Study Guide

Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes Summary

Frank, our narrator, author and protagonist, begins the memoir with a regret: he and his family should have stayed in New York. He describes how his parents met, wed, and had five kids in New York but are now on a ship heading back to Ireland after the death of Margaret, Frank's little sister. Margaret's death caused Angela and Malachy Sr. to spiral into depression (and Malachy Sr. into even worse drinking) and to neglect their still very alive brood. Conditions in New York become desperate, and they think that they should be around family back home.

But things in Ireland aren't any better. Grandpa and Grandma McCourt don't want anything to do with them and they end up in Angela's hometown of Limerick. Angela's mother sets them up in a small flea-infested room. Malachy Sr. signs up for the dole; it's barely enough to cover food, rent, and clothing and Angela's forced to go to the St. Vincent de Paul Society to get food vouchers. In six months, Frankie's twin baby brothers are dead from disease and malnutrition.

Angela's unable to continue living in the same home where the boys died and so the McCourts move again to another rundown house right in front of the only latrine for the entire lane. In the summer, the stench is unbearable. It also floods during the rainy season. Angela gives birth to another baby boy, and Malachy Sr. gets a job at the cement factory but loses it after he goes on an all night bender and doesn't wake up for work the following day. Through all this deprivation, Angela tries to give her sons a warm and loving home but she's clearly totally stressed out.

Malachy Sr. spends the next several years either unemployed or between jobs. He loves his kids and spends a lot of time with Frank, but his lack of ambition and serious drinking leave the family hungry, cold, and broke. Frank's a resourceful kid who loves Shakespeare and movies and dreams of being able to help out his family and move back to America when he grows up. He gets odd jobs that bring in a few shillings here and there. He survives a serious bout of typhoid fever and spends fourteen weeks in the hospital.

WWII is erupting and Malachy Sr. gets a job in a munitions factory in England. He promises to send his family money when he gets paid, but true to form, he ends up drinking it all away. The McCourts are soon evicted from their home and have to move in with Angela's cousin, Laman Griffin. Frank and Laman have a huge falling out and Frank moves in with his uncle. He gets a job at the post office delivering telegrams. Frank meets Theresa Carmody while delivering a telegram to her home. Since Theresa is dying from consumption she "knows there's little time left and makes them [the telegraph boys] mad for love." (15.103) Frank loses his virginity to Theresa. She dies a few weeks later and Frank's convinced he's doomed her to hell until a kind Franciscan priest reassures him that's not the case.

Back at the post office, there's a possibility for a permanent position and Frank's all ready to take the exam until his Uncle Pa tells him, "If you pass the exam you'll stay in the post office nice and secure the rest of your life" (16.83). In other words, it'd be saying goodbye to Frankie's dream of returning to America. Frank decides not to take the postal exam and gets a job distributing newspapers and finally saves up enough money to go to America when he's nineteen.

Due to the tide, Frank's ship is forced to dock in Poughkeepsie. Sometime in the middle of the night, an Irish fellow invites Frank and a few others ashore. The men end up at a party and Frank ends up sleeping with one of the women there. Once back on the ship, Frank stares at the twinkling skyline and reflects on his new life in America.

