In Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

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Every five seconds, a child dies of starvation. There are around 854 million people who are hungry, right at this moment. Lack of food is without a doubt an epidemic, stretching across each and every continent, and affecting people of all races and backgrounds. However, there are many people that are completely untouched by hunger. Their problem might be something like disease, addiction, rejection, or discrimination. The list of troubles that humans may come across is never ending. Why, then, are some people able to escape their dire situations, while others simply become another sad statistic? In Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt, the answer is simple: perseverance.

Frank and his family are forced to endure countless struggles throughout the book. Their most obvious affliction is hunger, but they come across many other problems as well. One example is rampant disease. Because of their hunger, the McCourt's are exposed to innumerable illnesses. Several of Frank's siblings get sick and pass away, which his parents never really recover from. Also, throughout Frank's childhood, he suffers from severe conjunctivitis. Teachers, bosses, and classmates never tire of teasing him about his irritated eyes, but he never really seems to mind. Although he is physically weak and frail, Frank has amazing mental and emotional strength.

This internal strength is imperative to his survival in Angela's Ashes, since he frequently faces ridicule and discrimination. People often reject or make fun of Frank because of how poor he is, what clothes he is wearing, and how his family has to beg for food. This prejudice makes him feel ashamed, but in the end it seems to motivate him to work harder. He is determined to surpass the unjust limitations that poverty has put on him and his family.
Frank's mother, Angela, often feels ashamed for their meager state of affairs as well, but she never ceases to encourage him and his siblings to fight for what they truly deserve. “Mam says, This is my son, Frank. Mr. O'Halloran at Leamy's says he's bright and would there be any chance of getting him in here for secondary school? / We don't have room for him, says Brother Murray and closes the door in our faces. / …[Mam's] face tightens and she's angry. You are never to let anybody slam the door in your face again. Do you hear me?” (page 290).

Angela definitely has a spark of inner spirit and determination that she tries to pass down to her children. As she ages, that spark is shown less and less, but she encourages Frank and his siblings to learn from her mistakes and always keep up their resilience. She teaches them not to settle for a life of misery and hunger. Frank's perseverance is encouraged by his mother and fueled by an amazing amount of willpower that is difficult for most people to sustain. He approaches life with an impressive amount of tenacity which eventually allows him to follow his dream of moving to America and starting a better future.

Another thing that helps Frank to succeed is his eternal optimism. “I know that someday I'll be a rich Yank and send home hundreds of dollars and my family will never have to worry” (page 333). Despite the fact that he has to struggle every day just to find food, Frank never has a doubt in his mind that he will eventually be able to move to America and flourish. His positive hopes and expectations motivate him to work hard and save his money, so that one day he will be able to attain his dreams. Without such a strong sense of optimism, it would be unlikely for Frank to succeed.

Being a survivor and a positive thinker in such awful circumstances is truly an amazing feat. In Frank's case, I think that the saying “what doesn't kill you just makes you stronger” definitely rings true. Throughout all of his struggles, a sense of resolve and an ability to succeed grow inside of him. Eventually, this mindset transforms his dreams into reality. “I stand on the deck with the Wireless Officer looking at the lights of America twinkling. He says, My God, that was a lovely night, Frank. Isn't this a great country altogether? / ‘Tis'” (page 362-363). Frank demonstrates incredible determination and strength of mind, and in the end it definitely pays off. His ultimate goal in Angela's Ashes is to move to America where he will be able to prosper. After living in the slums of Limerick for countless miserable years, Frank manages to attain this goal thanks to his undying perseverance.

In the time it takes to read this essay, approximately 750 children die of starvation. As a young boy, Frank McCourt is on the brink of contributing to that statistic, but eventually his powerful survivor mentality allows him to escape his despondent, impoverished life. He exhibits amazing amounts of internal strength, both mentally and emotionally, despite his weak and diseased body. He fills his head with powerful daydreams and optimistic thoughts of a prosperous future. Through each and every struggle that he endures, Frank becomes increasingly determined. He approaches life with a certain tenacity that is simply bound to lift him up off the streets of Limerick and on to a better life.





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