Angela’s Ashes written by Frank McCourt is a criticism of Irish culture in the mid-20th century. McCourt explores the methods people utilise to escape their reality. He also delves into the role of religion in his hometown of Limerick. Finally, he looks at the bitterness and pessimism ground into his people from childhood.
McCourt demonstrates how people attempt to escape their reality through various means in Limerick. Rain in the extract can be interpreted as a symbol for the reality which the members of Limerick, a microcosm for Ireland, are constantly trying to escape. One method of escape mentioned in the extract is alcohol. The text suggests that a significant quantity of the towns working male population drinks excessively at the pub to the point of vomiting up all the drinks that they have bought that night in order to escape their reality. This is evident where the McCourt writes, “Where many a man puked up his week’s wages.”Order now
The pub in the text is one of the drier places however it is not described as completely dry as the alcohol is only a temporary escape from the harsh reality of a life in Ireland. Another method to escape reality in the extract is religion and faith in the church. McCourt suggests that religion is the only place where one can truly escape the troubles of Ireland and its culture. The church stands in Limerick as the only dry place and as a point where people come together to be in an environment which is positive and does not change relative to the life you lead outside of church. The extract also suggests that most people had no choice in the matter as they needed a reliable escape from reality. This is evident where the text states, “The rain drove us into the church – our refuge, our strength, our only dry place.” The use of the word drove in the text suggests that McCourt believes that people were desperate to escape from their harsh lives in the rain and took refuge in their only dry place. McCourt exhibits how the roughness of life in Ireland drives people to look for means of escaping that reality and finding peace for however a short amount of time.
The extract also discusses the role of religion in Ireland. McCourt suggests that religion is a faï¿½ade put on by the people to seem pious. This becomes evident when he states, “Limerick gained a reputation for piety, but we knew it was only the rain.” The author puts forward that it was merely the rain which drove people into churches by contrasting how something is seen in comparison to how something really is. However with rain as a symbol for the harsh life in Limerick, it can be proposed that McCourt is suggesting that people turn to religion as an escape opposed to the thought of religious devotion. Conversely it can be noted that religion still plays a major role in life in Ireland and particularly Limerick.
Beginning from childhood, McCourt’s mother had been a pious woman and he had been subjected to priests in his day to day life. This is evident when McCourt states, “the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests” when listing his childhood problems. He uses alliteration to demonstrate the negative connotation that is given to religion as a faith using words starting with the letter ‘P’ and either juxtaposing them to a negative word such as ‘defeated’ or choosing a word with a negative connotation to begin with such as ‘pompous’. The author has conveyed the role of religion as a faï¿½ade in Ireland where people are merely trying to escape their reality however he still believes that it plays a minor role in Irish life in the excerpt.
In the first half of the extract, McCourt discusses the hardship of childhood in Ireland. He shows how his childhood was difficult, particularly as he moved from New York to Limerick. McCourt has intentionally juxtaposed the ideas of living in New York and living in Limerick to contrast them and give Limerick a negative undertone from the start of the extract. This is evident when McCourt writes, “My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. Instead, they returned to Ireland when I was four.” McCourt puts his opinion forward very quickly and shows how even now when he looks back upon his childhood, he still believes that New York would be a better place to grow up. McCourt emphasises how tough his childhood was in the second paragraph by contrasting it to other childhoods. This is evident when McCourt states, “Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood”. He uses accumulation to show how his childhood is worse than the other childhoods. McCourt looking back puts a negative association on his childhood and shows how miserable he was in his childhood.
McCourt shows how Irish society has fallen with many in the population searching for nothing more than an escape from their harsh lives using alcohol and religion as means of doing so. He also shows how difficult childhood in Ireland was and uses it to show how things may never change if it becomes a cycle.