  • Chapter 1

    • Frank McCourt's memoir begins with a bitter regret: His parents should have stayed in New York. After all, it's where his parents married and had five kids (including Frank, our narrator).
    • So, why do they leave? And where do they go?
    • Turns out, Frank's parents and their four kids (the smallest of the bunch, Margaret, died young) are going back to Ireland, hoping that their family might offer some help.
    • Think again.
    • Note: Remember that in a memoir, the distinction between the author, character, and narrator can be pretty tricky. In our case, the author and the narrator are 64-year-old Frank McCourt, but the character is Frank McCourt between the ages of 4 and 19. In other words, imagine a four year old telling you a story about a splendiferous day at the zoo. Now imagine that story is being told by the same person, except now they're twenty-four. More than likely, the story is going to change because the narrator has had time to reflect and think about the events in the story. Well, Shmoopers, that's exactly what Frank McCourt is doing.
    • And now back to our regularly scheduled program: Frank's busy reflecting on his terrible childhood, and he makes sure to emphasize that it wasn't just terrible, it was miserable.
    • It was the worst kind of childhood, because it was an "Irish Catholic childhood" which included an alcoholic father, an anguished mother, know-it-all priests, tyrannical teachers, the fraught political conflict between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and England.
    • And guilt. Lots of guilt.
    • As if that wasn't bad enough, it rains a lot in Ireland. (It's probably raining in Ireland right now.)
    • What happens when you mix rain and cold weather? Lots and lots of sick people. In fact, there are so many sick people in Limerick that McCourt describes the different "types" of coughs: "asthmatic wheezes, consumptive croaks" (1.5).
    • The weather in Limerick is wet and cold most of the year and the only warm and dry places are the pubs and the churches.
    • According to Frank, most people think that people from Limerick are uber-religious, but Frank believes they're just trying to get out of the cold and damp.
    • Frank tells us a little about his father, Malachy McCourt Sr., who was born in Toome, Country Antrim (part of Northern Ireland).
    • FYI: In Angela's Ashes, where you're from is really important. (For more on the importance of geography see our section on "Theme: Patriotism.")
    • Apparently Daddy McCourt got in trouble with the wrong people and had to leave Northern Ireland altogether.
    • He wound up in New York during Prohibition, which didn't make him happy since he likes to drink. A lot.
    • Towards the end of his life, Malachy Sr. grows tired of drinking and returns to Belfast, Northern Ireland where he eventually dies in the Royal Victoria Hospital.
    • McCourt then goes on to describe how Angela McCourt ended up in New York.
    • Apparently, Angela tries to be a maid in Ireland but it doesn't work out because she can't quite get the hang of the curtsy.
    • Angela's mother decides it's probably best if she moves to New York, where there are plenty of other losers. Unfortunately, Angela arrives in New York during the Great Depression. Really bad timing.
    • Soon after arriving in New York, she meets Malachy Sr. at a party, and they hit it off really well. So well, in fact, that Frank's conceived that very night.
    • Angela's cousins, the MacNamara sisters, force Malachy Sr. and Angela to marry due to the out of wedlock conception.
    • Angela and Malachy Sr. are married on a cold March day. Frank McCourt is born in August.
    • In November, Malachy Sr. has a bit too much to drink. Instead of sleeping off the alcohol he decides to register his son's birth.
    • Unfortunately, he's so inebriated that the clerk has difficulty understanding Malachy Sr.'s ramblings and mumblings and enters "Male" as Frank's name.
    • A similar scenario occurs during Frank's baptism when both Malachy Sr. and his friend get drunk and ruin the whole event.
    • The MacNamara Sisters warn Angela not to have any more children.
    • A year later, Angela gives birth to Malachy Jr.
    • Soon after that, twins Eugene and Oliver are born.
    • While Angela's busy taking care of the children and the home, Malachy Sr. is out looking for work.
    • Even when he's working (which ain't often), Malachy Sr. drinks most of his wages and then comes home singing patriotic songs about Ireland and waking up his boys to sing along.
    • Angela has to ask for credit at the local grocery shop in order to feed her family.
    • Angela wishes for a girl and soon after Margaret arrives.
    • Malachy Sr. is a changed man. He stops drinking and becomes super duper dad (too bad he didn't do that with the boys) until one day, Margaret gets sick and dies.
    • Margaret's death leads Malachy Sr. to binge drink. Meanwhile, Angela's swept away by her sadness and there's no one left to take care of the kiddies.
    • Luckily, the McCourts have wonderful neighbors who help take care of the three boys.
    • Eventually it gets to be too much and the MacNamara sisters are called in.
    • Instead of helping their poor cousin, the MacNamara sisters decide the best course of action is to send a letter to Angela's mother asking for money so the McCourts can buy a one-way ticket back to Ireland.
    • Soon it's goodbye America and hello Ireland.
  • Chapter 2

    • Once in Ireland, the McCourts take a long bus ride to Toome in County Antrim, where Grandpa and Grandma McCourt live.
    • Grandpa and Grandma McCourt convince Malachy Sr. that there isn't any work in Toome. They have, however, heard that the IRA is giving out money to ex-IRA soldiers in Dublin.
    • So, back on the bus they go, except this time they're heading to Dublin.
    • Unfortunately for the McCourts, the IRA can't find Malachy Sr.'s name in the records of service, which means he won't be getting any money.
    • The McCourts find themselves desperate: no money, no food, no shelter.
    • The local police take pity on them and allow them to stay the night at the police barracks.
    • The police get busy raising money throughout the night for the McCourts.
    • Thanks to the money the police collected, the McCourts are able to buy train tickets to Limerick.
    • So, over the river and through the woods, to Grandma Sheehan's house (in Limerick) we go!
    • Grandma Sheehan's a little nicer than Malachy Sr.'s family and although she doesn't let them live with her, she sets them up in a tiny apartment.
    • Malachy Sr. is finally able to go on the dole which means he'll receive financial assistance from the government, but the amount of money he gets is barely enough to pay for food, rent, and clothing.
    • So Angela asks for help from the local charity organization, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and gets a docket (like a voucher), which allows her to buy food for the family.
    • Soon after, little Oliver gets sick and dies.
    • Malachy Sr. drinks away the pain caused by his son's death while Angela tries to find a way to put food on the table.
    • Frank and Malachy Jr. begin Leamy's National School where corporal punishment is still very much in vogue, while Eugene is having a hard time understanding that his twin brother is dead.
    • Even though Frank and Malachy Jr. are wonderful older brothers and try really hard to help Eugene, Eugene dies six months after Oliver.
    • This is getting more depressing by the second.
  • Chapter 3

