Angela's Ashes


Frank McCourt maintains his unique writing style throughout the recount of his childhood struggles in Angela's Ashes and his pursuit of the American dream in 'Tis. McCourt's tones of acceptance yet perseverance permeate both memoirs and shadow his relationship with his mother, Angela. Single-handedly raising Frank and his three brothers in an impoverished Irish town, Angela is forced to make ends meet however she can. Frank's upbringing in Angela's Ashes is filled with memories of lice, fleas, hunger, lack of clothing, and his father's alcoholism. "Have your tea and bread and be thankful," Angela concedes. Throughout the memoir, Frank refrains from commenting on his mother's shortcomings. "Mam did all she could," he sighs with love. In 'Tis, when the benefits of American life such as nutritious foods, gas for heating, and electricity are available, he becomes short with his mother for not enjoying them to the fullest. Alberta, his wife, offers Mam a cigarette. "No, these American cigarettes barely have any taste anyway." And when she makes a tuna casserole with green salad, Mam dejects, "... the lettuce in this country is tasteless. I don't know what these noodles are, but I'm not fond of ?em." Frank's irritation with his mother becomes apparent when he becomes short tempered. "Don't you like the noodles? The noodles. Don't you like them?" he drills.
The diction used in each literary work is basic. Simple and compound sentences express Frank's life clearly, refraining from double meanings or hidden messages. Frank's unadulterated language describes his perceptions and the actions of those around him in Angela's Ashes; while he delves into his personal world of thoughts and dreams in 'Tis. Frank is jeered at throughout his life, but he only begins to describe how it makes him feel in his second work. "The telegram boys along the wall are laughing. I don't know why but I feel my face turning hot." His physical description in Angela's Ashes mentions nothing of the irreversible psychological effects of such constant taunting. However, Frank opens up as he matures in 'Tis, expressing his true feelings. "You'd think the professors would be standing in the front of their classes telling them that if you go to the Biltmore Hotel front lobby you're not to be staring at people with red eyes... and I'd like to break my dustpan and broom over their heads till blood spurted and they begged me to stop..." Frank's developing self-confidence is expressed by his intelligence. Once a child with ignorance and naivety to shelter him, Frank realizes in his early adulthood that he must become educated and take control of his own life.
It is this shift in narrative style that separates his first work from his second. The flow of ideas in Angela's Ashes mirrors Frank's passivity as a youth. "Oh, all right, take your two pence and off you go to the Lyric Cinema," his mother approves. As he matures, he takes command of his own life. His thought process in 'Tis reflects that of a man who has direction and motivation. "I'm already planning to treat myself to a night out with a bottle of ginger ale and a lemon meringue pie. I'll be watching Hamlet on the screen at the Sixty-eighth Street Playhouse." The rudimentary formation and expression of ideas remains constant in both memoirs.
In Angela's Ashes, the toils of Frank's mother were emphasized; however, McCourt's writing left me on the edge of my seat at the end of the memoir. I was less aware of the contributions of his mother, and more interested with what would happen next to Frank. 'Tis consummates the life of McCourt and creates, in my mind, a lasting impression of Angela McCourt's profound influence on her son's life. Frank's gratitude, and the love shared between a mother and a son, help me understand 'Tis as a memoir. The dialogue between the two at the end of Angela's life depict Frank's devotion to his dear mother. "I asked you for lemonade and all you gave me was water," she cried. "No, that's lemonade!" he responds. "Would it be too much to ask you to shift my feet?" she requests. "All right. Look. I'm moving your feet." he proclaims. Angela sobs, "You did? Well, I didn't feel it. You won't give me lemonade. You won't shift my feet. Oh, God, what use is it