Despite constant poverty, a criminally irresponsible husband, and the death of three of her children, Angela is a loving mother who retains her sense of humor. Angela must sacrifice her standards of dignity and class in order to provide for her children. Still, she never lowers her expectations for her sons—she raises them to be well-behaved, conscientious, kind, and hardworking men.

Frank often reacts harshly to the measures Angela takes to help her family, condemning her for begging outside a church and later for sleeping with Laman Griffin. However, despite Frank’s hostility to some of her decisions, it is clear that Angela is simply struggling to cope under highly difficult and painful circumstances. McCourt makes it clear that Angela’s first priority is her sons’ welfare.