One inescapable fact about the life of the McCourts in Ireland is that it is dominated by poverty and want. Even though Francis is doing very well by the time that he leaves and has the potential to climb up in the world by taking the post office examination, he would be living in an environment that had claimed the lives of his siblings and which he had struggled against to grow up and reach adulthood. America, by contrast, represents a blank slate and a land of opportunity. In the imagination of Francis, and so many other Irishmen like him, it summons up images of freedom, independence and wealth for the taking for those brave enough and hardworking enough to take advantage of the many opportunities that are present in the United States.
Francis, interestingly, does have second thoughts, as the following quote testifies:
Surely I should have stayed, taken the post office examination, climbed in the world. I could have brought in enough money for Michael and Alphie to go to school with proper shoes and bellies well filled. We could have moved from the lane to a street or even an avenue where houses have gardens. I should have taken that examination and Mam would never again have to empty the chamber pots of Mr. Sliney or anyone else.
However, in spite of the feeling of responsibility towards his family, at the same time Francis is eager to leave and the benefits of having a new start and having far more opportunities than he ever could have had in Ireland outweigh the disadvantages.