What tone does McCourt use as he characterizes the conditions of his youth in Angela's Ashes?
McCourt uses a wry, sardonic tone as he outlines the miseries of his poor Irish youth with a stereotypically drunken father and a defeated, pious mother, and the miseries of his family's wet journey back to a rainy country. He calls a miserable Irish Catholic childhood the most miserable of all childhoods, but notes as well that a happy childhood is not worth having. He says that in Limerick, where his family ends up, clothes never dry and that people flock to church not out of religious impulses, but to avoid the rain. It is a perpetually gray, rainy place where people are chronically sick with colds and hacking coughs.
The dry, humorous, self-mocking tone McCourt adopts creates a distance from his suffering that allows him to describe the childhood miseries he endured in a way an audience can bear. He had a truly impoverished childhood in a repressed society, but he manages to find bleak humor in his situation that sustains both him and the reader.