In Angela's Ashes, how does living in poverty impact Frank McCourt as a person in terms of life lessons?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the life lessons that McCourt gains as a result of living with poverty is understanding its role in developing human identity.  McCourt never begrudges or complains of the poverty in which he lives. However, McCourt understands the role poverty plays in defining human consciousness. This is a life lesson he gains.  McCourt sees the results of living in poverty. He sees his mother have to resort to begging, his father ravaged by alcoholism, and an impoverished condition helping to contribute to the deaths of the twins. Understanding the extent that poverty plays in defining human consciousness is a lesson that McCourt learns as a result of his experience.

Another lesson that McCourt gains as a result of poverty is the need to work.  McCourt never really complains about the work he must do.  From an early age, McCourt understands that poverty necessitates the reality of work.  If one can beat, even to the smallest degree, poverty through work, one takes it.  Delivering newspapers, reading to an old man with poor eyesight, working in coal factories, and finding work as a delivery boy are but a few of the jobs that Frank takes.  These stress the importance of work to Frank at an early age.  Frank understands the life lesson of work and strong work ethic from his poverty.  Frank does not take these jobs because of a desire for "spending money" or for recreation.  For example, he shovels coal because he needs work and the money he receives as compensation.  This is a life lesson that Frank learns because of his condition of poverty.

Finally, I would suggest that Frank learns that while one lives in poverty, his ability to dream does not necessarily live in an impoverished manner.  Frank never forgets the reality of living in poverty.  Yet, at the same time, Frank does not forget his dream of going to America.  Frank's narrative demonstrates that dreams do not have to die because of poverty.  It is in this light that Frank gains an important life lesson. One might live in poverty, but this does not mean they are poor of dreams.  Frank finds himself embracing his dream, precisely because of the poverty in which he lives.  For Frank, being able to fully understand that his dreams can still exist despite poverty becomes the penultimate life lesson.

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Angela's Ashes

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