Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1698
Mr. Benson is a master at Leamy's National School. Fierce and short-tempered, he browbeats the boys and hits them with his stick. As Frank puts it, ‘‘He roars and spits all over us all day.’’
Theresa Carmody is a seventeen-year-old girl whom Frank meets when he is delivering telegrams. Theresa has red hair and green eyes; she is dying of consumption. She and Frank make love several times, but she dies within weeks. Frank is heartbroken.
Paddy Clohessy is Frank's friend when they are seven years old. Paddy has six brothers and one sister, and the family is extremely poor. He goes to school barefoot, dressed in rags. In one incident, he and Frank rob an orchard and drink milk directly from a cow. Later, Paddy moves to England and works in a pub.
Declan Collopy is four years older than Frank. According to Frank, "He has lumps on his forehead that look like horns. He has thick ginger eyebrows that meet in the middle and hang over his eyes, and his arms hang down to his kneecaps.’’ Declan is a bully who is in charge of enforcing attendance at the Confraternity that Frank joins.
Peter Dooley is known as Quasimodo because he has a hump on his back like the hunchback of Notre Dame. He is five years older than Frank. Frank says of his appearance, "His red hair sticks up in all directions. He has green eyes and one rolls around in his head so much he's constantly tapping his temple to keep it where it's supposed to be.’’ Quasimodo cultivates an English accent and wants to be a newsreader with the BBC. He dies of consumption.
Mrs. Brigid Finucane
Mrs. Finucane employs Frank to write threatening letters to people who owe her money.
Philomena McNamara Flynn
Philomena is a cousin of Frank's mother. She is a large, intimidating woman who helps to arrange for the McCourt family to leave Brooklyn and return to Ireland.
Delia McNamara Fortune
Delia is Philomena Flynn's sister and a cousin of Frank's mother. Like Philomena, she is large, ‘‘great breasted and fierce.’’ With her sister, she arranges for the McCourts to return to Ireland.
Grandma is Angela's mother and Frank's grandmother. She has "white hair and sour eyes'' and is known for her religious devotion. She does her best to help the McCourts but spends much of her time complaining. She dies of pneumonia when Frank is thirteen.
Laman Griffin is Angela's cousin. She and her sons go to live at his house after their own is destroyed. Laman is a former officer in the Royal Navy who works as a laborer for the Electricity Supply Board. He spends much time in bed reading and smoking, and he and Angela become lovers. Sometimes he gets drunk, and in one incident he becomes angry with Frank and beats him up.
Bridey Hannon is the McCourts' neighbor. She is unmarried and lives with her mother and father. She smokes a lot and chats with Angela by the fire for long periods.
John Hannon is Bridey Hannon's father. He makes a living from delivering coal, but his legs are diseased, and he has trouble continuing to work. Frank gets a job helping him.
Mr. Harrington is an Englishman whose wife has just died. He gets angry with Frank when the boy delivers a telegram, and he tries to get Frank fired from his job.
Aunt Aggie Keating
Aggie is Frank's aunt. She is large and has flaming red hair; she works in a clothing factory. Unable to have children of her own, she is jealous of her sister Angela. When the McCourt boys stay at her house, she is abusive, calling Frank ‘‘scabby eyes.’’
Uncle Pa Keating
Pa Keating is Frank's uncle. His skin is black from shoveling coal into the furnaces at the Limerick Gas Works. He is a veteran of World War I, in which he was a victim of poison gas. He has a fine sense of humor, and Frank finds him amusing.
Alphie McCourt is the youngest of Frank's brothers; he is nine years old when Frank leaves for America.
Angela McCourt is Frank's mother. Formerly Angela Sheehan, she grew up with her three siblings in a Limerick slum. She never knew her father, who deserted the family before she was born. Sent by her family to New York while in her teens, Angela meets Malachy McCourt at a party. When she becomes pregnant, they marry, but it is not a happy partnership. Angela's husband is a feckless drunkard. She loses three of her seven children in infancy, and she has to feed and clothe her family in desperately poor conditions. Throughout these ordeals, Angela shows toughness and an ability to endure the blows of fate, although she frequently complains about her misfortunes.
