What is an example of a shift in 'Tis, by Frank McCourt?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Frank McCourt's second autobiographical book, 'Tis, is full of many shifts and turns as it follows his arrival as a nineteen-year-old boy in America to his successful teaching career. What happens in between is mostly negative, or at least it is written in a pessimistic tone--and for good reason.

McCourt has the highest hopes for his future when he returns to America after living a dismal, malnourished, abused life in Ireland. The reality is nothing like what he expects, and he soon grows bitter as he sees others living the life he had hoped to have for himself. He wants so much and he is certainly willing to work, but things just do not seem fair to McCourt. He says,

“But I don't know how I'll ever get a college degree and rise in the world with no high school diploma and eyes like piss holes in the snow, as everyone tells me.” 

He is bitter and resentful because he does not see any way that he will be able to achieve his goals. 

Over time, because of his commitment to hard work and his many life and educational experiences, McCourt, who was negatively marked by his appearance and his Irish brogue as an immigrant, becomes a successful teacher at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in Brooklyn. 

This is a dramatic reversal (shift) in his circumstances, but also in his outlook and attitude toward life, at least in this area of his life. Note the difference in tone here:

“Your mind is a treasure house that you should stock well and it’s the one part of you the world can’t interfere with.” 

While everything in his life has not undergone the same change and still makes him rather miserable, McCourt's perspective on opportunity has undergone a significant change. It was a dark and strenuous journey, but he arrived. Now he speaks with authority from his own experience; in doing so, he is able to motivate others to pursue excellence and education. 

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