Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes Summary and Analysis of Chapters XIV-XV


Frank, conscious that he is growing up, no longer calls Abbot Sheehan 'Uncle Pat,' instead calling him Ab. Frank looks forward to a future delivering telegrams and eating well. Angela sends his brother Michael with food and a note pleading that he return home: Frank sadly tells his younger brother, "I live here now and I'm never going back," and makes a plan to buy Michael some new clothes with the money he will soon be earning (297).

Frank continues to sin, masturbating guiltily and stealing food from well-to-do neighbors. He justifies his theft by believing that he is going to hell anyway because of his masturbation. In addition to reading the exploits of the Catholic Church's virgin martyrs, Frank finds a sex manual at the library and finally realizes the shocking truth of sexual intercourse. He resents his father's tall tales about the Angel on the Seventh Step. Miss O'Riordan the librarian finds him reading the sex material and orders him to leave. Frank walks to the People's Park where he falls asleep, has a sexually arousing dream and wakes to the people in the park observing him and pulling their children away.

Frank's fourteenth birthday finally arrives and he attempts to wash his clothes at his Uncle Ab's house for his first day of work. While he waits for his clothes to dry Frank puts on his dead grandmother's old woolen dress to keep warm. Aunt Aggie brings home the drunken Uncle Ab, who sees him wearing her mother's dress and laughs hysterically. Aggie makes Frank go outside to get water for tea where a neighbor sees him and also laughs.

Frank goes to the post office to start work, but the job doesn't begin until Monday. He is an object of ridicule in his ragged clothes. Aunt Aggie, who respects Frank for trying to support his family, takes him shopping for new clothes and gives him two shillings for his birthday: "I have to stand on the edge of the River Shannon so that the whole world won't see the tears of a man the day he's fourteen" (311).

On Monday Frank delivers his first telegram. He takes it to Paddy Clohessy's mother, who, though she still lives in the poorest section of town, now has new furniture and plenty of food. She explains that Paddy and his father Dennis, who was dying of tuberculosis, work in England and send money home. She says that if it wasn't for World War II she and her family would be dead. With his wages, Frank buys his brother Michael fish and chips and takes him to a movie and afterwards for tea and buns. However, Frank shortly realizes that the most important thing he can do with his wages is to save them so he can go to America. Frank soon learns that rich people with English accents don't tip, nor do the clergy. It's the poor that tip. Frank also cashes money orders for incapacitated people and brings them groceries although this is against the rules.

Soon Michael begins to live at Uncle Ab's house and eventually Angela winds up back there as well. Young Malachy returns from Dublin, reuniting the family. One rainy day, Frank delivers a telegram to the house of Teresa Carmody, who is suffering from consumption. She asks him to come in and encourages him to take his pants off and put them near the fire so they can dry. Then she makes love to him on the couch and Frank is filled simultaneously with dread that he will get consumption and joy at the wonder of the sexual act. Frank returns again and again despite her illness and the teenagers make love on the green couch. One day he delivers a telegram to Teresa's mother and learns that the girl is in the hospital; she dies soon after. Frank worries that Teresa's soul is in hell because they had sex. He hides behind a tree at her funeral, goes to four masses and begs for mercy on Teresa's soul.


These two chapters are largely concerned Frank's sexual awakening. Sex is at once irresistible and horrifying to Frank, complicated further by his mother's sexual relationship with Laman Griffin. He hears them having sex upstairs as he falls asleep. However, McCourt does not condemn Angela for having extramarital sex; he merely objects to Laman Griffin. There is an undercurrent of male rivalry when Laman beats Frank. Angela finds herself torn between two "men," one of whom is her son, the other of whom provides for her family. Honest, hard-working Frank turns out to be the better of the two, allowing Angela to return at the end of the section.

Frank meanwhile is desperate for information about his physical and emotional changes. The library proves to be a good source of information, far better then the misinformation passed among pals, but when he finally gets the information he needs, he is made to feel filthy and sinful by another authority figure, the close-minded librarian. When he finally finds sexual fulfillment with Teresa Carmody, he is further raked through the mental hell of believing that he is responsible for condemning her soul to hell forever. Throughout, Catholic sexuality is linked to debilitating guilt and fear.

Restrictive authority figures like the librarian are consistently offset with positive role models like Mr. O'Halloran, who insists that although Ireland is finally free of England, it still maintains a social class system foisted on Ireland by England. O'Halloran paints a picture of an Irish class system that is corrupt. In his view, the state of education in Ireland allows only people with money a fulfilling future, leaving the have-nots to become menial workers, whatever their native talents. Through O'Halloran, Frank realizes that the only way to a good life is to return to America.