Why is the McCourts' charity to others ironic?  

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The irony is that the McCourts had very little as a result of the father's drinking habit and were in ruin. Still, they try to survive as best as they could with the help and support that the community gave each other. When Angela fell in one of her deepest bouts of depression, she could not even get up to feed her children, and the neighbors took care of them. This is ironic considering that they asked charity from the church and got the doors slammed in their faces, the government had them on the dole and still they ended up in more misery without even enough coal to warm their homes, and the sources that should have helped them only gave him superficial help. Yet, they always opened the doors to strangers and offered their charity to whoever needed it as it is the nature of those who need the most.

mkcapen1 | Student

Angela’s Ashes is an endearing story based on the autobiography of the life of its author and his family.  After the death of her twins, Angela, her husband, and her children return to Ireland from America.  The family is poor and destitute.  The father is a drunkard who loves his family but leaves them to fend for themselves.  The mother is forced to beg for mercy and food from the church and they receive occasional support from the government.  Angela’s infant children die frequently due to poor nutrition, lack of heat, and unhealthy living environments.  They are the poorest of the poor living in a city that already identifies them as being no better than the rats in a sewer. 


In searching through the text I found little reference to the McCourt’s behaviors that exemplified acts of charity towards others.  Instead, I found quotes indicating that they were allotted charity from others but mostly had been treated poorly by agencies and family members whom one would expect to help them.  Uncle Pa, Angela’s sister’s husband shows the family what charity he can by sneaking the boys sandwiches. One incidence of his charity is found in this quote from the text following Uncle’s Pas purchase of a text for Frankie’s 16th birthday. ‘‘I know 'tis not the same without your father,'' Pa says,' 'but I'll get you the first pint. 'Tis what I'd do if I had a son.’’ (McCourt, F.)

Read the study guide:
Angela's Ashes

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question