    • Soon after Eugene's death, Angela keeps seeing the dead twins playing and talking around the house. Since she doesn't want to end up in the insane asylum, Angela decides it's best to move somewhere that won't remind her of her dead children.
    • The McCourts move to Roden Lane, which seems better until they learn they live next to the community toilet.
    • Christmas is fast approaching and things aren't getting any better: Malachy Sr. can't find a job, and when he does find a way to make money, he spends it on alcohol.
    • When the first floor of the apartment floods due to the heavy rain, the McCourt clan is forced to move upstairs where it's dry. They call the upstairs "Italy."
    • On Christmas Day, Frank and Malachy Jr. have to go out and find coal to cook Christmas dinner.
    • While they're looking for a bit of coal Pa Keating comes to the rescue.
    • He takes the boys to the local pub and asks the bartender if he can spare some lumps of coal for the McCourts' Christmas dinner.
    • After a long and wet journey lugging the bag of coal through the streets, the boys finally arrive with the coal.
    • Soon Christmas dinner is served: a pig's head, cabbage, and potatoes.
    • Turns out that Angela was pregnant and the McCourts have a new addition to the family: a baby boy they name Michael.
    • The new baby means that the McCourts will get more money on the dole, but it's still not enough money to support an entire family.
    • Around Easter time the McCourts move back down to the first floor and Malachy Sr. (finally) gets a job at the local cement factory.
    • Alas, Malachy Sr. goes on a bender and doesn't wake up for work the following day. He loses his job and the McCourts are back on the dole.
  • Chapter 4

    • At Frank's school, it's First Confession and First Communion preparation time, which means studying the Catechism.
    • According to Frank's teacher, good Catholics not only know right from wrong, but also are willing to "die for the Faith if called on" (4.1).
    • Frank wonders whether anyone wants them to live, seeing as how his dad constantly talks about how wonderful it'd be to die for Ireland and his teacher believes it'd be "a glorious thing to die for the faith" (4.2).
    • Frankie's friend Mikey Molloy tells him that the best part about First Communion is what happens after: The Collection. The Collection is when your friends and families "give you sweets and money" for having received the sacrament of First Communion.
    • Mikey tells Frank that he got lots of money on his First Communion day which he then spent on candy and watching movies at the cinema.
    • Mikey, Malachy Jr., and Frank spend their evenings reading by the light pole since both their fathers drink the dole money, which leaves them without any money to buy candles.
    • Right before his First Confession, Frank listens to Mikey's naughty tale about Cuchulain's wife. Mikey then tells him that since listening to dirty stories is a sin, he must tell the priest during his First Confession.
    • Frank's worried that the priest will tell everyone about his sin and not allow him to make his First Communion and he won't get any candy.
    • Frank fells a bit better about his sin after the voice of an angel tells him to "fear not" (4.82).
    • Frank's First Communion day goes swell. That is, until he throws up the First Communion breakfast that Grandma Sheehan cooked for him and is dragged back to church by his grandma, who believes she has "God in me backyard" (4.141).
    • The priest has to stifle a laugh at Frank's confession and tells him to tell his grandma to wash God away with water.
    • At this point, it's too late for The Collection and Frank's mom suggests they go to the cinema and hope they'll let him in.
    • On the way to the cinema, they meet Mikey Molloy who tells them he'll fake a fit while Frank sneaks in.
    • Frank watches a film with James Cagney, and that's the finale to his First Communion day.
  • Chapter 5

    • Grandma's still upset over the God in the backyard situation and isn't talking to Angela or the boys, which means they can't ask to borrow milk or sugar.
    • Angela's friend Bridey Hannon hangs around with Angela while Malachy Sr. goes out to look for work or take long walks.
    • The McCourts' neighbors go to Malachy Sr. for help with writing letters. They say he has good handwriting and a way with words.
    • Grandma Sheehan takes in a lodger named Bill Galvin, whose wife recently passed away.
    • In the mornings, she cooks and delivers Bill's dinner at the limekiln where he works.
    • Angela makes a suggestion: Instead of having Grandma Sheehan walk all the way to the limekiln, Frank could deliver his food for a mere sixpence.
    • During the first delivery, the smell of the food turns out to be irresistible and hungry Frank eats all of Bill Galvin's dinner.
    • When Bill Galvin and Grandma Sheehan find out, they're less than happy, and poor Frank ends up having to deliver Bill's food for two weeks free of charge.
    • Angela and Malachy Sr.'s cigarette habit has caused their teeth to rot and fall out. They get false teeth, which they take out each night before going to bed.
    • One night, Malachy Jr. and Frank are having a grand time wearing the false teeth until Malachy Jr. gets Dad's teeth stuck in his mouth.
    • Malachy Sr. and Frank go to the doctor with Malachy Jr. so they can remove the false teeth.
    • Angela decides that Frank should sign up for Irish dancing classes to learn the dances of his ancestors.
    • Frank's mortified at the thought of his friends seeing him dragged off to dance classes.
    • Frank stops going after the fourth lesson and starts using the money for movies with his friend Billy.
    • Eventually Frank's parents find out he's been skipping his dance lessons and they send him to the priest to confess his sins.
    • This seems to be their solution for any misbehavior.
    • Malachy Sr. tells Frank he's ashamed that he doesn't want to learn the dances that his ancestors fought and died for over the centuries.
    • About three years pass and Malachy Sr. still can't keep a job longer than a couple of weeks.
    • Frank's schoolmate, Question Quigley, tells him that he must join the confraternity so that Angela can show the St. Vincent de Paul Society what good Catholics they are.
    • Malachy Sr. wants Frank to become an altar boy, and has him practice his Latin every night. After Frank's memorized the Mass, they go down to see the official in charge of the altar boys. The official takes one look at Frank in his ragged clothes, tells them they don't have room for him, and slams the door in their faces.
  • Chapter 6

