Ashes; the left over dust and powder after the fire goes out. Dead and Black. It was how Frank McCourt described his mother’s life, hopeless, desperate and sad. Angela’s Ashes was a memoir of Frank McCourt’s childhood in Limerick, Ireland during 1930 – 49. The book was named after Frank’s mother — Angela Sheehan, who’s life, apart from the Frank’s childhood, was just like the ashes in a fire.
One of the accounts of Angela’s depressing life was her husband—Malachy McCourt. Being a Northern Irish Presbyterian, not only does he have a different religion than Angela’s family, he is also a very irresponsible father. “…your father is drinking the money for the baby… there isn’t a scrap of food in this house, not a lump of coal to start the fire, not a drop of milk for the baby’s bottle.” (Mcc 183-4) Even when he’s in England, “…Malachy McCourt is gone pure mad with the drink, that he squanders his wages in pubs all over Coventry, that he sings Irish rebel songs…Time after time Malachy drinks away his rent money and winds up sleeping in parks when the landlord throws him out.” (230-1) Frank’s Father spends almost any money he has on alcohol. Drinking pints and beer until he gets kicked out of the pubs. The father would come home drunk and singing Irish rebel songs and make his sons line up like soldiers to promise to die for Ireland. His addiction takes over his sense of responsibility, pulling him away from his family. He indulges himself in alcohol. When the drunk husband comes home, Angela avoided him by being silent, “Mam gets desperate and in the morning she has the bitter face andshe won’t talk to him[Dad].”(171) Sometimes, Angela would “…turn(s) toward[s] the dead ashes in the fire and suck(s) the last bit of goodness in the Woodbine butt…” (224) Facing her pathetic and idle husband, Angela doesn’t complain or get angry. It broke her heart when her family was falling apart bit by bit. No food, no heat, not clothes for her children and she had to go beg to sustain their lives. Still, Angela endured the pain and despair in consideration of her children. Afraid to hurt them or leave a scar on their delicate souls.
However, Angela’s life wasn’t always desperate and dull. She was once bright and full of joy. When she met Mr. Clohessy, he reminded Angela of her passionate youth. “You were a great dancer. Nights at the Wembley Hall, Angela, and the fish and chips after… We could have won competitions.” (167) Like a fire, Angela used to dance through the nights fervently. Burning the most beautiful sparks. She was the center of attention, the angel, a winner. Until she met the fate changing man of her life.
Angela’s Ashes introduced the sad dynamic life of Angela Sheehan after marrying to her husband and going through the tough pathetic years in Limerick begging for food to survive. She took care of her children at the most difficult times even after their father left them. Angela Sheehan was a strong and independent woman and also a loving and responsible mother.
image citation: Azam, Taifur. “File:Ashes; Your Turn!.JPG.” Wikimedia Commons, 21 Jan. 2012, 12:18:20, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ashes;_Your_Turn!.JPG.