turns toward the dead ashes in the fire and sucks at the last bit
of goodness in the Woodbine butt caught between the brown thumb
and the burnt middle finger. Michael . . . wants to know if we’re
having fish and chips tonight because he’s hungry. Mam says, Next
week, love, and he goes back out to play in the lane.
In Chapter IX, Frank observes his mother’s
growing despondency as another week passes without the arrival of
a paycheck from England. The ashes in the fire symbolize the crumbling
of Angela’s hopes: her dreams have withered and collapsed, leaving
her with only cigarettes for comfort. Frank considers himself mature
in comparison to his younger brother’s naïve sanguinity. Frank knows
that the promise of fish and chips is an empty one, because money
will never arrive from their father. He knows that next week they’re likely
to face the same hunger, and the same frustrations.