    • It seems Mr. O'Neill, Frank's teacher, likes to torture his hungry students with his apple peel and uses the peel as a way to get the boys to pay attention in class.
    • On this particular day, Fintan Slattery wins the apple peel but decides to give it to his friends, Frank, Paddy, and Question Quigley.
    • Fintan invites Paddy and Frank over for lunch.
    • Several days later, Fintan invites them over again, except this time, he tells them his mom isn't around.
    • Fintan's mom has left him a sandwich and milk, which Fintan eats all by himself while poor Frank and Paddy look on.
    • By the time the boys run to school, lunch is over and Frank and Paddy are starving.
    • Paddy and Frank decide to cut class and run away into the fields where they can eat apples from the orchard and drink milk straight from the cows in the meadows. Yeah, you read that right.
    • As they're making their way back into town, they run into a schoolmate who tells Frank that his parents know that he's cutting class and they're out looking for him.
    • Frank decides it's best to go back to Paddy's house. Paddy's family's even poorer than Frank's, and to make matters worse, Paddy's sick dad spends his days laying in bed spitting blood into a bucket from his consumption.
    • It turns out that Paddy's dad, Mr. Clohessy, and Frank's mom go way back. Mr. Clohessy tells them all about how great a dancer Angela was.
    • Eventually, Frank falls asleep and wakes up the following morning when Mrs. Clohessy goes around waking up everyone.
    • As Frank's trying to figure out whether he should go back to school or cut class again, there's a knock at the door. It's Angela with baby Michael in her arms.
    • Mr. Clohessy recognizes Angela's voice and asks her to come in. She has trouble recognizing him because of his sickness.
    • Before she goes, Mr. Clohessy asks Angela if she'd sing a song for old times' sake. She begins singing, but after a while becomes short of breath and has to ask Frank to help her finish the song.
    • As soon as Angela's out the door, she starts crying about the Clohessys' situation and the memories of her past.
  • Chapter 7

    • Frank's now nine years old and life continues as it has before: Malachy Sr. drinks away the dole money, Angela tries to feed her family, and the boys put up with their father's alcoholic antics.
    • Frank's friend Mickey Spellacy asks him to pray that his sister Brenda, sick with consumption, won't die until September when school begins so that he can get a few weeks off school.
    • In return, he promises he'll invite the boys to Brenda's wake for food and sweets.
    • It seems the boys' prayer worked since Brenda ends up dying the second day of school. But, when the boys go to the wake, Mickey says he never invited them and they aren't let in.
    • Grandma Sheehan tells Angela that Frank could be making a few extra pennies if he were to help his Uncle Pat selling papers.
    • Frank meets Mr. Timoney, one of Uncle Pat's customers, who offers him sixpence if Frank will read him the paper.
    • Mr. Timoney has Frank read him Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal.
    • Angela's real happy that Frank is bringing in money and gives him some change so that he can go to the movies.
    • Everything seems to be going really well until Uncle Pat fires Frank (apparently he can get a boy who'll work for half the price) and Mr. Timoney's taken to a nursing home.
    • In July, the McCourts welcome a new addition to their nest, Alphonsus Joseph.
    • Malachy Sr. offers to cash the five pounds his father sent the baby, but instead of coming back with the money he spends it drinking in the pub.
    • Angela sends Frank to find his father, but Frank never finds him. He realizes that "a man that drinks the money for a new baby is gone beyond the beyonds" (7.172).
  • Chapter 8

