Monday, April 23, 2012

“Living the Miserable Irish Catholic Childhood”

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“Living the Miserable Irish Catholic Childhood”

“It was, of course, a miserable childhood the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”(Pg 1) As one can see the first page of the memoir is about how miserable Frank McCourt’s childhood happened to be. However some might think that Frank enduring tremendous poverty, loss and suffering led to his life becoming uplifting and triumphant. Throughout the novel, one travels with Frank McCourt from New York to Ireland back to America to show the reader that despite his loss and suffering he succeed in returning to America and writing a truly uplifting memoir of a real life.

As McCourt uses his humor in the beginning of the novel he jokes that a happy childhood “is hardly worth your while.”(Pg 1) In spite of the hardship he endured Frank recalls the occasional happiness of his childhood in New York, playing with the boys from the neighborhood and listening to his father’s tales of Ireland. As one gets deeper into the book Malachy’s drinking problem becomes an issue in a jokingly fashion. The tragedy of Margaret’s death, the beloved daughter, killed the family’s well being. This is what truly destroyed the McCourt’s in America, since everyone became so depressed it literally ran Malachy and Angela back to Ireland because the drinking problem that came through the novel earlier was not stated in a jokingly fashion any more. Malachy’s drinking problem was leaving the family holding on to dear life.

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Upon arriving to Ireland, Malachy receives a cold welcome from his mother. Malachy and Angela return to Ireland in a time of a bad economy expecting their parents to care for their problems from Angela’s laziness and Malachy alcoholism. However the McCourt family is not receiving a warm welcome in Ireland. People in America think the McCourt’s are too Irish and in Ireland to American. The second and third death of the McCourt children occurred in the first couple months upon arriving to Ireland. Frank took both deaths hard, however it caused his father and the bottle of Guinness to become connected and his mother was prescribed medication to stop depression.

As life continues in Ireland the ongoing repetition of Malachy looking for work, finally finding work and then losing his job because of his alcoholism. “He makes his way downstairs with a candle, sleeps on a chair, misses work in the morning, loses the job in the cement factory, and we’re back on the dole again,”(pg 6) and the rapid- fire delivery suggest that because the McCourts have been through this so many times before, it is a familiar pattern that needs no explanation. It also suggests that jobs can be lost in seconds. A turning point comes when Malachy drinks away the baby’s money. This marks the first time Frank expresses real anger about his father’s staggering irresponsibility. Although he thinks of sitting by his father before the fire, and hearing stories, and although he realizes that when Malachy drinks, he is somehow looking for his dead children, Frank also “rages inside,” and wants to run into the bar and kick his father. Frank recognizes this anger as a turning point, saying, “it will be different now.”

Life changes as Frank gets older he drinks his first pint without his father and get his first job with the help of his Aunt. Without Aunt Aggie, Frank could not save any money to return to the place of his true bliss America, where everyone and everything is free. Angela moves her and the children in with her cousin Laman Griffin, this is the last and final push that drives Frank out of Angela’s hands and he truly becomes ashes in her life. He lives with relatives for a while but realizes Ireland has nothing for him. He loved New York and playing on the street. It was time to leave Ireland and all the poverty; loss and suffering it caused him.

In the last line of Chapter eighteen a wireless officer says to Frank “isn’t this a great country altogether?”(Pg6) The last chapter Frank responds “tis.” (Pg6) In these final chapters, Frank comes to terms with his religion. He has a moment of painful honesty in front of the statue of St. Francis, when he expresses his anger at the unfairness of life, and the uselessness of his prayers. He finally expresses anger at the church, but he also finally feels its capacity to heal. McCourt shows us that although the Catholic Church may compound the guilt that Frank feels about his bad behavior, it also has the unparalleled power of forgiveness. When Frank goes to confession, and pours out his worries to the priest, he is forgiven and leaves the church with every burden lifted from his back. He is perfectly happy.

Franks experiences are less and less about his family and his mother, and more and more about his individual process of maturing. Frank leaves for the United States filled with expectations, but also strongly connected to Ireland and committed to providing for his family. The book ends with a simple statement of agreement. Placing the word “tis” in a chapter by itself emphasizes how greatly Frank agrees that America is a great country. It is hopeful way of ending the story of Frank McCourt. It shows that out of true despair and pain and novel of triumphant can become the product.

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