Angelsa Ashes



The Making of a Masterpiece

When a critically acclaimed Irish writer wins numerous literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, for an autobiography, one becomes intrigued as to what made this man\'s life so interesting. Everyone has heard the rags-to-riches story of the poor boy that grows up to become a success. Frank McCourt defines his own level of despair when the introduction to Contemporary Literary Criticisms says, "McCourt\'s childhood was so bleak and impoverished that the months he spent in the hospital recovering from typhoid fever seemed like a vacation" (Contemporary 147). The story of Frank McCourt\'s childhood is a marvel in itself, but a great story can be forgone if the person telling the tale is not exceptional himself. McCourt has been appraised to be as wonderful as old Irish writers such as Yeats and Joyce. The exposure these two writers have given Ireland has been unmatchable until now. Along with Seamus Heaney, a Nobel Prize winner for poetry, Frank McCourt has given a fresh new breath for the revival of enchanting Irish literature. Literary critic Michiko Kakutani writes, "Writing in prose that\'s pictorial and tactile, lyrical but streetwise, Mr. McCourt does for the town of Limerick what the young Joyce did for Dublin" (Kakutani 151). Being compared to such literary genius is an incredible complement to McCourt. Frank McCourt has the literary tools needed to capture the reader\'s interest and heart while keeping the vision of a child alive. This uniqueness sets him apart from many other authors who tell the tale of an impoverished child\'s life. Literary critic Malcolm Jones defines McCourt\'s talents by saying, "McCourt uses virtuosic black humor and a natural-born storyteller\'s instincts to induce in his
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readers a blissful literary amnesia" (Jones 148). When words of praise are as common as his childhood\'s food-less days, one has to wonder where he acquired this special gift. There were three major influences in McCourt\'s childhood that came together to shape the way McCourt relives his childhood in his novel. In Frank McCourt\'s novel, Angela\'s Ashes, Frank\'s country, religion and family gave him the literary tools necessary to become a writer.
The pride of the Irish can arguably be unsurpassable by any other mans pride for his country. The Irish are known for their exuberant celebrations and feasts on such joyous occasions such as St. Patrick\'s Day and not so joyous occasions such as a Wake. At either gathering, the nationalist songs and boastful stories are sung and shared over a good pint of Guinness with anyone who would care to listen. This strong sense of pride in the Irish causes harsh judgement upon any man who would dare to threaten their way of life. Frank\'s adjustment from the New York life to the life of a child growing up in Ireland was not made easier by the biased Irish opinions. Just making it past his schoolteachers was hard enough, especially since he came from the "sinful" county of America. "That\'s right McCourt. Not bad for a Yank from the sinful shores of Amerikay" (McCourt, Angela\'s 122). While living in America during the early years of his childhood, Frank listened to his father tell magical stories of the one and only Ireland. The Irish mythological character Cuchulian inspired Frank to love the same land that his hero fought for. " I hear they put up a new statue of CuChulian to honor the men who died in 1916 an I\'d like to show it to my son here who has a great admiration for CuChulian" (McCourt, Angela\'s 55). The constant ramblings of his father\'s devotion to
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Ireland set the foundation for Frank\'s Irish pride while living in America. The time finally came for the McCourts to move to their native country of Ireland, but when they landed on the shores of the Emerald Isle, their dreams were not coming to fruition. Life was hard in Ireland and literary critic Denis Donoghue writes, "De Valera\'s Ireland was in the throes of economic war with England, and life was hard"(Donoghue 148). The family had no money, and no place to stay. Their only hope was for the father, Malachy, to receive a payment for his services in the IRA years before. This light of hope would