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Poverty and hunger bring out much of the suffering in this story. While alcoholism is a factor on the misery inflicted on the McCourt family, it is the motif of poverty that drives the suffering. It is poverty that prevents the family from finding any stability or peace. The boys lack the necessities in life like shoes and food. Lack of prospects, in large part, drives the father to drink and be largely absent in the lives of the family. There is no relief or respite for the McCourts for there were countless of other family's in similar situation. It was the utter humiliation and literal starvation that causes this family so much strife.