Poverty is a central theme in Angela's Ashes, and Frankie, his siblings and parents were involved in a daily struggle for survival. Specifically, Angela, Frank's mother, begs and borrows from the corner store, from the charity at the local parish of the Catholic Church and friends anything she can, including "rashers" for breakfast or dining and bedroom furniture.
The family lives a hand-to-mouth existence, and this is the primary challenge they face each day. The flat they live in is always cold or sweltering, and the kids are reduced to picking up bits of coal from the train tracks through town to keep a basic heating fire going. When the youngest child gets sick, there's not much that Angela or Malachy, Frankie's father, can do to help.