Society And Stereotypes in Angela’s Ashes
Stereotypes in Angela’s Ashes
Francis McCourt, commonly known as simply Frank, penned a memoir known as Angela’s Ashes. The memoir is told from his point of view; as a child growing up poverty stricken in Ireland after leaving New York, where he had been born. There is lots it criticism on this memoir; the events aren’t accurate, he disgraces Limerick, and he stereotypes the Irish. While this may all be true, some people beg to differ. This memoir has earned many notable awards and reviews, though one thing can really be said about this memoir; it does stereotype. Maybe its to make the memoir more humorous to take away from the somber, sad aura that radiates from its pages of endless suffering from the McCourt family, or maybe its because the stereotypes we have placed on the Irish is true. Maybe all the men really waste dole money on the pint. Maybe the women are strong women who are constantly nagging. Maybe, indeed, the North Irish are all Protestants with odd manners that, according to the ones from the South, are Brit lovers that will be damned forever since they aren’t proper Catholics.
A major stereotype that can be seen in the novel is the one about how strong willed Irish women are. Now, I don’t see this as a bad thing. While the men go out to pubs and waste money on the pint, somebody has to take care of the children and the home. Angela Sheehan was, despite being a disgrace to her family, a strong willed woman. She wasn’t above asking for help when she needed it, unlike Malachy Sr. who would spend more time in the pubs than holding a job. She did though, at times, crumble. After losing Margaret, her psyche seemed to deteriorate, and she didn’t want to get out of bed. People were nagging at her and badmouthing her, though they had no idea what it was like to lose a child who was barely a few weeks old. Any normal person would shut down like that. That is what caused them to end up back in Ireland, where the twins, first Oliver then Eugene, both died with one dying shortly after the other; due to starvation. That also took a toll on her. Though sometimes she did cry and sometimes she did seem to regret her actions, Angela Sheehan was one of the strongest women in the book. McCourt painted her as a strong, basically single mother who did whatever she could for her family; even when she slept with her cousin. She made sacrifices just for the wellbeing of her family. Angela’s other relatives, like her mother and sister Aggie, also were strong women. The mother though, was what Frank called an “Oul’ bitch”. She wasn’t the most pleasant of women and it shows with the way her and Aggie treat Angela’s children. Angela’s cousins in Brooklyn are also seen as the stereotypes as they were rather big boned, saying that Irish women are large, burly women with fight in their heart who love to nag and march up to their husband’s jobs and take their wages themselves rather than allow them to waste it all at the pub only to come home singing about Kevin Barry and dying for Ireland and whatnot. Because, Angela did it and it was apparent she wasn’t the only wife that had to do it to control their husband wasting money, which leads to another stereotype.
Secondly, there is a stereotype here that all Irish men seem to enjoy drinking their lives away in pubs only to come home broke and singing Kevin Berry. A lot of cultures have this stereotype, but it’s predominantly an Irish stereotype; sometimes even scottish. Malachy McCourt Sr. has never has a clean slate. Chapter one of the memoir even tells that Malachy had always been into trouble and trouble always followed him. Even when they lived in Brooklyn he had a drinking problem. Alcoholism seemed to affect many Irish men and had seemed to be their downfall, as Angela’s mother even talked about how her father had a drinking problem, which resulted in how Ab Sheehan was dropped on his head and now was “soft in the head” which could easily mean he was a bit slow. According to AlcoholAction Ireland, about 88 people die in Ireland a month from alcohol related deaths. Even in the present day, Alcoholism is still a problem. Mikey Molloy, an older friend of McCourt’s who’s plagued by fits and is deemed as “The Expert on Girls’ Bodies and Dirty Things in General”, also is affected by his father’s alcoholism. His father is deemed as a champion pint drinker, which at times drives his wife Nora mad to the point where she seeks solace in an insane asylum on occasions; just to get away. It seems as if the men depicted in the novel who waste their time, energy, and money on the pint, as it is called, are aware that yes, their families are poverty stricken, but are too selfish to care. Angela blamed Malachy oftentimes for the deaths of her three children and because he was drinking up the money when he had four children at home and a wife who was starving and living in terrible conditions.
Not every Irish person in the world is as cynical as some of the characters in this memoir. McCourt sheds light on the stereotype that all Irish are cynical; blaming the English for everything and the constant bickering of the Protestants and Catholics. The Catholics have always been the big bosses in the religious world regardless, Roman Catholic was one of the first monotheistic religions in the world and is the oldest to this day. The catholics in this memoir seem to be overbearing and snooty; frowning on any little thing and being fierce disciplinarians. You must repent and confess every sin or else you will burn in hell, leading to Francis constantly running to the church to confess each time he believes he’s sinned. The South Irish people, in the memoir, seem to be devout Catholics. They pray to their Saints, attend communion, etc. But, they hate the North Irish, who are predominantly Protestant. That’s a constant argument, Protestants versus Catholics, and Malachy Sr. is constantly criticized by the people of Limerick and Angela’s family due to “his odd manner and Protestant looks”. The Irish also seem to blame everything on the English. It is true, though, that the English did little to help the Irish during the potato famine and had given the country hell for 800 long years, which is a reasonable reason to not like the English, but i’m sure not everyone hate the English. If anything, it seemed as if a lot of them envied the wealthy English as the people of Limerick weren’t as fabulously wealthy as their English counterparts. If they hated the English so much, why were the men so eager to just up and leave their families to work for England and fight for England when they all promised to fight for Ireland if they hadn’t already done just that? Hypocrites.
David Cronenburg once said that, “All stereotypes turn out to be true. This is a horrifying thing about life. All those things you fought against as a youth: you begin to realize they’re stereotypes because they are true.” I have to disagree with this. Stereotypes are true sometimes, but they are not always true, like the notion that all Irish people love fighting and drinking and that all Asians are smart and all people of Middle Eastern desent are terrorists. Not all black people like fried chicken, and not all white people are Republicans or rich. Stereotypes are found everywhere; but do not define you. Sometimes they are true; sometimes they are not.
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Stereotypes in Angela’s Ashes Francis McCourt, commonly known as simply Frank, penned a memoir known as Angela’s Ashes. The memoir is told from his point of view; as a child […]