Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt is a heartbreaking memoir novel in which the family suffers from poverty and hunger. The lives of McCourt's family are being darkened by the father, Malachy, who is responsible for what his family is going through. Frank, the oldest son takes over adults responsibly to help the family since he is dissatisfied from his father and when he is old enough he escapes to his long journey and away from his country, Ireland, for a better life.
Year after year the mother, Angela, has babies but the father does not supply milk or food for them like all the babies should drink; this milk is the motherly love that she wants to offer to her children but she is unable. The babies are raised with water and sugar because the lack of money in the family. The father spends his money in the pubs, while his family at home starves for food and his daughter, Margaret, and the twins, Oliver and Eugene, die from lack of nourishment and spread of disease. Malachy's sickness not to worry about his family makes Angela's life miserable. The life for her is meaningless and she never smiles. The smiles from her had disappear while ago, but when Malachy receives the first paycheck she smiles for the first time in the novel (23). All her life is hanged on this paycheck and her children can fill their bellies with some food, while she "can hold her head up again" (23) when she pays back the shopkeepers. She is embarrassed when she owns money to the shopkeepers, but it is the only way to keep her children alive if she does not begg and own to the shopkeepers. The happiness from this paycheck appears only once in her face together with her smile, because Malachy never givers her another paycheck. All her dreams for the family, to have some food like everyone else around, are falling apart because the other paychecks from Malachy never arrive at home. He does not fill his family's empty bellies with food, but instead he fills the owners' pocket at the pubs from the children's money. The pubs are his first stop at the end of his payday and the drink is the relief and forgetness from the poverty; it is the place where he comforts himself to forget the miserable and depressed life they live. Malachy spends his children's money at the pubs by letting them die from food and disease; he is a sick irresponsible father and unforgiveness for his family.
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With an irresponsible father and husband and a family that is starving to death, Angela's support comes from the neighbors which they are trying to keep the family alive. Mimmie MacAdorye "brings potatoes and cabbages and sometimes a piece of meat" (41) something that family dreams of. The potatoes are connected with Malachy and his laziness to work; to offer food to his family, and also the financial matter that the family is facing; there are no money to buy food and they have to steal or to beg for. The laziness of Malachy's is connected to the cabbage and the forewarn to getting into poor. Malachy loses his jobs every other week and the family is suffering with the poverty and the illness they go through.
The family appreciates the help and the support from the neighbors and Mrs. Leibowitz and Mrs. Halimman see them smile when they give them soup, bananas, ham and cheese (41). While the potatoes represented Malachy's laziness for work, bananas represent the hard work that Frank does to make money and to buy food for his mother and siblings. With this work, he gains some rewards and fills the empty bellies with food that his father does not offer them. The feelings of Frank towards his father are represented by the ham and how complicated Frank feels about him and also Angela about her worthless husband. The neighbors carry emotional feelings with love and sadness at the same time for Angela's family for the difficulties that they are going through, and the neighbors are a big help for her family walk through the difficulties and to survive.
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All these difficulties, deaths, and diseases are from the lazy and irresponsible husband Angela has, but she cannot change his personality and his character. He does nothing that can help to fight the poverty and hunger away from his family, beside he loves more his country than his children and his wife. The importance's of life for him are the pubs and patriotic songs and waking up his children in the middle of the night, while their empty bellies do not have the ability to keep them on their feet. The songs that the children sing to their father do not fill their bellies, and Frank always has to think of a solution and to solve the problem that they are facing. He stops his brothers' cry at home or in the playground in New York, but he has to sin by grabbing "a bunch of bananas outside the Italian grocery store" (23) and running away so nobody can see him. He feels embarrassed if someone sees him with the stolen bananas; he would keep his head down and won't be able to look at the people again in the eyes, like how his mother feels if she does not have the money to pay back the shopkeepers. Stealing would stereotype him, but he sins to live, he steals to survive, but unfortunately three of his siblings die from lack of food, and from the unwilling father to work and raised his family like all the parents in the neighborhood.
