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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors
used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The symbolism of the River Shannon changes as Frank’s
outlook matures during his childhood and adolescence. Initially,
the river symbolizes Limerick’s bleakness and the brooding desolation
of Frank’s childhood. Frank associates the river with the endless
rain that torments Limerick, which he describes as a virulent disease-carrying
wetness that causes people to fall sick with coughs, asthma, consumption,
and other diseases. As the memoir progresses, Frank begins to see
the river as a route out of Limerick. As a result, it comes to symbolize
escape, movement, and freedom. When Frank throws Mrs. Finucane’s
ledger into the river—thus liberating all of her remaining debtors—he
suggests that soon he, like the ledger, will use the river to leave
Ireland behind and set sail across the Atlantic.
Angela’s Ashes takes its name from the
ashes which fall from Angela’s cigarettes and those in the fireplace
at which she stares blankly. The entire setting of the narrative
feels draped in ash—dark, decrepit, weak, lifeless, sunless. Angela’s
ashes represent her crumbling hopes: her dreams of raising a healthy
family with a supportive husband have withered and collapsed, leaving
her with only cigarettes for comfort and the smoldering ashes of
a fire for warmth.
Unlike other families, the McCourts cannot afford to buy
eggs regularly. Eggs are a familiar yet unattainable luxury, and
Frank associates them with wealth and security. They become symbols
of the good life that Frank wishes to provide for himself and his
family. Eggs symbolize the financial security, the satisfaction,
and the indulgences available beyond the boundaries of Limerick.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Angela's Ashes!