    • Frank's now ten years old, which means it's Confirmation time. More importantly for Frank, it also means he'll get another chance at The Collection.
    • This time, instead of spending his money on sweets, he decides to spend his money on watching his friend Quasimodo's sisters take a shower.
    • Quasimodo lets them climb the wall where they'll get a good view of his sisters showering, but Mikey Molloy gets there first and pushes the boys out of the way.
    • Mikey climbs to the top of the spout to get a better view of Quasimodo's sisters, but as Mikey's masturbating, the spout he's holding on to gives way and he falls to the ground.
    • Quasimodo's mother comes out and before he knows it, Angela's there as well. She takes him back home by the ear and makes him swear that he wasn't looking at the naked girls.
    • The next day, after his confirmation, Frank gets a nosebleed and feels so badly that he doesn't care about The Collection.
    • He spends several days in bed, until his doctor comes to see him. The doctor tells his parents that Frank has typhoid fever and he's rushed to the hospital.
    • At the hospital, Frank's in a daze and unable to speak. There's even a point where the doctors think he's so far gone that they call in a priest to administer the last rites.
    • One day after Frank's gotten a little better, he hears a girl's voice saying hello. Her name is Patricia Madigan, and she has diphtheria.
    • Patricia and Frank become good friends and she even lets him borrow a book on the history of England. She reads Frank poetry and then has him memorize it so he can recite it when there isn't anyone around.
    • Sister Rita, the nurse at the hospital, doesn't think the two should be socializing and moves Frank to another wing right when they're in the middle of reading The Highwayman.
    • Frank's moved to the old fever ward and has no one to keep him company except for Seamus, the friendly janitor.
    • Two days later, Patricia dies. Frank misses Patricia and is sad that he'll never know the ending of The Highwayman.
    • Lucky for Frank, Seamus learns the poem from a man in his pub and recites the ending to him.
    • Frank's finally out of the hospital in October but has to spend the entire month resting in bed.
    • Frank can't wait to get out of bed and return to school in November, but as soon as he gets to school, the new headmaster tells him that since he's missed two months of school he has to go back a year, which means he'll be in the same class as Malachy Jr.
    • Oh, the humiliation.
    • It isn't long until Frank shows Mr. O'Halloran that he belongs in sixth class by writing a story titled "Jesus and the Weather."
    • Frank enjoys Mr. O'Halloran's class because it's the first time a teacher allows his students to ask questions and doesn't insult or smack them if they ask why or don't know the right answer.
    • A few months pass and Frank is getting ready for Christmas dinner at the hospital. At the hospital the nurses aren't very nice to him. They make Frank eat Christmas dinner alone and don't even say goodbye to him when he leaves.
  • Chapter 9

    • War's broken out all over Europe and the English are recruiting Irishmen to work in munitions factories. After a bit of convincing, Malachy Sr. heads over to work in England.
    • Things are looking hopeful for the McCourts now that in two weeks time Malachy Sr. will be bringing in the bucks.
    • Two weeks pass: bupkis. (Look it up.)
    • All the other families who receive money from their fathers are eating, drinking, and just plain cheery while the McCourts sit and watch.
    • Frank gets an eye infection and Angela takes him to the dispensary, "where the poor people see doctors and get their medicine" (9.69).
    • At the dispensary, Mr. Coffey and Mr. Kane are in charge and they decide who gets help and who doesn't. So it's best to play nice with them even if they are total jerks.
    • After laughing at Frank's infected eyes, Mr. Coffey and Mr. Kane give Angela a docket to see the doctor.
    • The doctor tells Angela that Frank needs to go to the hospital immediately because he's got "the worst case of conjunctivitis [he's] ever seen in [his] life" (9.90).
    • While at the hospital, Frank runs into Seamus and Mr. Timoney. Seamus recites new poems to Frank, including a favorite of Patricia's: The Owl and the Pussycat.
    • Seamus eventually goes off to work in England but tells Frank he'll have his wife write him a letter.
    • After a month, even though his eyes aren't fully healed, Frank's released from the hospital.
    • Bridey Hannon learns that Malachy Sr. is drinking so much in England that he doesn't even have enough money left over to pay his rent.
    • Angela realizes that Malachy Sr. has left her no choice but to ask for help from the dispensary, even though it means that "you're at the end of your rope and maybe one level above tinkers, knackers and street beggars in general" (9.130).
    • It's only after Mr. Coffey and Mr. Kane humiliate Angela that they give her the money she needs.
  • Chapter 10

    • Poor Angela's not doing well. She's shivering all night and keeps asking for lemonade.
    • The kids are starving, Angela isn't getting any better, and there's no food or money anywhere in the house.
    • Frank decides that it's his job to take care of his family and steals a loaf of bread and two bottles of lemonade.
    • The next day, Angela isn't any better and the boys cut school to take care of their baby brothers and sick mother.
    • They run out of coal and have to go door to door asking for coal in the rich neighborhoods. The maids who open the doors aren't very charitable and so they boys decide they're better off stealing coal from the backyards of houses.
    • After the McCourt boys score enough coal they head back home, but as soon as they're home they hear a knock at the door: it's the guard in charge of attendance at the school.
    • The guard tells Frank to get Grandma Sheehan and Aunt Aggie to come to the house.
    • Grandma Sheehan and Aunt Aggie scream at Frank and won't listen to a word he says.
    • Angela's taken to the hospital with a bad case of pneumonia.
    • The McCourt boys are brought to live with Aunt Aggie in the meantime.
    • Aunt Aggie has Frank write Malachy Sr. a letter about how Angela's in the hospital.
    • Even though living with Aunt Aggie is a nightmare, her husband Pa Keating is really nice and buys the boys ham so they can have a decent meal.
    • Malachy Sr. shows up and takes the boys back to their house. Two days later, Angela arrives from the hospital.
    • Malachy Sr. doesn't stay long and heads back to England soon after arriving. He promises that he'll send them money. The money never arrives and Angela has to go back to the dispensary.
  • Chapter 11

