Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes Summary and Analysis of Chapters X-XI


The McCourts are once more forced to move upstairs: 'It's cold and wet down in Ireland and we're moving upstairs to Italy (235). Soon Angela becomes ill with a severe fever. She wants lemonade to quench her thirst and Frank, now in charge of three boys, wonders what to do. He wanders the streets looking for food and is forced finally to steal two bottles of lemonade from outside South's pub and a loaf of bread from outside Kathleen O'Connell's shop. The children who wait in bed under overcoats tear into the bread and are so hungry they can't take the time to even cut it and Angela swallows down the lemonade in one gulp. Later, Frank relates his thieving to his siblings. His brother Michael refers to him as an outlaw and his brother Malachy compares him to Robin Hood. The following day, Frank steals milk, tomatoes, bread and a jar of marmalade from a box in front of one of the big houses on Barrington Street. The "motherless" family have food but they are cold without fuel for the fireplace and they are forced to beg door to door with the baby in a stroller on "the rich avenues and roads," but the maids treat them cruelly and finally they are forced to steal coal from people's backyards.

Soon Guard Dennehey arrives to investigate the boys' failure to go to school. He smiles and calls them "desperadoes" and tells Frank to tell Grandma and Aunt Aggie that Angela is sick. They send for the doctor who diagnoses pneumonia; she goes to the hospital to recuperate. The four boys wind up with Aunt Aggie who is verbally and physically abusive. Uncle Pa, Aggie's husband, treats them well, however, and feeds them contraband food.

Malachy shows up in Limerick to care for the children but returns to England the day after Angela returns home and things return to normal. Once again, Angela must face the public assistance men. To Frank's horror he sees one day a line waiting outside a church for left over food from the priest's supper and there "in her old gray coats is [his] mother" (250). Frank is filled with shame with a beggar for a mother.

The men at the public assistance office take sadistic pleasure in humiliating the poor. As he waits for an eye examination, Frank watches as these men tease a woman in pain, who must laugh with their insulting remarks or be denied a doctor. Once more Angela must suffer their taunts that she is not deserving of help because she married a man from the North.

In an old trunk, Frank discovers a red dress belonging to Angela from her New York days before she married Malachy McCourt. Inspired by the dress, he names his new football team "The Red Hearts of Limerick," and cuts out red hearts for the uniforms from the material. He also begins to examine some old papers in the trunk and comes across his parent's marriage certificate; thus he learns his parents were married for only six months when he was born. He believes this must be a miracle and that perhaps he is destined to become a saint.

Meanwhile Mikey Molloy has just turned sixteen and Frank accompanies him and his father Peter to the pub for Mickey's first pint, despite Nora Molloy's threats to bake bread. Frank asks Mikey about the six-month's pregnancy and Mikey explains that Frank is a "bastard" and tells him "you're doomed" (254). Mikey gives him a penny so he can light a candle for his endangered soul. Mikey soon moves to England when his father gives up drinking. One day, Frank's football team wins over a rich team and Frank sees this as a sign that his soul is not doomed after all.

Frank's next-door neighbor Mr. Hannon suffers from infected sores on his legs and Frank helps him with coal deliveries on his coal float. Feeling like "a real workingman," Frank loves spending time with Mr. Hannon, who advises him not to leave school, to continue to read books and to return to America. Frank's friends are jealous that he is doing a "man's work" (258). He loves being covered in coal dust. However, the coal dust soon begins to bother Frank's eyes, which have remained sensitive from the severe case of conjunctivitis. Angela will not let Frank continue despite Mr. Hannon's inability to work. Soon Hannon is hospitalized with gangrene. Mrs. Hannon tells Frank that Mr. Hannon, who had two daughters, looked upon Frank as a son, and Frank begins to cry.


This section is primarily concerned with fatherhood. When Angela becomes sick, Frank takes over as the man of the house. All things considered, he does a good job. Without hesitation, he shoulders responsibility and manages to feed the children and ensure that his family is warm. Malachy makes a brief appearance, contrasting his immaturity with Frank's resolve. While the youngster has a poor excuse for a father in Malachy, he nevertheless manages to find positive role models around Limerick: Mr. Timony, for instance, and Pa Keating. Mikey Molloy's father Peter, the champion of pint drinkers, makes a drastic decision to stop drinking when he realizes that his sixteen year-old son might wind up a pub-crawler like himself. But perhaps Mr. Hannon, who encourages Frank to remain in school, is his strongest father figure yet.

But, Frank shoulders too much responsibility for his young age. He wants to be a man more than anything and cries when his eyes give him trouble and his mother forbids him to work because "this was my one chance to bring home the money the telegram boy never brought from my father" (265). However distraught Frank may be, it's clearly best that he is stopped from simply replacing his deadbeat father. The role-models in Frank's life are all cognizant that he is in danger of remaining at a dead-end job in Ireland forever, and echo the same advice for his future: "America."

McCourt also continues his critique of the Catholic Church. As Frank wanders the streets of Limerick looking for lemonade for his feverish mother and food for his starving brothers and himself he looks inside people's windows and sees the middle-class comfort of his Catholic neighbors. At first this doesn't seem like criticism, but in actuality it's a scathing condemnation of social conditions in Ireland and in the Catholic Church, who profess to Christian charity yet live alongside such starvation. In addition, Aunt Aggie hits little Malachy until there are "tears on his eyelashes" with the Catholic periodical the Little Messenger of the Sacred Heart (248). As we have seen before, McCourt balances this condemnation with praise of exceptional priests.