Study Guide

Angela's Ashes Poverty

By Frank McCourt


Remember that word "abject" that you had to learn for the SAT? We'll use it in a sentence: Frank McCourt grew up in abject poverty. Hopeless, miserable, wretched poverty. Fleas, rats, flies, lice. Poverty is everywhere in Angela's Ashes – it's the cause of death, sickness, and the general state of misery in Limerick. McCourt, a lot like Charles Dickens, wrote extensively about the poor. And like Dickens, he wrote in a way that really showed readers what it was like to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel poverty. It might not be pretty reading about what it smells like living next to the community toilet or what it feels like being bitten alive by fleas in the middle of the night every night, aching from hunger and having to lick the grease off a newspaper to stave it off. But it sure is effective in proving a point: poverty permeates every aspect of your daily life.

Questions About Poverty

  1. Limerick's clearly a world of the haves and have-nots. Compare and contrast the lifestyle of the haves with Frank's. What kind of opportunities does he miss out on?
  2. How would Angela's Ashes be different if the McCourts weren't so poor?
  3. Why is principle more important than money to Malachy Sr.?
  4. How does the family's poverty in New York differ from their poverty in Ireland?

Chew on This

Poverty is oppressive. It squanders hope and kills dreams.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Poverty teaches Frank McCourt resilience and tenacity—it's the reason he eventually finds success in America.

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