Study Guide

Angela's Ashes Coming of Age

By Frank McCourt

Coming of Age

In Angela's Ashes, McCourt tells us the story of his growing up from age four to nineteen. Unlike many memoirs, he doesn't really tell the story from the perspective of an adult looking back on his childhood. Instead, he lets us grow up along with Frankie. Things that happen to him as a four year-old are told as a four year-old sees them. The memoir's "in-the-moment" style lets the reader see the changes of perspective as he gets older. McCourt lets the reader do the interpretation; he just tells us what happened. We watch him get older and wiser—as he understands more about his father's addiction; as he learns about sex and why he was born in "half the time"; as he learns that the Irish also committed atrocities during the wars with Britain. As the original reviewer in the New York Times wrote in1996, "In the end, of course, Mr. McCourt's memoir is not just the story of his family's struggles, but the story of his own sentimental education: his discovery of poetry and girls, and his efforts to come to terms with God and death and faith" (source).

Shmoop will leave it at that.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. Who are Frank's role models as he grows up?
  2. How does Frank's idea of being a man differ from his father's?
  3. Frank slowly comes to realize that his father's an alcoholic, but it doesn't stop him from loving him. How does this show that he's maturing?
  4. What challenges does Frank experience during his adolescent sexual awakening?

Chew on This

Frank never has a chance to be a child because he's forced to grow up before his time.

Despite all the obstacles, Frank managed to have a lot of the normal experiences a lively, curious kid would have.

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