Desperate Ashes

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.

‘Rules’ of Waverly

Image result for chess

From the short story “Rules of The Game, we explored the interesting life of a young Chinese girl called Waverly Jong, through Amy Tan’s use of characterization, we acknowledged some her struggles and had a further look in her personalities.

Waverly is a young Chinese American girl who lives with her mother and two older brothers in San Francisco’s Chinatown with a plain typical life: “Like most of the other Chinese children (…), I didn’t think we were poor. My bowl was always full, three five-course meals every day…” (Tan 1). as shown in the quote, Waverly lived a peaceful and ordinary life in this tolerable environment, she enjoyed the plainness and did not seek for any wealth, this shows that Waverly is demure.

Growing up in the plain provincial neighborhood, Waverly had found her own joy in life and is shown to be a naughty kid sometimes: “‘Guts and duck’s feet and octopus gizzards!’ Then I ran off with my friends, shrieking with laughter (…), my heart pounding with hope that he would chase us.” (2). This passage tells us about Waverly being silly and childish by pranking a stranger with silly words, suggesting that she is an adventurous and playful child; running away afterwards to avoid being punished and hoping to be chased is probably because she is naughty; but by doing so, it also suggests that she is fairly brave to have the courage to do this in front of a stranger. Then again, that is just the nature of a kid having fun and enjoying the best time of their lives.

Apart from the silly and meaningless childhood pranks, our protagonist is also found to be a curious person who takes interest in new things: “‘Why?’ I asked as I moved my pawn. ‘Why can’t they move more steps?’ ‘Because they are pawns,’ he said. ‘But why do they go crossways to take other men? Why aren’t there any women and children?’” (4); This is the part where our protagonist had her first encounter with chess, from the conversation between Waverly and her brother – Vincent, it is obvious that she is very interested and excited about this new thing, in the quotation, she asked a lot of questions to her brother, who appears to take annoyance in her and thinks the questions are stupid, saying: “‘Why is the sky blue? Why must you always ask stupid questions?’” (4). This tells us, that from other people’s opinions, one character may appear with different characteristics, here, Waverly is being seen by her brother as annoying.

Through the curiosity and interest brought by chess, our protagonist appears to be a quick and independent learner: “I found about all the whys later. I read the rules and looked up all the big words in a dictionary. I borrowed books from the Chinatown library. I studied each chess piece, trying to absorb the power each contained.” (5); To show Waverly’s true passion for chess, the author described her as a determined learner who instantly fell for the amazing art of chess after her brother left her with the rulebook, Waverly went on a ‘hunt’ for books about chess only to learn more about this fascinating board game. The fact that she is willing to spent time and energy on learning about chess truly showed her love and passion for it and how determined she was.

During a chess competition, we are presented with a detailed description that suggests Waverly as an imaginative and smart person. “‘A light wind began blowing past my ears. It whispered secrets only I could hear. ‘Blow from the South,’ it murmured. ‘The wind leaves no trail.’ I saw a clear path, the traps to avoid. (…) The wind blew stronger. ‘Throw sand from the East to distract him.’ The knight came forward ready for the sacrifice. The wind hissed, louder and louder. ‘Blow, blow, blow. He cannot see. He is blind now. Make him lean away from the wind so he is easier to knock down.’” (7); Here, the voices, Waverly’s imagination, tells her the moves during the competition, with her mind being able to see the steps before the game links back to when she was learning about the rules and strategies in which she “…discovered that for the whole game one must gather invisible strengths and see the endgame before the game begins.” (5), which tells us that her knowledge is actually being taken in by her brain, and used in the right place. This shows that her studies are very effective and suggesting Waverly is a smart person.

In conclusions of analyzing Waverly Jong’s characterizations through the short story of Rules of The Game, we acknowledged from the start that Waverly is a demure, adventurous, and outdoor kid who likes to do naughty pranks, but as the story developed, she turns into a more mature person by showing curiosity and determination while learning. While reading through the short story, I’ve found some similarities between me and the protagonist, I am also a curious person as between me and my mom’s conversations, I often find myself asking a thousand questions until she got annoyed, sometimes our conversation goes way out of the topic only to leaving the original question in another universe.

Picture Citation: Mind Sports Academy. https://www.mindsportsacademy.com/Chess