Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Angela's Ashes

The speaker of Angela's Ashes is Frank McCourt. He is a grown man reflecting on his "miserable Irish Catholic childhood." As a child, he was very inquisitive; driven by the desire to learn something new about life and about himself, which often left him confused. Throughout the book, the reader is brought into this young boy's mind, into his heart, his thoughts and his rollercoaster of feelings, as he tries to survive his childhood full of sickness, poverty, hunger, hardship and death. The voice of Frank shows the immaturity of him during his childhood. That juvenile voice magnified the intensity of the book and grabs a hold of the readers attention.

Frank McCourt, it seems, intended to write this book for anyone who has lived, or is living a hard childhood. This audience could relate with what he went through. I think Frank is trying to teach that the struggles that you go through only make you stronger when you have to face the world. He used the lessons that he learned as a child and all of those adversities as fuel to be successful. I think he also wanted to show that if you set your mind to something you can achieve it. Frank set his mind to go to America and he achieved his goal. Frank wrote the book to help people cope with their childhood and teach them how to use their pressures and misfortunes as their pedestal to success.

During the time period of this biography, the world was dealing with the effects of World War 1. Some countries had huge war debts which effected their economy and led some European countries to rely on America for loans and investments. In 1929, the new stock market crashed. Because of the crash, America reduced foreign trade and stopped loans to foreign countries. Farms failed and factories all over the world closed, which caused milions of people to be unemployed worldwide. For these reasons, it was hard for Frank's father to get a job. When he left America thinking it would be for the better, he was wrong because it was worse in other countries. In the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a program called the new Deal that created millions of jobs.

The effects of World War I led to Fascism and Dictatorships in some countries. In Germany the nazis took over all aspects of the country. In 1933, Adolf Hitler was elected as the leader of Germany. He invaded Poland in 1939 and in that same year Britain and France declared war on Germany; World War II. During the war Germany attacked many countries and conquered them. Some of the countries were Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The war also brought hardship to certain groups of people. The Holocaust put many Jews, Gypsies, communists, homosexuals, handicapped, and Jehovah's Witnesses into concentration camps where they were forced to do harsh labor or they were killed; both women and children. In the book Frank expressed how sad he was about the way children were killed. The war, however, was not all bad. It provided many jobs to people worldwide, whether they joined the army, (either for the English or for Germany), or you worked in the factories making bombs. People in the book even praised Hitler for creating the war so that men could have a chance to earn money for their families. Frank's father did not go and work in the factory in England until after the United States entered the war. They entered the war in 1941 after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th of that year.

In Ireland many people disliked Frank's father because he was from the north. That is because at the time that southern Ireland was trying to gain its independence from England, northern ireland didn't want to. Northern Ireland was Protestant and approved of the Act of Union, which joined Great Britain and Ireland to the United Kingdom. Southern Ireland, however, was Catholic and supported home rule. This led to fighting but a truce was made in 1921 that made Southern Ireland a free state. It wasn't until 1949 that Ireland was declared a republic as a whole.

Many times in the book Frank McCourt related life to death. One time in the book he said "....... and you fall asleep and dream about the pig standing in the crib at the Redemptorist church crying because he and the Baby Jesus and Cuchulain all have to grow up and die." Another time is when he said "The master says it's a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it's a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there's anyone in the world who would like us to live.". Both of these phrases are effective because they reflect how much his childhood was effected by death. From the dog killed by the car, to the death of his two brothers and his sister, to the death of his first love,Theresa, Frank's childhood was surrounded by death which caused him to relate life to death. In these phrases, Frank McCourt, made them come from the voice of a child, which led the reader to feel sorry for him because of how distorted and immature his thinking was.

This memoir, for me, was wonderful. The thought-provoking techniques mixed with the writer's adventurous childhood created an inspiring and funny piece of art. I could connect with the many predicaments that he found himself in and the feelings of wanting to grow up and take care of his family. I can also relate to how he was not taken seriously, whether it was because of his age or because of his social status, and the feeling of helplessness that resulted. This book sparked many emotions in me as I read it and the lessons that I learned are lessons that will stay in me for a long time.

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