Angela’s Ashes

Frank McCourt

Chapters VI–VII

Summary Chapters VI–VII

In the summer, Angela gives birth to a boy. Bridey Hannon’s mother saves the child from choking to death on a ball of dried milk. Angela decides to name the baby Alphonsus, a name Frank dislikes. Grandpa sends his new grandson a money order for five pounds. Angela sends Malachy to get the money order cashed, and she sends Frank and Malachy Jr. with their father to watch him. After Malachy gets the cash, he orders the boys home. They protest, but he walks away from them and into the pub. Angela, incensed, sends them back out to find him. While searching the Limerick pubs, Frank steals a drunken man’s fish and chips. Feeling guilty for the theft, he goes to Confession right away. The priest asks him why he stole, and when it comes out that Frank was hungry because his father is out drinking up all the money for food, the priest says he (the priest) should be washing the feet of those he hears confess, not doling out penances.

Frank goes back out into the night and eventually hears his father singing in a pub. Frank is “raging inside,” but he thinks of mornings by the fire with his father and of the look in his father’s eyes when he drinks: “he has that look in his eyes Eugene had when he searched for Oliver.” Frank goes home with Malachy, thinking that everything will change now, because it is one thing to drink your wages and the dole money, but drinking money meant for a baby is “beyond the beyonds.”

Analysis: Chapters VI–VII

In Chapter VI, we see how children soak up the political views and opinions of their parents, and take them for their own. When Paddy Clohessy scoffs, “The English quality wouldn’t give you the steam of their piss,” and Frank is impressed by his cleverness, Paddy admits that the saying comes directly from his father, who complains about the English as he lies dying in his bed. Hatred of the English, among other things, is taught to these children every day.

When Frank goes to Paddy’s house, we feel, along with Frank, relief that the McCourts live in relative comfort. As Frank says to himself, “It’s bad when our kitchen is a lake and we have to go up to Italy but it’s worse in the Clohessys’ when you have to go down four flights to the lavatory and slip on shit all the way down.”

As usual, death hovers over daily life. It is such an omnipresent part of Frank’s existence that he feels little more than grim satisfaction when the annoying Mickey Spellacy dies of consumption.

In Chapter VII, McCourt draws a contrast between the masters’ narrow-minded teaching (their squabbling over who owns Euclid and geometry) and Mr. Timoney’s freethinking curiosity. Mr. Timoney, an anti-establishment figure, is instantly appealing and lovable. He is full of life, yelling at his dog and calling her an “old hoor,” touting the virtues of Buddhism, and recognizing Frank’s intelligence and treating him like a peer. Because Timoney exists at the edges of normal society, however, people look on him with suspicion and distrust. McCourt suggests that Mr. Timoney is taken to the Home because of his eccentricity, wisdom, and religious difference, rather than for any real mental illness.