The men in charge of giving out money and charity constantly humiliate their impoverished customers. It’s not enough that the impoverished are poor, it’s not enough that they are humiliated already because they must beg for assistance, it’s not enough that the men torment them—they are also required to laugh along with their tormenters, or risk foregoing aid. When Frank waits to get his eyes checked, he sees the men in charge making fun of a woman in pain, suggesting that she has gas or has eaten too much cabbage. The woman must laugh with the men and pretend that she finds their rudeness amusing, or else she will not get to see a doctor. When the McCourts go to get public assistance, the men are sadistic, saying, “The public assistance, is that what you want, woman, the relief?” When it comes Angela’s turn to ask for aid, the men humiliate her by saying she does not deserve it, because her husband is from the North and she is ignorant.
When Frank’s mother falls ill in Chapter X, Frank is quick to assume responsibility for his family’s welfare. As the guard who visits the house points out, Frank will make a good father someday.