The first half of the XX century was quite a difficult time for the Irish people. This especially concerned the Irish Catholic families with a typically unstable mother giving birth to numerous children and a drunken father unable to support his family. “Angela`s ashes” by Frank McCourt vividly illustrates these realities, while describing the tragedies, childhood experiences and hardships of a teenage boy named Frank. This essay aims to analyze the fifteens chapter of the book, paying attention to the major themes, the most significant quotes, characters and some rhetorical devices used in the chapter
The chapter starts with Frank`s first working day at the Post Office following his fourteenth birthday. Being a part-time employee Frank earns less than the full-time workers. On the first payday, Frank takes his brother to eat sweets and watch movies. He swears to save his future salaries to buy a ticket to America. A part of the chapter describes a happier time for Frank`s family, as they have reunited in Ab Sheenan’s house. Frank starts dating one of his clients named Theresa. They develop romantic relationship and have sex. However, peaceful time ends up with Theresa’s death, which makes Frank believe that he will be punished for the pre-marital sex.
There are several major themes in the chapter that continuously develop throughout the book. The first and the most significant is the theme of family endurance. In spite of its limitations, Frank loves his parents and siblings. He is the one who has to start working after his fourteenth birthday to feed his family, though it is no fun for him: “I have to stand on the edge of the River Shannon so that the whole world won’t see the tears of a man the day he’s fourteen” (McCourt 311). After he receives his first salary, he spends it on feeding and entertaining his brother Michael, which shows his love and his care for the family. Another important theme is Catholicism imposed guilt for sexual thoughts and actions: “I can’t stop interfering with myself. I pray to the Virgin Mary and tell her I’m sorry” (McCourt 341; “I know about the excitement and I know it’s a sin” (McCourt 340).
Frank is constantly worrying about his sins. After Theresa dies he feels depressed: “I never had a pain like this in my heart and I hope I never will again” (McCourt 381). He also feels guilty for having sex with her and after some time becomes convinced that the pre-marital sex was the cause of her death. He is sure that he is doomed and prays to be forgiven for his sin. The climax of the chapter in Frank`s decision to spare money until being able to pay for the ticket to America. Eventually this decision becomes one of the most important in his life:” I’ll have my escape money for America. If my whole family dropped from the hunger I wouldn’t touch this money in the post office” (McCourt 390)
The most peculiar aspect of the “Angela’s Ashes” is it`s unique style. The author is using a sentence structure, grammar and spelling that is typical for children and teenagers. The book consists of short, complex, choppy sentences and dialogues. The structure of many sentences allows describing the style as casual, unsophisticated and informal. In the fifteenth chapter the author is using a lot of Catholic Church specific jargon, such as: St Francis, Feast Day, Pope, rosary beads. This rhetoric device is used to underline the significant role played by the Church in lives of many people at that time.
The tragedy and poverty endured by Frank makes “Angela’s Ashes” an extremely sad book; however, his pride, courage, and humor makes it an incredible book worth a Pulitzer Prize.