    • What do you do when your mom tells you not to go through her stuff? Go through her stuff, of course.
    • But Frank gets a surprise. He accidentally comes across Angela and Malachy Sr.'s marriage certificate.
    • Since the certificate shows that Angela and Malachy Sr. were married about five months before Frank's birth, he wonders how he was "born into the world in half the time" (11.5).
    • Frank learns from Mikey Molly that he was conceived out of wedlock, which according to Mikey Molloy makes him a doomed bastard.
    • Frank soon gets a job helping Mr. Hannon, Bridey Hannon's father, with the coal delivery.
    • Mr. Hannon has sores all over his legs and really appreciates Frank's help. Unfortunately for Frank, the coal dust is really messing up his eyes.
    • It doesn't matter to Frank, who's just really excited to make some money to help his family.
    • He's also eager about showing off his new job to all his friends and can't wait for Mr. Hannon to pick him up outside of school in his horse cart.
    • The boys at Leamy's are gawking at Frank as he takes the reins from Mr. Leamy and leads the horse away.
    • After his shift at work, Frank's eyes are worse than ever. Angela puts her foot down and tells Frank that he isn't allowed to work with Mr. Hannon anymore but it turns out she doesn't have to say much more. Mr. Hannon's legs give out and he has to quit his job.
  • Chapter 12

    • The postman brings the McCourts a letter from Malachy Sr. that says he'll be arriving two days before Christmas and that he's bringing gifts.
    • The family makes their way down to the train station on the night of his arrival but Malachy Sr. is nowhere to be seen.
    • He arrives the next day with a black eye, no front teeth, and empty pockets. But at least he brings a gift: a half eaten box of chocolates.
    • He stays for their pretty meager Christmas dinner but leaves right after they've finished eating their chocolates.
    • The McCourt boys are finding it harder than ever to maintain their dignity when they have to walk around town with trousers that are too short and socks full of holes.
    • Angela likes to bring home poor women and children she finds on the streets and give them tea and bread while Michael brings home homeless dogs and old men.
    • One of the old men that Michael brings home leaves them a going-away gift: lice.
    • And that's the end of the poor old men, dogs, women, and children.
    • Frank spends his Sunday night listening to plays on the radio at Mrs. Purcell's.
    • Back at home, the McCourts are struggling to make ends meet. They're using the interior walls of the house as fuel and the rent is four weeks behind.
    • The rent man evicts the McCourts after the ceiling caves in; the McCourts have nowhere to turn.
    • Grandma offers a solution: move in with Gerard "Laman" Griffin, Angela's cousin.
    • Laman's house is a pigsty. Angela and the boys spend the next day cleaning up the house.
    • Laman has a specific routine he follows: go to work, get drunk, come home, and fall asleep.
    • He's also not very nice to Angela and has her empty out his chamber pot (gross) because he can't be bothered to do it himself.
    • On the plus side, he lets Frank use his library card, but only if he doesn't bring home naughty books.
    • Sadly, Grandma Sheehan got sick on the night the McCourts were evicted and is now dead.
    • Angela's worried that all her family is dying or disappearing since Malachy Jr. is now in Dublin at the Army School of Music.
  • Chapter 13

    • Frank's invited to a weekend cycling trip with his schoolmates. Only problem is, he doesn't have a bike. But guess who does? Laman.
    • Laman says he's more than happy to let Frank borrow his bike but it'll come at a price: Frank has to empty Laman's chamber pot every morning.
    • Plus, he has to be at his beck and call at all times, which means cigarette and library runs.
    • We're starting not to like Laman one bit.
    • During one of his errands, the librarian tells Frank that he can't leave with the library books until it stops raining, so he stays and begins reading a book about saints.
    • The librarian's amazed at Frank's interest in the book and sends his mom a note telling her how wonderful Frank is and how he's sure to become a priest.
    • Back at school, Mr. O'Halloran teaches his students all about America. He also teaches them about the importance of knowledge.
    • One day, after Frank impresses him with a well-formed sentence, he asks to meet with Frank's mother.
    • Mr. O'Halloran tells Angela that Frank should go on with his education and that she should go see the Christian Brothers about enrolling Frank in secondary school.
    • The Christian Brothers take one look at Frank, tell him they don't have room for him, and slam the door.
    • Frank's happy that they rejected him since that means he doesn't have to stay in school.
    • Angela and Frank ask about a job as a messenger boy while Mr. O'Halloran is upset that his best students are forced to work as errand boys.
    • Meanwhile in Laman's house, things aren't getting any better and Frank hears Angela and Laman having sex.
    • Frank's also feeling real guilty since he's committing a sin by "interfering with himself" (13.341).
    • Trouble finds Frank when he forgets to empty Laman's chamber pot and a drunken Laman doesn't let Frank borrow his bike. They end up getting into a scuffle and after everyone's asleep Frank leaves for good and moves in with Uncle Pat.
  • Chapter 14

