The book’s author, narrator, and protagonist. As the teller of his own life story, McCourt writes from the perspective of an adolescent looking out onto the world rather than as an adult looking back on his childhood. McCourt’s memoir therefore maintains a voice and perspective rich with the enthusiasm, tenderness, and determination of a young man.
Frank’s “Mam” is humorous and loving, not overbearing or self-pitying, despite her difficult life. As Angela deals with her husband’s alcoholism, the deaths of three of her children, and the necessity of begging for handouts from aid agencies, her expectations disintegrate. Despite the painful thwarting of her own hopes, Angela always considers her children and their welfare above all else.
Malachy is an alcoholic who spends his wages and dole money on drink while his children starve. McCourt’s treatment of his father remains masterfully evenhanded. He reveals not only the despair inflicted on the family by Malachy’s drinking, but also the obvious love between Malachy and his sons.
Frank’s younger brother by one year. Malachy is named after his father. He is more physically attractive than Frank, and manages to charm his way into the hearts of cantankerous people.
Frank’s younger twin brothers. They die within several months of one another, shortly after the McCourts arrive in Limerick. Their deaths devastate Angela, who is already grieving over the loss of her baby girl, Margaret.
Frank’s second youngest brother, born in Limerick, whom Frank believes was left by an angel on the seventh step of their house.
Frank’s youngest brother.
Angela’s sister and Frank’s miserly aunt. Aunt Aggie initially resents the McCourt children. Although she never ceases to be rude and unpleasant, she proves her loyalty to the family by helping them through tough times.
Frank’s warm and caring uncle. Pa Keating bolsters Frank’s confidence and encourages him to follow his own instincts in adulthood.
Angela’s brother and Frank’s uncle. Uncle Ab was dropped on his head as a child, which damaged his brain. Frank moves in with Ab when he fights with his mother and Laman Griffin.
Grandma helps the McCourts whenever she can, although she remains suspicious of Malachy Sr.’s northern Irish roots and insists that Frank has inherited his father’s “odd manner.”
Angela’s cousin and lover for a short time. Frank has a fight with Laman that causes Frank to move in with his Uncle Ab.
Angela’s cousins who live in New York. The MacNamara sisters are bossy, burly women who keep their husbands in check and interfere in everyone else’s business.
An old eccentric to whom Frank reads Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay “A Modest Proposal.” Mr. Timoney becomes a close friend of Frank’s, in part because he respects Frank and treats him like an adult.
A seventeen-year-old consumptive girl with whom Frank has a sexual relationship. Frank desperately worries about the fate of Theresa’s immortal soul, which he thinks he is jeopardizing by having premarital sex with her.
Bridey Hannon is Angela’s neighbor in Roden Lane and her favorite confidante. Bridey gives her friend much-needed support and empathy. Bridey’s father is Mr. Hannon, whom Frank grows to love like a father after the old man gives him his first job delivering coal.
A young diphtheria patient whom Frank meets in the hospital while he is recovering from typhoid. Patricia reads poems to Frank and jokes with him.
The hospital janitor who helps Frank and Patricia communicate, and who later recites poetry to Frank in the eye hospital.
The old woman to whose debtors Frank writes threatening letters.
Frank’s boss at Easons, Ltd., a company that imports and distributes Protestant newspapers from Northern Ireland.
Mikey Molloy is Frank’s cross-eyed school friend who has fits and is an expert on sex-related topics. Mikey’s father, Peter, is famous as the champion pint drinker of Limerick, while his mother, Nora, is well-known for her frequent visits to the insane asylum. Like Angela, Nora worries about how she will feed her family when her husband drinks away all his money.
Another friend of Frank’s who shares many adventures with him.
A school friend of Frank’s who lives in unbearable squalor as a child, but who eventually moves to England in order to earn more money for his family.
Frank’s headmaster and teacher during his final year at school. “Hoppy” encourages Frank to go to America and find good employment rather than stay in a dead-end job in Ireland.
Frank’s hunchbacked friend who wants to work for the BBC as a radio newsreader.