What is the meaning of life? I always asked myself this very same question every day because I often wonder what is the reason for my existence in this world. I have never learned to appreciate all the things I enjoy in life, such as health, friendship, and love. I have always taken them for granted. I have constantly wanted more out of life as though I am not satisfied with what I have. I even wonder why my life is so dull when I havent even encountered those who lead an even more horrible life than I do. Frank McCourt, is one of the millions in this world who leads a life that is a total awakening to me. When he looks back on his childhood he wondered how he survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.
Born during the Depression era, Frank McCourt, along with his brothers, Malachy, Michael, and Alphonsus, is raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Since birth, Frank and his brothers endure poverty, a shiftless loquacious alcoholic father, a pious dejected mother, pompous priests, bullying schoolmasters and the despised English. Frank becomes very matured at an early age because he has to take on the responsibilities of his alcoholic father, Malachy, who often drinks his wages or his dole leaving the family penniless and starving at home. Since his father is unable is maintain a regular basic income, they depend on charity from the government welfare system and the church societies and the amount was barely enough to sustain the family. During desperate times, his mother, Angela, is forced to go begging for food in order to keep her children from starving or to pick up pieces of coal dropped on the ground to prevent the children from freezing to death. During Franks early childhood he witnesses the death of three of his siblings, and the utter helplessness of his mother. In spite of their hardship there is a feeling of togetherness of the entire extended family. Relatives often help out in times of need. They also have a sense of humour to help their survival. In order to escape their misery, the family believe that if they think of Italy, it could make them forget about the cold damp weather of Ireland; thus, the McCourts decide to name the upper floor of their tiny apartment Italy, and Ireland, is on the bottom floor because it is always flooded during the winter.
In contrast to his miserable existence in the lanes of Limerick, Frank, in his early teens has his first taste of paradise. He contracts the typhoid fever and stays in the hospital for fourteen weeks. There, he has the attention of the nursing Sisters, a clean bed to himself, regular meals and a proper toilet. During his stay in the hospital, he receives his first introduction to a whole new world of literature through his contact with a fellow-patient and a hospital orderly.
Although Frank enjoys his stay at the hospital reading books of poetry and Shakespeare, he is very eager and excited to return to his humble home because there is deep bond of love that holds him to his family. Franks introduction to literature exposes him to a whole new horizon of knowledge; his ability to write creatively improves, and this gives him the courage to write a composition in school on Jesus and the Weather. This essay is naive, honest and entertaining and earns him a promotion to a higher class. This is one event that is on the up side.
On the downside, Franks most regretful event takes place on the night before his sixteenth birthday. That night he tastes his first pint and goes home drunk and hits his mother. Frank knows that if he does not leave Limerick, he would soon end up like his father. Consequently, he sails for the United States in search of a new life and a better future.
He has to admit his sin in his weekly confession. His first sexual encounter with a sick girl leads to his most soul searching and disturbing experience, because, after his encounters with the consumptive young lady, she dies. He is haunted by guilt and struggles with his conscience and finds it most difficult to make his confession to the priests.
In his late teens, Frank cherishes a dream of returning to America someday, to the land of hope and opportunities. Frank begins to save for his fare back to America by working as a telegram boy at the post office. His Aunt kindly buys him a new suit of clothes so that he can make a good impression and to help him get the job. Since he is desperate to leave Limerick, he, later on, accepts the job of writing threatening letters for Mrs. Finucane, a moneylender. The sudden death of Mrs. Finucane gives him the chance to gather more money from her left over cash, and this added wealth makes it possible for him to fulfil him dream of going to New York.
I am grateful to the librarian for recommending this book to me. It has proven to be an excellent recommendation. Through reading the memoir, Angelas Ashes, I have learnt that the 1930s was a very difficult time with high unemployment in Ireland. The catholic religion played a very important part in the lives of the Irish people. Most people attended church every week, went to confession, and children took religious studies at school. They considered Limerick to be the holiest city in the world because everybody attended church on rainy days in order to stay dry. They also carried with them a strong bias against the Protestants and a strong patriotism for Ireland. They resent the English for their domination. In the memoir, the newspaper distributor regarded The Irish Times, as the English filth, and said that if a good Irish catholic were to read it, he would lose his faith and his eye sight as well. They believed strongly in the teachings of the catholic church against contraception, so that an advertisement in a magazine for birth control devices was torn out from every copy before distribution.
Apart from showing the bias that the Catholics have against the Protestants, Frank is also bias towards his mother. Although never says directly that he loves his mother, but by the way he describes every single little detail of his mothers suffering, her begging for food and her profound sadness over the death of her children, he shows great sympathy for her. The fact that he chose the title Angelas Ashes for his memoirs indicates that he empathises with her sadness over the death of her very young daughter and twins. The book is as much about his early life as it is about his mother. Although his father is an alcoholic, he tries to help his family but fails, yet Frank does not condemn him. Frank is tolerant and understands that it is circumstance that has caused his fathers depression and had driven him to drink and to his ruin
Having read the memoir of Frank McCourt, I have learnt to appreciate, and to be grateful for everything in life and never to take things for granted. I realize that I am very lucky when compared to others who are less fortunate.Angelas Ashes, is the memoir of a young boy who experiences all kinds of hardship during his childhood but is able to overcome them and emerge a wiser and more confident young man. This is the most touching story I have ever read. This is a story that teaches one to appreciate everything in life, to be tolerant, to love, and to forgive.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone of any age and gender. It is easy reading, and very sad in most parts. However, there are some light hearted moments as in Franks composition on Jesus and the Weather. The book will make us pause to think on how fortunate we are to be living in our time and to have all the opportunities opened to us.
For your amusements!
Jesus and the Weather
by Frank McCourt
I dont think Jesus Who is Our Lord would have liked the weather in Limerick because its always raining and the Shannon keeps the whole city damp. My father says the Shannon is a killer river because it killed my two brothers. When you look at pictures of Jesus Hes always wandering around ancient Israel in a sheet. It never rains there and you never hear of anyone coughing or getting consumption or anything like that and no one has a job there because all they do is stand around and eat manna and shake their fists and go to crucifixions.
Anytime Jesus got hungry all He had to do was walk up the road to a fig tree or an orange tree and have His fill. If He wanted a pint He could wave His hand over a big glass and there was the pint. Or He could visit Mary Magdalene and her sister, Martha, and theyd give Him His dinner no questions asked and Hed get his feet washed and dried with Mary Magdalenes hair while Martha washed the dishes, which I dont think is fair. Why should she have to wash the dishes while her sister sits out there chatting away with Our Lord? Its a good thing Jesus decided to be born Jewish in that warm place because if he was born in Limerick hed catch the consumption and be dead in a month and there wouldnt be any Catholic Church and there wouldnt be any Communion or Confirmation and we wouldnt have to learn the catechism and write compositions about Him. The End.