Sheehan is waiting for them, already seeming furious with Angela and Malachy Sr. She criticizes Malachy Sr. for smoking, and Frank can see that she’s angry with her... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...McCourts settle into their new home, still depending entirely on Margaret’s money. During the day, Malachy Sr. claims to go off in search of work, but he fails to find any. (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
The McCourts’ new home becomes infested with fleas. Malachy Sr. tries to better the problem by “beating” his mattress, but nothing works. One night, Malachy... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
A few days later, Malachy Sr. concludes that there’s no way for a man with a Northern Irish accent to find... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...goes to sleep, but a few hours later, he feels his father waking him up. Malachy Sr. explains that Oliver has died of the cold. Malachy Sr. and Angela weep profusely. Malachy... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
The next day, Malachy Sr. goes to collect his unemployment benefits, and promises to bring home groceries that afternoon. He... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...the local school. From now on, she goes with her husband to collect unemployment benefits— Malachy Sr. doesn’t like this, since it limits his “drinking money,” but because he’s been feeling guilty,... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...child—she sleeps for longer hours, and often can’t force herself to get out of bed. Malachy Sr. retreats to the pubs, just as he did when Oliver died. Eventually, Margaret Sheehan has... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...all of Frank’s family is in attendance, including aunts and uncles he’s never met before. Malachy Sr. shows up drunk for the funeral. Margaret is furious with him, and she hisses that... (full context)
Chapter 3
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...on their street, and it’s filthy. She says that they’ll need to move once again—but Malachy Sr. insists that this will be impossible and impractical. (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...gets less unemployment money because of the twins’ deaths—16 shillings a week instead of 19. Malachy Sr. tries to get work at local mils and factories, but he’s turned away because of... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...gives birth to a new child, Michael. As a baby, Michael has trouble breathing, but Malachy Sr. is able to keep him alive by sucking the mucus from Michael’s nose, an act... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
In the spring, Malachy Sr. gets his first job in months—at a cement factory. Angela is overjoyed, because she won’t... (full context)
Chapter 5
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...so many rivalries and family feuds. Many of the people in town don’t talk to Malachy Sr. because he’s from Northern Ireland. (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Although money is tight among the McCourts, Angela and Malachy Sr. always find the cash to buy cigarettes. Angela’s teeth get worse and worse, to the... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...Frank tries to sneak out of his lessons to go to the movies. One Saturday, Malachy Sr. catches him, and sends him to church to confess. The priest tells Frank that he’s... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Malachy Sr. , who’s been watching Frank’s progress at the Confraternity with some interest, tells Frank that... (full context)
Chapter 7
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Malachy Sr. ’s drinking continues. He collects his unemployment benefits, then goes to spend almost all of... (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
...has three siblings, Malachy Jr., Michael, and the new child, baptized Alphonsus Joseph or “Alphie.” Malachy Sr. ’s father sends 5 pounds to help with the child. Angela tries to ensure that... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...goes home, where he finds his entire family, except for his father. He knows that Malachy Sr. will be home soon enough, drunkenly singing. (full context)
Chapter 8
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
...calls the boys’ parents and tells them that their children have been bad. Angela and Malachy Sr. are furious with Frank for his behavior. They make him swear never to see Peter... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...the boys at the Confraternity pray for him to recover. Angela visits Frank on Thursdays— Malachy Sr. , meanwhile, is supposedly working at Rank’s Flour Mill. Frank makes a friend at the... (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
...his entire family’s safety. And yet Frank still loves his father. In the early mornings Malachy Sr. and Frank wake up before everyone else, and Malachy reads the paper and tells Frank... (full context)
Chapter 9
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
The chapter opens with an argument between Malachy Sr. and Angela. Angela insists that she won’t have any more children—Alphie is the last one.... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Shortly after Christmas, Malachy Sr. leaves for England by train. He promises to send his family lots of money. Even... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Shortly after Malachy Sr. leaves, Frank develops an eye infection that makes his eyes look red and swollen. Frank... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
...his house. See after, he learns from a man who’s come back from England that Malachy Sr. has been squandering his wages in England by drinking. Angela realizes that she won’t be... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...from her husband. Angela promises that she’ll only accept Dispensary money until the time when Malachy Sr. sends her money. (full context)
Chapter 10
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Months pass, and Malachy Sr. sends no money to his family, even though he’s rumored to have gotten a job... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...why her children have been absent from school. Frank explains that Angela is sick and Malachy Sr. is in England, and Dennehy is surprised. Dennehy tells Frank to go to his grandmother... (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 go back to... (full context)
Chapter 11
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...the old trunk that Angela keeps in the house. The trunk contains important birth papers, Malachy Sr. ’s English passport, the children’s American passports, and a dress that Angela wore years ago... (full context)
Chapter 12
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
As the chapter begins, the McCourts have received a letter from Malachy Sr. —he’s going to come home just before Christmas. In the letter, he claims that he’s... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
The next day, Malachy Sr. returns to Limerick with two teeth missing. He claims that he’s not drinking much, and... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
The next day is Christmas. Malachy Sr. doesn’t eat much at the dinner—he claims he’s not hungry. Afterwards, he says he’s going... (full context)