An estimated 1. 02 billion people in the world go hungry. Ireland during the mid 1900s had tremendous amounts of poverty across the country. This poverty level increases hunger as well. When put into the hands of life and death one may be torn between what they believe is right and what is necessary to survive. In Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Frank displays how poverty and hunger caused him to go against his morals to avoid starvation. Mr. and Mrs. McCourt struggled to feed their family throughout Angela’s Ashes. The McCourts are hungry through most of the entire book.
Frank, being a child through a majority of the memoir chooses to steal food many times to avoid the constant craving for it. Although Frank knows stealing is morally wrong he continues to do it. Frank and his friend Paddy cut class to eat apples and drink milk from a farm after not being fed lunch. As Paddy may have not known, Frank did know that stealing the apples and milk was wrong. Even though he did wonder “why anyone should be hungry in a world full of milk and apples”, he also states “I don’t want to rob orchards and milk cows forever” (161).
In the next chapter frank again steals food, but this time it is fish and chips from a drunken man at a pub. Even though frank’s hunger has been relieved he suffers the feeling of guilt and goes to confession. On the contrary when Frank steals milk and bread from the rich neighborhoods he has less feeling of guilt. At this time Frank is stealing the food to keep him and his family from hunger. As he grows older he has less feeling of guilt for stealing food. He begins to understand to starve himself would be more of a sin than to steal from those who will never starve.
Also, he is no longer selfishly eating the food, but offering it to his family and friends. The stealing of the food does not only show frank’s life of hunger and poverty but also maturity. Not only did Frank steal food, the McCourts in some cases used people for money and food. Fintan Slattery is a kind religious boy who generously gives away food to Paddy and Frank. “I feel ashamed because they’ll say I curl my hair and I’ll be tormented in the schoolyard and why does he think I’m his friend? ” (157). Frank thinks this, but he continues to talk and play with Fintan until Fintan no longer offers food to Frank and Paddy.
Frank and Paddy built this friendship with Fintan only to satisfy their hunger. In the memoir when Frank has typhoid fever he spends much time at the hospital with the clean sheets and chocolate. “I lie in bed and think of the hospital where the white sheets were changed every day and there wasn’t a sign of a flea” (203). In most cases hospitals are thought as places of sickness and death. He looked at the hospital as somewhere he wanted to be because his home living conditions were unsatisfactory. Later on in the book, Angela McCourt cannot pay the rent of the apartment, so the family moves in with her cousin, Laman.
Laman has been sleeping with Frank’s mother, and beating Frank. Laman calls Angela “A great lump living free under his roof with her pack of brats” (293). The treatment from Laman is wrong, and Angela knows what she is doing is morally wrong, but she continues to in order to keep her family sheltered and healthy. In these situations during Frank McCourt’s life he chooses food and comfort over what was morally correct. The McCourts lived in poverty in which it was not easy for them to purchase food to keep them from being hungry. They had to endure embarrassing moments to put food on the table.
A common way to get food and money for many people in poverty in Ireland was through churches and charities. Angela goes to the St. Vincent De Paul Society for help. The women question Angela because of her appearance, but with her pity story they come through and give her money for groceries. Ashamed enough to go to the charity, it was more embarrassing for Angela to explain her husband’s drinking and children’s suffering. In more than one situation Angela borrowed money from the grocery store to pay for the small amount of food needed to feed her family. It was embarrassing for Angela to continue borrowing money, even if she paid it back.
Angela had no other choice but to borrow money. Without the food she and her family would starve. On Christmas the McCourts could not afford a typical Christmas ham from the butchers shop. The only thing cheap enough was a pig’s head that the butcher gave to them out of pity. Frank carried the pig head throughout the streets as his friends laughed at him. To cook the pig Frank and his father, Malachy, collected coal along the streets. Again they were laughed at for their poverty. When the pig’s head was ready to be eaten Malachy does not want to eat it. “He takes the plate that holds the pig’s head and puts it on the floor under the table.
Now, he says to Malachy, that’s ham, and Malachy eats it” (101). The family’s poverty level causes them to have hardship to supply a single meal on Christmas. These examples show the McCourts would do anything regardless of how embarrassing it was to get food. Frank McCourt and his family lived a life of Hunger and Poverty. Both were inconvenient ways to live. Fortunately the McCourts did what they needed to do to live through the hunger cravings caused by their poverty level even if it meant to steal, use people, or embarrass themselves throughout the memoir Angela’s Ashes.