Study Guide

Angela's Ashes Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Frank McCourt

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Memoirs are a little tougher to Bookerize than novels because the events are driven by (mostly) real events rather than the writer's construction of a story from scratch. Still, we nominate "Rags to Riches" as the closest to McCourt's structure, although "Voyage and Return" was in the running. As readers, we probably know that McCourt eventually achieved success and riches, even though they're only dreamed about in this first memoir.

Initial Wretchedness and the Call

Our story begins at the end since we know that our protagonist also happens to be the author of the memoir. He looks backs on his life in amazement and wonderment—surprised that he was able to accomplish his dream. Frank's narration moves us away from the sunny land of opportunity (America) into the dark and gloomy land of damp Limerick, where the McCourts spend most days wet, cold, and hungry.

Out Into the World, Initial Success

Frank, the eldest child of Angela and Malachy Sr., grows up quickly and has to fill the shoes of his alcoholic good-for-nothing father. From a very young age, Frank has to help his mother and quickly learns to survive in a dog-eat-dog world by working odd jobs here and there, begging for food at shops, and picking up coal scraps to keep the house warm. His tenacious and resourceful spirit is obvious from the very start.

The Central Crisis

Malachy Sr. has disappeared and the McCourts are so poor that they have to use their interior walls as fuel for the fire. Unfortunately, the landlord finds out and they're evicted from their home. Their only option is to move in with their mother's alcoholic and abusive cousin. To top it off, Frank is denied entrance into the secondary school and the post office won't take him on as a messenger boy because he's too young. Frank is penniless, jobless, and futureless. 

Independence and the Final Ordeal

Frank's tired of the living situation in Laman's home. One night, Laman comes home in a drunken stupor and they exchange blows. Frank is afraid he might not be able to contain his rage the next time it happens and decides it's best to move in with his Uncle Pa. Eventually, Frank gets a job delivering telegrams and writing collection letters. He works his tush off to feed his family and saves what he can for his journey to America.

Final Union, Completion, and Fulfillment

Frank finally saves enough money and is on his way to America. Once in America, he gazes at the bright lights on shore and contemplates his future.