    • Uncle Pat "The Abbot" warns Frank that he needs to get a job because he can't keep feeding him out of his own pocket.
    • Frank can't get a job as a messenger boy until he turns fourteen so he ends up taking long walks around town, stealing bread and milk from doorsteps and apples from orchards, and "interfering with himself."
    • Michael comes around every once in a while and asks Frank if he'd like to come back home but Frank refuses.
    • Since he's still got Laman's card he goes to the library. That is, until he's caught reading a "filthy" book about love and the body and gets thrown out of the library for good.
    • On the day before he turns fourteen, Frank realizes that he needs to wash himself and his clothes if he wants to make a good impression at the post office. The only problem is he doesn't have anything to wear while his clothes dry.
    • His clothes are still wet in the evening and Frank's getting chilly and all he can find in the house is his Grandmother's old dress, so he puts it on.
    • That same night Aunt Aggie comes over with Pa Keating to drop off The Abbot who had too much to drink at the pub.
    • After they put The Abbot to sleep Aunt Aggie asks Frank why he's not living with his mother. Frank lies and says that The Abbot's house is closer to his job at the post office. He doesn't mention the problem with Angela and Laman.
  • Chapter 15

    • The next day The Abbot isn't feeling too hot after all the drinking he did the night before and asks Frank to make him breakfast.
    • Surprisingly, Aunt Aggie takes Frank shopping for new clothes and even buys him tea and a bun. Frank has to look away because he's so touched he's crying.
    • At work, the telegram ladies, Mrs. O'Connell and Miss Barry, make fun of Frank's new clothes and tell him to sit down and wait until they have a delivery for him.
    • Frank's first delivery takes him to Mrs. Clohessy where he learns that Paddy, Mr. Clohessy, and even Question Quigley are working in England and making money. She tips Frank and tells him to take care of himself and Angela.
    • On Friday, Frank gets paid. He takes Michael to the cinema and buys him fish and chips.
    • Frank saves the leftover money for his trip to America.
    • Even though Mrs. O'Connell and Miss Barry tell Frank that he's not allowed to help people when he's out delivering telegrams, he helps anyway.
    • Michael spends so much time with Frank at The Abbot's that one day Angela comes looking for him. She asks Frank about the job and starts coming over more and more until she finally moves in. Eventually Malachy Jr. gets tired of the army and comes back.
    • The McCourts are finally back together again.
    • One day, Frank gets a telegram for the Carmodys.
    • According to the telegram boys the Carmodys tip well, plus their daughter Theresa has the consumption, which means she's "mad for love and romance and everything" (15.103).
    • Life is short, seize the day, etc.
    • On the way to the Carmody house, Frank falls off his bike. Theresa invites him in and nurses his wounds. Since Frank's wet, Theresa tells him to take off his clothes and hangs them by the fire.
    • We can see where this is going.
    • When Theresa walks back in she takes Frank to a couch and they have sex, Frank's first time.
    • Frank keeps delivering the telegrams and seeing Theresa until one day her mother answers the door and tells Frank that Theresa's in the hospital.
    • The next week Theresa's dead.
    • Frank watches Theresa's funeral from afar and worries that he sent Theresa to hell because they had sex.
    • He says that the pain caused by Theresa's death is the strongest pain he's ever felt and he never wants to feel that way again.
  • Chapter 16

    • The next telegram that Frank has to deliver is a "sympathy telegram" to a Mr. Harrington whose wife just died. He's British.
    • When Frank arrives with the telegram Mr. Harrington invites him in and offers him a sherry. After a couple of glasses of sherry, Mr. Harrington runs out of liquor and tells Frank to wait for him while he goes out and buys some more.
    • Frank's really drunk and by the time that Mr. Harrington gets back, Frank is baptizing Mrs. Harrington with his sherry.
    • Mr. Harrington offers Frank more sherry and some ham sandwiches but before Frank can have another drink he throws up out the window on to Mrs. Harrington's rosebush. Mr. Harrington gets really upset and Frank has to climb out of the rosebush and run to his bike.
    • Mr. Harrington complains about Frank to Mrs. O'Connell and she fires him as soon as he walks back through the door.
    • It's only after the parish priest tells the post office to take Frank back that they agree.
    • Frank has a guilty conscience and is unable to go to confession. He's still thinking about Theresa, and all the times he masturbated.
    • Things start looking up for Frank when the next telegram customer, Mrs. Brigid Finucane, asks Frank if he'll write collection letters to customers of hers who haven't paid.
    • Weeks go by and Frank's brilliant letters are bringing Mrs. Finucane lots of money.
    • On Fridays Mrs. Finucane asks Frank to buy her sherry and when she drinks herself to sleep he steals the money that falls from her purse.
    • Even though he feels bad about stealing her money, he knows there's no other way for him to save enough money to go to America.
    • Back at the post office, the telegram boys are gearing up for the postal exam. If they pass, they get to work full time at the post office.
    • Frank delivers a telegram to South's pub and runs into his Uncle Pa who tells him that he's better off not taking the exam and should keep on saving for his trip to America.
    • On the day of the exam, Frank, instead of taking the test, applies for a new job distributing newspapers at Easons. He gets the job.
    • His new boss, Mr. McCaffrey, tells him to be at the railway station Monday morning at 6:30 a.m.
    • Mrs. O'Connell and Miss Barry have nothing but nasty things to say to Frank on his last day of work but Frank doesn't care because he's just happy to start a new chapter in his life.
  • Chapter 17

