The Important Role of Mothers in the Family in Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Topics: Angela'S Ashes

Mothers play an important role in the lives of their families. How a mother reacts, can make or break their family. Angelas Ashes by Frank McCourt and The Color of Water by James McBride are two novels that portray a mother who is stuck by her family in poverty and the results are tremendous in the lives of McCourt and McBride. In the poem by Allen Ginsberg, Kaddish contains a mother who also lived in poverty yet broke a family. Later in the family’s lives, the effects of the lack of mothering they had was devastating.

Angelas Ashes and the Color of Water both demonstrate behavior that can be considered a family living in poverty. A deprived family fails to meet some or all of the basic needs of its members. Sometimes these needs, such as food, shelter, or clothing are so basic that people take them for granted. More often, emotional needs, such as the need for love, support, and security go unmet.

Drugs, alcoholism, death, abandonment, starvation, and anxiety are some characteristics of a deprived family that can be found in both Angela’s Ashes and The Color of Water. Just because a family is poor does not mean its members do not love each other.

In the Color of Water, the stepfather dies creating a new and unhealthy environment for the family. As the mother is now forced to raise her twelve children alone, she is forced to take on even more responsibility. Rachel Shilisky had never before had a job.

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She was struggling to make ends meet. Playing games with her children to determine who was going to eat dinner and breakfast that day. The winners would eat and the losers would suffer because their family was living in poverty.

The children never realized that they were living a different life than other kids until they were sent to school and James, the youngest of twelve children asks his mother why she doesn’t look like the other children’s moms. Not only are they living in different atmospheres enduring situations that most kids didnt have to endure, but their mother was white, the kids were mixed and the people in their neighborhood were all black. Their family was outcasts. James and his siblings learned to deal with the color of their skin, the death of loved ones, poverty, the scarcity of food, and the fact that they did not know where they came from. The children often thought about where their mother was from. We traded information on Mommy the way people traded baseball cards at trade shows, offering bits and pieces of information fraught with gossip, nonsense, wisdom, and sometimes just plain foolishness. [McBride] The only good thing that comes out of poverty is strength. Sometimes!

it takes years to find strength and self-individuality, but most of the time people find it.

Angelas Ashes and The Color of Water are comparable in many ways. Both stories contain mothers who are loving, and caring and would do close to anything for their children. Angela, Franks’s mother goes as far as begging for food and going to the St. Vincent DePaul Society for boots for the children. Both families have to cope with the absence of parental figures. When Malachy is constantly out at the pubs wasting the dole money that was supposed to be used for food and rent, to satisfy his habits while Angela is at home struggling to make ends meet without him. Malachy is not a proper father figure for his children. Rachel Shilskys first husband and second husband died leaving her to struggle to keep food on the table. She even manages to send her kids to summer camp. Both families dealt with criticism about their marriages. Angela was criticized by her two cousins Philomena and Delia for marrying Malachy who they didnt approve of because he was someone from the North. Rache!

I was constantly criticized by her family friends for marrying a black man twice and raising her children Christian. In both books the children were at one time embarrassed by their mother’s actions, in the Color of Water when Rachel would ride her little red bike around the neighborhood being the only white person in miles, she was bound to be a victim of a robbery or possibly worse. In Angelas Ashes, Frank becomes upset when his mother has no choice but to beg for food, to him that is worse than his father wasting the dole money. Not all the people in the books are survivors of poverty. Being raised in Limerick, Ireland was full of twists and turns. With the rainy weather and the lack of medication and care, people died. Among those were Angela’s children, Margaret the baby, and the twins Eugene and Oliver. Frank prospered and lives on today to tell his heart-wrenching story of his hard times growing up in Limerick. James McBride lives on today to speak of his newfound!

identity and his emotional journey through confusion. Both help the reader to celebrate life and never take it for granted.

The Kaddish by Allen Ginsburg shows another mother that struggled with poverty yet broke the family. The choices that Naomi, his mother made were very drastic and did not portray the characteristics of a mother.

The poem is a most stunning and emotional story that speaks of truth. As a young boy growing up in New Jersey, Allen watched his mother succumb to a series of psychotic episodes that grew progressively worse despite desperate attempts and treatment. Before these episodes, Naomi had been a pretty and vivacious schoolteacher and well-loved by family, friends, and neighbors. As Allen entered his teen years, his mother got worse. She had never gotten along with her mother-in-law and began to suspect plotting against her in bizarre ways. The light hurt her eyes, her behavior became harder and harder to explain, and she was sent to a mental hospital where she was treated with medication, insulin shock, and later electroshock. The treatments did not help; Naomi would remain deeply unstable and unhappy during Allen’s teenage years. Allen had a special feeling for his mother, though. He understood her insanity as a spiritual condition rather than a mental one, and always sought to find meaning!

ing or truth in her disconnected, paranoid ravings.

She returned home several times, now fat from medication and increasingly erratic in behavior. She wandered the house naked and swore that the doctors, conspiring with her in-laws, had planted electroshocks in her back to control her. She seemed to trust Allen more than others, and one day took him on a horrific bus journey all over New Jersey in search of a rest home where she would be safe from the plottings of her husband’s family. After that, she ended up back in the mental hospital.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the poem details young Allen’s perceptions of his mother as a sexual predator.

One time I thought she was trying to make me come and lay her-flirting to her self at sink-lay back On a huge bed that filled the room, dress up round her hips, Big slash of hair, scars of operations, pancreas, belly wounds, abortions, appendix, stitching of Incisions pulling down in the fat like hideous thick zippers-ragged long lips between her legs-what, Even, the smell of Asshole? I was cold-later, revolted a little, not much seemed perhaps a good idea to try know the monster of the beginning womb-perhaps-that way. Would she care? She needs a lover.

Consider, while reading these lines, that during Ginsberg’s heterosexual phase as a young man he was psychoanalyzed and came to believe that his homosexuality was an aberration caused by his experiences with his mother.

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The Important Role of Mothers in the Family in Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. (2022, Aug 15). Retrieved from

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