Study Guide

Angela's Ashes Society and Class

By Frank McCourt

Society and Class

Throughout the memoir, Frank's denied many opportunities even though he's bright and willing to work hard. It seems as if the moneyed elite of Ireland have erected metaphorical security bars which prevent Frank (or any other boy from the lower classes) from entering their religious and educational institutions. Since these places are reserved for the chosen few, he's unable to continue his education or become an altar boy. Sadly, the ironclad class system leaves out the majority of the population and doesn't leave much hope for boys aspiring to a better life. In Ireland, the idea of upward social mobility is just a pipe dream—if you're born in the slums you die in the slums. The only solution Frank sees? Go back to America.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. What's the relationship between the social class structure in Ireland and the Catholic Church?
  2. How much of Ireland's social class structure is a leftover from when the English ruled Ireland?
  3. If the Irish hate the English as much as they say they do, why do they retain the structure that their enemies created?
  4. What are the signifiers of social class in Limerick?

Chew on This

Frank believes that America is the land of opportunity, and that in order to escape from his lower-class status he has to go to America. And to a large degree he turns out to be right. After all, he did win a Pulitzer and become a wealthy celebrity author while he was a schoolteacher, a decidedly middle class job.

The class prejudice that Frank experiences throughout his life plays a large part in stimulating his desire for a better life. Without it, he might not have been as motivated to succeed.

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