What is the McCourt's bathroom like in Angela's Ashes?

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ladyvols1's profile pic

ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In chapter 3 of "Angela's Ashes" the family is on the "dole" again and living in a slum appartment building. When it rains the water comes inside so the family moves upstairs.  Even with the small increase in money for the new baby the incomefrom the welfare is still not enough.  Mrs. McCourt has been going to the St. Vincent de Paul Society for extra food and help in feeding her children.  On page 101 we read that two men from the SVDS have come to visit the family and make sure they are "deserving" of the hand-outs. When they arrive they ask Frank what the "shed" is out front.  He tells them it is their bathroom.  They ask him why it is out front instead of in the back of the house where it should be.  Frank tells the men that the bathroom shed is for everyone who lives on the "lane."  If the shed were in the back, everyone on the lane would "be going through our kitchen with pots of stuff you don't want to smell."

parkerlee's profile pic

parkerlee | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The squalor and filth in which the McCourt children have to live is unbelievable. I suppose you are referring to the incident in the book where the bottom floor gets flooded out, so the family retreats upstairs. When an inspector comes he confesses to his colleague, "......(It's) Calcutta up there."

There is indeed cold running water, however, and Angela has salvaged empty jam jars to use as drinking glasses. That's it. There is no 'sanitary system' - only unsanitary conditions:

'It's December and it's freezing and we can see our breath. We pee into the bucket by the bedroom door and run down stairs for the warmth of the fire Dad has already started. We wash our face and hands in a basin that sits under the water tap by the door. The pipe that leads to the tap has to be held to the wall by a piece of twine looped around a nail. Every- thing around the tap is damp, the floor the wall, the chair the basin sits on. The water from the tap is icy and our fingers turn numb.'

- from Angela's Ashes, Chapter 3

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