Angela is tired of her life, disappointed with her husband that does not accept his responsibilities as a father, and she is leaning more towards Frank to find support for her family. She sees other men around the neighborhood with jobs, they are home at evening with their families and do not lose their jobs like Malachy (35). On Friday night these men do not drink all their money at the pubs and their families do not suffer like her family. Angela's hopes are on Frank, but he needs to steal left and right, from apples in the fields that symbolize the knowledge and the well earned rewards for his future, to the marmalade that symbolize the illness that his mother and the family is going through. His well earned reward will come into his life later on, not at the time that he needed it, but at least he had the knowledge for his acts how to keep the family alive and not to die from hunger like his other three siblings. The marmalade that they spread on their bread is the illness of poverty that is spread on their lives, but someday the sweetness of the marmalade will cover this illness, the bitterness of poverty and hunger. This sweetness will be combined with the lemonade that Frank steals for his sick mother, to wet her lips from the thirstiness. Frank wets his mother's lips from thirstiness with lemonade, but for himself he squirts some milk from the cow's udder into his mouth to wet his lips and to fill his belly. He learns the game well with the cow's milk and knows how great it feels after with the full stomach, and in this pleasure he includes his younger brother, Alphie, to come and joy him. The love of sharing and caring is beyond the poverty and hunger; beyond the irresponsible father they have and Frank does everything he can to help the family. He is pleasing everyone in the family by trying to find something to eat for them, even if he has to break the "Golden Rules" and to sin over and over again.
Frank is the only hope for Angela to get out of this miserable life, he fills the emptiness of her husband and he is the only person she can lean on. He is the special treat in her life, especially when Malachy goes away to England; Frank is like these candies with the sweetness inside that the family never tasted and it is a dream like all the other ones that the family have. Malachy's family never had candies, the stores are full of them, but Frank and his mother decides to get an onion form the grocery store to cure the twins. The only candy that family tasted was the half package chocolate that only time Malachy brought from England as a present. He could not bring a full chocolate, because he never cared about his family. The family never looks at the sweets in the store, but when they see an egg their mouths run with liquid.
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The joy of egg and the dream for it, how precious it is for everyone it symbolizes the rebirth, living away from the poverty one day and rebuild their lives; it is the rebirth that something important is going to happen and a dream that will come true one day for Frank. This is the egg that Frank has plans for it (220) and these are the plans that he makes to escape the miserable life of Ireland; it is the long journey from poverty to a better life, from darkness to the light, with less hunger and suffering. At the end of this journey he will find plenty candies that he dreamed for, the joys and special treats of life that he never had before. He will find bananas-the rewards he gained, plenty milk to drink and satisfy him of all these years he did not drink-with the motherly love and the human kindness of neighbors, and everything else he wished for.
Frank will leave back all the memories about his father, that left Ireland and forgot about his family, and had darkened their lives; his grandmother that punished him when he ate uncle Abby's lunch because "I [he]was hungry and I[he] tested I[he] could not stop" (137). He will leave back the love that the family never felt from Angela's relatives, and back in Ireland will stay the skin of the apple at school when the teacher offered it to the student with the best answer (157). How ridiculous it sounds, but these were the wonderful people Frank met in Ireland.
In this journey, away from Ireland, Frank will take only a slice of bread stolen from Abbot's house and "chew[s] the bread slowly. One mouthful every fifteen minutes will make it last" (306). He chews the bread slow to forget the past, all the poverty and struggle he went through, and the slow chewing will keep him alive until the end of his journey. This slice of bread it will last him until he comes to U.S.-- to the land of opportunity. With the slice of bread he will dream to bring the rest of the family from Ireland to U.S. by continuing taking responsibilities for them and forgetting about his father that does not exist for them anymore. The slice will leave back his unhappy life of hunger, and it will be the shadow of his past; it will not follow him in the future, but it will exist in his memories.