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Angela’s Ashes

  • Study Guide

Chapters IX–X

Summary Chapters IX–X

Summary: Chapter X

The family moves upstairs to escape the cold and wet. Angela soon sickens and turns feverish, calling out for lemonade. Frank steals two bottles of lemonade from a crate outside South’s pub and a loaf of bread from a van parked outside O’Connell’s grocery store. To entertain his brothers, Frank embellishes the story of how he got the food and drink, and Michael calls him an outlaw. Malachy says Frank is no different from Robin Hood, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The next day, Frank steals a whole box of food that has been delivered to a house in a wealthy area of town. The boys have enough food, but no fire. They go to a rich neighborhood and go door to door asking for turf or coal, but no one will help them, and they soon resort to stealing fuel from people’s back gardens.

A guard soon appears at their home to find out why the boys have been absent from school. The official tells Frank to get his Grandma and Aunt Aggie, who in turn send for the doctor. The doctor diagnoses Angela with pneumonia and drives her to hospital, while the McCourt brothers go to stay with Aggie.

Although Pa Keating is kind to his nephews and gives them food, Aggie constantly abuses the boys, hitting them and yelling at them. The protagonist writes to his father and explains that his mother is in the hospital. Malachy returns to Limerick to look after his sons, but he leaves for England again the day after Angela gets back from the hospital. Because Frank’s father only sends one of his paychecks home, Angela is soon forced to appeal to the Dispensary for money again. Frank’s sadness at their situation turns into despair when he sees his mother begging for food outside a church. Frank is so ashamed that he is hardly able to look at his mother, whom he describes as a “beggar.”

Analysis: Chapters IX–X

Grandma berates the protagonist for ruining his eyes with “[b]ooks, books, books,” but reading offers Frank a temporary escape from the world’s miseries.

We see again in Chapter IX that dignity is of paramount importance to Angela. Although the McCourts have no money and live in squalor, Angela is determined to save them from a low-class mentality. She criticizes mothers who call their children in to dinner and name the menu, announcing their riches to the lane. She says it is not classy to show off that way.

Out of respect and pride, the McCourts do not criticize their father in public, however much he deserves it. One boy calls his father, who never sends money from England, “a drunken oul’ shit,” but Angela and her boys would never speak of Malachy in such a way. This good behavior may not help the family get enough food to eat or enough coal to heat their house, but it keeps their standards high.