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Angela's Ashes | Study Guide

Frank McCourt

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Angela's Ashes | Chapter 11 | Summary



Frank goes through his mother's trunk in search for material for a soccer uniform. He uses part of a red flapper dress to cut out hearts for the team he'll call The Red Hearts of Limerick. He comes across his parents' marriage certificate and realizes he was born only five months after his parents got married. At a bar with the Malloys, he wonders whether this amount of time between the marriage and his birth makes his a miraculous birth, but Mikey tells him it makes him a bastard who is doomed and who should pray to the Virgin Mary. At the bar Peter Malloy, who has thus far used all his money to be the champion of pints, decides because everything has an opposite, he will quit drinking and be the champion of no pints. He decides also to move his family to England. Frank buys toffee with the money earmarked for the candle for Virgin Mary. Later when he scores the winning goal at the soccer game, he takes his victory as a sign he is blessed, not doomed: "Surely it was sent by God or the Blessed Virgin Mary who would never send such a blessing to one doomed for being born in half the time."

Frank helps Mr. Hannon deliver coal. Mr. Hannon treats Frank kindly, pays him well, and teaches him to handle the float and the horse. When his schoolmates see him one day, they are impressed and stop calling him names. Feeling like an adult, Frank is proud of himself as well. Frank's eyes become irritated from the coal dust, and Angela keeps him home one day. Mr. Hannon's legs are so bad he is hospitalized and can no longer work. Mrs. Hannon asks him over for tea and tells him Mr. Hannon thought of him "like a son."


The descent into despair is contrasted with the hope implied in typical childhood endeavors and mischief: desperate to have a soccer uniform although there is no money to buy one, Frank gets creative and uses his mother's dress to cut out hearts for his team, suggesting children are resilient and resourceful. And indeed Frank's fortunes take an upward turn in this chapter. Not only does he score the winning soccer goal, his achievement convinces him he is blessed not cursed.

He also gets a job that makes him feel like a powerful man because he can help provide for his family. On top of that, he can show off to his schoolmates when he handles the float and the horses, and finally they stop their teasing. And even better, Mr. Hannon likes him and treats him kindly. Gone are the signs of weakness during his attacks of typhoid and conjunctivitis, and gone is the hunger every night; he even makes enough to take his brothers to the movies.

Frank feels as if he has arrived where he needs to go: he has grown up. However, Mr. Hannon, a positive father figure who has Frank's best interests in mind, keeps reminding Frank his job is not to provide for his family but to go to school and learn, thus instilling hope that perhaps even for Frank there is more to life than being a coal man and living hand to mouth. When Frank loses his job because Mr. Hannon can no longer work, Mrs. Hannon adds simply, "School. That's your job."

Unlike his own aunt and grandmother, who show nothing but disdain for the McCourt children, Mr. Hannon believes in Frank's potential. When Mrs. Hannon tells him Mr. Hannon feels like a father to Frank and Frank a son to him, Frank cries, because on the one hand, he feels compassion for the old man's desire for a son, and on the other, because the old man's love is in stark contrast to his own father's lack of support and serious parental guidance.

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