A Cycle of Poverty in Angela's Ashes

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Frank Mccourt’s book “Angela’s Ashes” describes a poverty stricken childhood, first in the United States and then in Ireland. Although this book is also a coming of age story, the main theme throughout it revolves around the challenges of being poor. McCourt describes various detrimental effects of poverty throughout the book, many of which actually plays into them staying poor.

The book starts out with McCourt describing his childhood. He says, “It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your wild”. Despite him throwing in some humor there, he is absolutely correct in saying that the “miserable Irish Catholic childhood” was worse than the ordinary miserable childhood. Every day of his childhood, McCourt would be reminded of how poor he was.

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Frank McCourt’s father, Malachy, was an alcoholic and a deadbeat. However, being poor most likely played a large role into who he was. He would spend nearly all the money he could get his hands on at a bar, trying to drink his sorrows away. It was not the right thing to do, but it is understandable that Malachy felt depressed and turned to alcohol. The poverty most certainly made Malachy depressed, and as a result, their family would have even less money because of his drinking, plus all of the other troubles you must face when having an alcoholic father.

Another negative effect of poverty that McCourt had to face was being denied opportunities just because he was poor. Malachy wanted Frank to become a church boy, so his father taught him all the Latin he needed in order to do the job. Even though McCourt was completely qualified to do the job, when they showed up at the church to ask, they were immediately turned down with the door slammed in their face. When it becomes obvious that McCourt is a bright young man and is capable of going to secondary school, they knock on the door of the school and again have the door slammed in their face. They were turned down not because Frank wasn’t qualified, he didn’t even have the opportunity to show that he was. Nor was he turned down because there “wasn’t enough room” like the priest or the teacher said. Instead, it was because of the rags that McCourt and his father were wearing, that indicated their poverty, that made not not want to accept him.

As you can see, this kind of poverty becomes a cycle. Poverty begets more poverty, and it’s nearly impossible to escape that. Malachy was depressed from the terrible situation he was in, so he made it worse for himself and his family by wasting all of their money at the bar. Furthermore though, Frank McCourt is turned down from opportunities to escape poverty because he is in poverty! Luckily, in the end it turns out for McCourt and he leaves for America where he can finally have a full stomach and dry clothes.

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