Ever present in Angela's Ashes is the social attraction of the pub? What makes this so attractive?
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Drinking in Irish Culture
The manifestation of drinking in Irish culture becomes clearer as the book progresses. Every street has a pub where the men gather in the evening for warmth and camaraderie. Malachy can express emotions in a manner he never could were he sober. Excessive drink also encourages familial role reversal turning the father the passive child and the child into a parental figure. Indeed, young Frank must go to the pub to make sure his father gets home.
Drink is seen as a way to escape the hardships of Irish life and even though Frank's father should never take a drink, he is often encouraged by others to do just that. For instance, after the baby Eugene dies, friends buy him drinks. Even the harsh Grandma explains he should drink because it is medicine to ease his suffering. Nothing, however, can stop the onslaught of poverty brought about by excessive drinking. And, in this era, the family was entirely dependent upon the earnings of the man and if a man's wages were not available, the family slid at lightening speed into the pit of poverty from which it was nearly impossible to emerge. Angela is helpless. In Catholic Ireland, divorce was absolutely impossible. The Catholic Church would see it as her duty to remain with her husband. With four children or more at a time to care for, it is impossible for her to get an outside job. Of paramount surprise is the hope the family retains in spite of the numerous times the drunken Malachy has failed to come home with his pay packet so they can buy food and the many times he has lost jobs because he couldn't get up in the morning in hungover state and go to work. But hope is all the family has to live on.