’Tis begins where Angela’s Ashes ends, with the arrival of McCourt in New York in September, 1949. He knew almost no one other than a pedophile priest who had befriended him on the ship, and who arranged a job for McCourt through his contacts with the local Democratic Party, sweeping and mopping at the Biltmore Hotel. McCourt felt isolated and alienated in the land of his birth. The upper-class college students who frequented the Biltmore stood in contrast to his own lack of education, and, compounded by his continuing eye problems, his Irish brogue, and general poverty, gave him feelings of inferiority.
It is the Korean War that McCourt credits for his escape. Drafted into the Army in spite of his bad eyes, he was sent to Germany, where he eventually became a battalion clerk. After his discharge, with the aid of the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in New York University, in spite of lacking a high school education. While there, he met his first of three wives, Alberta, called Mike, a middle-class Episcopalian from Rhode Island. She is the only one of McCourt’s wives mentioned in ’Tis. Theirs was a contentious relationship even before marriage, which produced McCourt’s only child, his daughter, Maggie.
After graduation, McCourt found a teaching position in a working-class high school on Staten Island, and his comments about the lack of preparation and interest of his students and the cynical and pessimistic attitude of his fellow teachers express timeless themes. McCourt earned an M.A. degree, taught remedial courses at a community college, and eventually obtained a position in one of New York City’s most prestigious high schools, where he taught creative writing to college-bound students....
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