Angela\'s Ashes, Slamming the door on the irish catholic childhood


 When I think of Frank McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes, the quote that comes to memory the most is when Angela says to Frank, “You are never to let anybody slam the door in your face again.” This quote is not only powerful, it is analogous to what Angela’s Ashes is, a story about an Irish catholic childhood. The Irish catholic childhood was described by Frank McCourt in the memoir as a “miserable childhood”(). This childhood was full of poverty and heartache, and of course, ashes. This life could be broken down into two main parts, the Irish life, and the catholic life.

The Irish part of this childhood had one main thought that was consistently presented in the memoir. This thought was that the Irish were the best people, and better then anyone else, including the English. There was a certain amount of pride that was instilled by the parents into children, and this quote is an example of this. This quote was said right after a door was slammed in the face of Frank and his mother Angela. If Angela was not trying to give a lesson in pride, she might just walk silently with her son after such a traumatic event. However, since she is Irish, she felt the need to tell Frank that he was never to let anyone slam the door in his face again. There are other numerous examples of this in the memoir but there are two that are recurring in the memoir. The first is the repeated attempt by the father, who is always drunk at the time, to get his sons to stand up and die for Ireland. This shows that firstly, Ireland (and the Irish people), are worth dying for, and it secondly shows that the father is trying to instill that pride into his children. The second reoccurring example of Irish pride in the memoir is the Irish folk songs that are excessively sung. The most common folk song in the memoir is the one about Kevin Barry. The just of the song is that Kevin Barry went to the battlefields to presumably die for Ireland, and while he was doing this, he held his head high.

Part of the pride of being Irish, was being catholic. This was an important part of the Irish upbringing for the part of Ireland where this memoir was set. However, there were a lot of problems with this part of the childhood. The door being slammed in the face was an indication of this. The people who were doing the door slamming was actually the catholic church. In

Ireland, there was a definite class system in place that was brutally preserved by the upper class in order to not have any blurring of the lines. Frank was brought to the church twice and both times, the door was slammed in his face. The first time was to see if Frank could enter the priesthood. If Frank had been accepted then he would have instantly become part of a higher class and that would have been unacceptable to the priests (upper class). The second time Frank was rejected so despicably was when he asked the Christian Brother’s if he could attain admission to secondary school. If Frank had gone to secondary school, then he would have almost been guaranteed a “good” job and been promoted to a higher class. Nevertheless, this is not what the higher classes want so they slam the door in his face. Another part of the catholic childhood was the instilling of fear by the catholic church. Throughout the memoir, Frank was in a constant state of fear that he was the worst person on earth. This idea was very untrue, but was put there by the catholic church. Also, the church instilled fear by threatening that if anyone transferred and became a protestant, that person would suffer in eternal damnation.

The Irish catholic child. A miserable childhood. Who would have thought that it could

be explained with one small reaction after a door being slammed in a face.