Summary: Chapter IX
Mam turns toward the dead ashes in the fire.... Michael who is only five . . . 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.See Important Quotations Explained
Angela announces that she’s done having children. Because birth control was not commonly used at that time in households such as the McCourts’, this is tantamount to refusing sex. Malachy is annoyed that she will not perform her “wifely duties.”
Families up and down the lane are getting richer because the fathers are off in England, fighting in World War II. After Angela threatens to go to England herself to find work, Frank’s father decides to leave for England and find work in a munitions factory. The family sees Malachy off at the station, and Angela promises the boys one egg apiece on Sunday mornings once their father’s money starts coming. An egg a week seems an unimaginable luxury to Frank. Angela tells Bridey Hannon that with the money Malachy will send she wants to get a new house, electric lighting, coats and boots for the boys, and food. However, Malachy fails to send any money. Every Friday, families up and down the lane get money orders from England, but the McCourt family never gets anything.
Angela learns from Bridey that the Meagher family receives public assistance from the Dispensary, which Frank’s mother considers a terrible shame. She says getting public assistance is far worse than the dole or the St. Vincent de Paul Society, because it means you are one step away from putting your children in an orphanage and begging on the street.
Frank gets an infection in his eyes, which Grandma blames on his constant reading, and Angela has to take him to the Dispensary to see the doctor. The doctor says Frank has the worst case of conjunctivitis he has ever seen, and sends Frank to the hospital.
In the hospital, Frank sees both Seamus and Mr. Timoney, who seems to have aged greatly—Timoney is muted, not his old vivacious self, although he tells Frank to rest his eyes and then “read till they fall out of your head.” Seamus visits Frank three times a week and recites poetry to him, but soon leaves to work in an English factory.
When Frank returns home, he discovers that his father has “gone pure mad with the drink,” spending all of his money in bars. Angela becomes desperate and decides to go to the Dispensary for public assistance. Once there, she is humiliated by a sanctimonious official called Mr. Kane, who accuses her of claiming aid her family does not deserve.
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