    • It's the evening before Frank's sixteenth birthday and he's at the pub waiting for his Uncle Pa who promised to buy him his first pint.
    • Uncle Pa Keating tells the entire pub that it's Frank's birthday and it isn't long before Frank has had way too much to drink.
    • Uncle Pa tells Frank to go home but Frank decides that it's high time he confesses his sins. He knocks on the door of the church but they tell him that he can't confess in his inebriated state.
    • When Frank gets home Angela says that Frank is just like his father. Frank says that he'd rather be like his dad than Laman Griffin. They get into a heated argument and Frank slaps Angela in the face.
    • The next day Frank feels sorry for what he did but he doesn't apologize because he's still upset that Angela had sex with Laman.
    • He spends the day walking around until it starts raining so hard he has to seek shelter. He ends up inside a Franciscan church, which has a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. Naturally. Franciscan.
    • Frank begins to think about all the times he prayed to St. Francis for help. He's especially worried about sending Theresa to hell, hitting his mother, and masturbating all around Limerick.
    • A priest hears Frank crying, puts his arm around Frank, and asks him what's wrong.
    • Frank spills his life story beginning with Margaret and ending with the argument he had with his mother. The priest tells Frank not to worry, that as long as he's repentant, God will forgive him.
    • Frank feels better now that he knows that Theresa isn't in hell.
    • Frank shows up to the railway station bright and early on Monday morning where Mr. McCaffrey and Willie Harold are counting the magazines and newspapers to be delivered.
    • In the morning, Frank and Willie deliver the newspapers.
    • Back at the office there are two other boys who help with deliveries, Eamon and Peter. While Mr. McCaffrey's out, the boys smoke and look at pictures of women in lingerie.
    • Frank's in charge of delivering the papers and magazines while Gerry Halvey, the delivery boy, is on vacation.
    • Frank needs Gerry's bike and so they arrange to meet at the railway station where Gerry's waiting for his girlfriend, Rose.
    • Gerry gets the idea that Rose has been cheating on him and walks away as soon as he sees her.
    • Now that Gerry's gone, Rose has no one to help her carry her suitcase so Frank offers to take it on his bike.
    • Gerry's waiting for Rose outside of her apartment. He asks Frank if he did anything with Rose. Frank convinces Gerry that Rose loves him and that he did nothing with her.
    • It's bedlam back at the office and Mr. McCaffrey's at wit's end.
    • There's an advertisement in the magazines he distributed earlier that day about birth control, which is illegal in Ireland.
    • The Church thinks anyone who even reads about it will be doomed. Doomed.
    • Mr. McCaffrey and the boys spend the rest of the days ripping out the advertisements from the magazines but not before the boys pocket some so they can sell them for a higher price. They know people are dying to get their hands on this info despite what the Church thinks.
    • Sure enough, Frank ends up making over ten pounds in the next couple of days selling the birth control ads.
    • He puts away most of the money for his trip to America and gives the rest to Angela so that they can all have a nice supper.
    • Angela's got herself a new job taking care of an elderly man, and Malachy Jr. works in the stockroom of a garage.
    • Gerry goes to England with Rose, and Frank takes over his job during the winter.
    • When spring comes along there's a new messenger boy and Frank goes back to work in the offices.
    • Eventually Eamon and Peter move to England and Malachy Jr. goes to work at a boarding school but doesn't last long and he ends up in Coventry shoveling coal.
    • Frank dreams about America and can't wait for the day when he can leave Ireland.
  • Chapter 18

    • Frank continues working for Easons and Mrs. Finucane up until the day she dies.
    • On the day she dies, Frank helps himself to Mrs. Finucane's money and her ledger.
    • Frank throws away the ledger into the River Shannon so that Mrs. Finucane's customers will never have to pay.
    • Frank purchases a ticket to America. He's almost ready to set sail but first Angela wants to throw him a going-away party.
    • While he's waiting to leave for America, Frank wanders through the streets of Limerick and thinks about all he's been through.
    • He gets pretty sentimental about it all, as bad as it's been.
    • On the ship Frank meets a priest from Limerick who's been living in Los Angeles.
    • Due to the high tide, the captain of the ship is forced to anchor in Poughkeepsie instead of New York City.
    • At nighttime a boat with an Irishman from Mayo pulls up to the ship and invites some of the ship officers, the priest, and Frank on board.
    • The men go to a party with American women. At the party, one of the women follows Frank into the bathroom and then takes him into the bedroom where they have sex.
    • The priest's waiting outside the bedroom and gives Frank a knowing look. Frank's worried that the priest's going to write a letter to his mother and tell her all about her son's bad behavior.
    • After a while the men head back to ship.
    • Frank stays on the deck and stares at the New York skyline while the Wireless Officer says, "My God, that was a lovely night, Frank. Isn't this a great country altogether?" (18.73)
  • Chapter 19

    • To be continued…
    • 'Tis, the only word in this chapter, is the title of the sequel to Angela's Ashes.