full title Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir
author Frank McCourt
type of work Memoir; autobiography
genre Memoir—a type of autobiography in which the author writes a personal record of the events, people, and situations that have shaped his or her life. Memoirs can span an entire lifetime, but often focus on a specific period of the writer’s life.
language English, with use of Irish, English, and American dialects
time and place written Early 1990s, New York
date of first publication September 1996
publisher Scribner / Simon and Schuster Inc.
narrator Frank McCourt
point of view First person
tone Humorous, self-effacing, matter-of-fact. McCourt matches his tone to the age of the narrator, becoming more serious and worldly as the narrative progresses.
tense Present tense or immediate past; the author writes as though he is experiencing events for the first time as they unfold.
setting (time) Late 1930s and 1940s
setting (place) Brooklyn, New York (briefly); Limerick, Ireland
protagonist Frank McCourt
major conflict Frank faces hunger, neglect, his father’s alcoholism, oppressive weather, and illness in the face of the broader struggle that defines his memoir—getting out of Ireland and rising up from poverty. Along the way he faces opposition from schoolmasters, priests, family members, and people in all positions of authority who look down on him because of his lower-class status.
rising action Frank increasingly condemns his father’s irresponsibility but worries also about the morality of his own behavior; he determines to make a success of himself in America.
climax Near the end, a priest absolves Frank of all his sins, allowing Frank to leave for America with a clear conscience and to reassert control over his future. At this point, Frank’s dream of escaping Ireland and overcoming poverty becomes possible.
falling action Frank earns enough money to leave for America and bids an emotional farewell to Ireland.
themes The limitations imposed by class; hunger
motifs Guilt; anti-English sentiment; stories, songs, and folktales
symbols The River Shannon; eggs; ashes
foreshadowing The death of baby Margaret anticipates Frank’s near-continual state of bereavement in Limerick, as he struggles to cope with the loss of two of his brothers, Theresa Carmody, and many other friends and relations.