Eugene McCourt is Frank's younger brother, Oliver's twin. He dies of pneumonia at age two.
Frank McCourt, the eldest child of Malachy and Angela McCourt, is the narrator of the story. He is raised in poverty, but this does not diminish his good spirits since he has never known life to be any different. When his twin brothers die in infancy, he is too young to understand what has happened. Attending Leamy's National School, he makes friends easily and gets involved in a number of schoolboy pranks, but he is also mocked by the other boys for his clumsily repaired shoes, which reveal his poverty. The boys make up contemptuous jingles about him. Frank also has health problems; he catches typhoid fever and nearly dies, and later he develops severe conjunctivitis. Despite these setbacks, he excels at school. On the advice of the headmaster, Frank's mother tries to have Frank enrolled in the Christrian Brothers School in order to continue his education, but he is turned down; there are few educational opportunities for a boy from the "lanes," the slum districts of Limerick. Frank is not disappointed because he wants to leave school and earn money. He is immensely proud of himself when he gets some odd jobs and brings home money for his mother. As Frank enters adolescence, he has a first love affair with a dying girl, and he learns more of the tragedies of his world when he sees his mother begging for food and also observes the pitiful condition of some of the people he encounters in his job delivering telegrams. Finally, he saves enough money to fulfill his longheld dream of emigrating to America.
Malachy McCourt is Frank's father. He was born in Ireland and fought with the Irish Republican Army against the British. Then he became a fugitive and made his way to New York, where he married Angela Sheehan. Malachy has a weakness for drink and cannot hold a job for more than a few weeks. When unemployed, Malachy often spends his dole money at the pub, coming home late singing patriotic Irish songs. Malachy is fond of his children, however, and entertains them with colorful stories that he makes up on the spot. He tells them they must be prepared to die for Ireland. Eventually, Malachy departs for England to work in a factory during World War II, but he sends no money back to his family. He returns briefly one Christmas, promising presents for everyone, but when his wife opens the box of chocolates he brings, she finds that he has eaten half of them himself.
Margaret McCourt is Frank's sister who dies in infancy in Brooklyn.
Michael McCourt is six years younger than his brother Frank. At age six he shows a compassionate nature, bringing home stray dogs and homeless old men.
Oliver McCourt is Frank's youngest brother and Eugene's twin. He dies of pneumonia at age two.
Mikey Molloy is the son of Peter and Nora Malloy and a friend of Frank's. He has epileptic fits and is known as Malloy the Fit. He is two years older than Frank and is known as "the expert in the lane on Girls' Bodies and Dirty Things in General.’’
Brendan Quigley is a classmate of Frank's. He is always asking questions, so he's known as Question Quigley.
See Peter Dooley.
Seamus is a cleaner at the hospital where Frank recovers from typhoid fever. He befriends Frank and brings him books to read.
Uncle Pat Sheehan
Uncle Pat Sheehan is Frank's uncle. He was dropped on his head when he was a baby and, as a result, is simple-minded. He is also called Ab, short for The Abbot. He is illiterate but makes a living selling newspapers.
Nora Molloy is Peter Molloy's wife and a friend of Frank's mother. She is sometimes so demented with worry over how she is going to feed her family that she is admitted to the lunatic asylum.
Peter Molloy is Nora Malloy's husband. He is a champion beer drinker, and he sometimes drinks away his dole money. According to Frank, Peter ‘‘doesn't give a fiddler's fart about what the world says.’’
Mr. O'Dea is a master at Frank's school. He is especially good at hurting and shaming the boys.
Mr. Thomas O'Halloran
Mr. O'Halloran is the headmaster of Leamy's National School. The boys call him Hoppy because he has a short leg and hops when he walks. He is the hardest master in the school because he makes the boys learn everything by heart.
Mr. O'Neill is a master at Frank's school. He is called Dotty by the boys because he is small, like a dot. He loves Euclidean geometry and teaches it even when he is not supposed to.
Fintan Slattery is a classmate of Frank's. He and his mother are very pious Catholics. He says he wants to be a saint when he grows up.
Mr. Timony is an old man with poor eyesight who pays Frank to read to him. He claims to be a Buddhist.