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Angela's Ashes | Study Guide

Frank McCourt

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Angela's Ashes | Characters

Character Description
Frank McCourt Growing up in poverty, firstborn Frank McCourt (also called Frankie and Francis, his real name) does what he can to help his mother feed and care for his younger brothers. Smart and hardworking, he never gives up hope for a better future. Read More
Angela McCourt A strong and determined albeit imperfect woman who endures hardship and humiliation while raising her children, Angela Sheehan McCourt is a devoted mother trapped in a desperate situation with few choices. Read More
Malachy McCourt Sr. An irresponsible alcoholic, Malachy McCourt Sr. is at heart a kind and intelligent, but weak, man who never rises to the challenge of providing for a family; eventually he disappears from their lives. Read More
Nellie Ahearn Nellie Ahearn is the charwoman at Leamy's National School and hands out food to the children.
Miss Barry Miss Barry works at the post office with Mrs. O'Connell and supervises Frank as a telegram boy. Like Mrs. O'Connell, she shames him when he decides not to take the exam.
Mr. Benson One of Frank's teachers in elementary school, Mr. Benson uses corporal punishment to discourage questions and curiosity.
Cyril Benson Cyril Benson is the star pupil in Mrs. O'Connor's Irish dancing class. He may or may not be related to Mr. Benson the teacher.
Biddy Biddy is the young woman at the St. Vincent de Paul Society who sneezes from snuff, sympathizes with Angela, and compliments Malachy Jr.'s good looks.
Tim Boyle From Mayo, fellow Irishman Tim Boyle is the man in the boat in Poughkeepsie, New York, who invites Frank and others to a party.
Joey Cacciamani Joey Cacciamani runs the Brooklyn speakeasy where Delia and Philomena inform Malachy Sr. that Angela is pregnant and he must marry her.
Dr. Campbell Red-haired and always smiling, Dr. Campbell is one of the doctors at the Fever Hospital.
Billy Campbell Billy Campbell is a friend of Frank's who prays with him and Mickey for Brenda Spellacy to live until after school starts. He does not appear to be related to Dr. Campbell.
Stephen Carey The sacristan of St. Joseph's Church, Stephen Carey refuses to let Frank serve as an altar boy.
Theresa Carmody Theresa Carmody, a rich girl sick with consumption, or tuberculosis, is Frank's first love and sexual partner. When she dies, Frank worries their premarital sex might have condemned her soul. Theresa is one part of Frankie's life that is hopeful. She is young and beautiful and willing, and she shows him what love and its fulfillment can offer. Her death helps motivate him to leave Ireland, showing him that life there will always be tainted.
Mrs. Clohessy Despite their horrendous living situation, Mrs. Clohessy, Paddy's mother, is kind to Frank, offering him tea and bread when he is afraid to go home because he skipped school.
Mr. Clohessy When he was young, Dennis Clohessy, Paddy's father, used to go to dances with Angela. Too ill to take care of his family, he eventually recovers, goes to work in England with his son, and sends back enough to support the family. He thus serves as a foil to Malachy Sr.
Paddy Clohessy One of Frank's schoolmates, Paddy Clohessy and his family live in squalor. Out of compassion Frank once offers him the single raisin he finds in his muffin. As an adult, Paddy goes to England and sends money home.
Mr. Coffey One of the officials at the Dispensary, Mr. Coffey likes to flirt with women and decides what benefits they will receive.
Declan Collopy The prefect of a section of the Arch Confraternity, Declan Collopy establishes strict rules of attendance. He hopes to make connections and become a linoleum salesman.
Timothy Creagh Timothy Creagh is an old man at the Dispensary waiting to see a doctor.
Gertrude Daly Mrs. Gertrude Daly is an old woman to whom Frank delivers telegrams.
Guard Dennehy Guard Dennehy calls Aunt Aggie for help when Angela is sick with pneumonia.
Mr. Dimino Mr. Dimino, the Italian grocer in Brooklyn, gives Frank some food during his mother's depression after the infant Margaret's death.
Mrs. Dooley Mrs. Dooley, Peter's (Quasimodo's) mother, informs Angela that Frank was among the boys caught spying on her daughters.
Peter Dooley Called Quasimodo, after the character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Peter Dooley is a physically deformed boy, older than Frank, with nine sisters and a cultivated British accent; he dreams of becoming a BBC newscaster but dies young.
Mr. Downes A neighbor of the McCourts in Limerick, Mr. Downes works in England and brings home news of Malachy Sr.'s drunken behavior there.
Eamon Eamon is one of the boys who work at Eason and Sons.
Brigid Finucane Mrs. Brigid Finucane has lent money to many people in Limerick and employs Frank to write her collection letters. When she dies, Frank steals some of her money, earmarked for the church, and throws her ledger into the river. Mrs. Finucane serves as an important step in Frank's maturation process. Through her, he learns that he can use his education to make money. But he also learns through her that making money has a dark side, particularly when it comes from the exploitation of your neighbors. Finally, she helps him make an important distinction between religion and spirituality: her deep religious feeling never manifested itself in charity for her neighbors. This realization helps Frank reconcile some of the guilt he feels about religion and sin in his own life.
Philomena MacNamara Flynn Philomena MacNamara Flynn is Angela's cousin who, together with her sister Delia, talks pregnant Angela and Malachy into marrying. They also contact Angela's mother to request fare for the McCourts to return to Ireland.
Tommy Flynn Tommy Flynn is Philomena's Brooklyn-born husband and Frank's godfather—by default because his chosen godfather was drunk.
Delia MacNamara Fortune Delia MacNamara Fortune is Angela's cousin who, together with her sister Philomena, talks pregnant Angela and Malachy into marrying. They also contact Angela's mother to request fare for the McCourts to return to Ireland.
Jimmy Fortune Jimmy Fortune is Delia's Irish husband who works steadily.
Frieda At a party in Poughkeepsie, New York, Frieda is a married woman who seduces Frank; he feels no guilt despite the presence of a priest.
Bill Galvin Bill Galvin is a Protestant lodger at Grandma Sheehan's house. He punishes Frank for eating the lunch Frank was to deliver to him.
Father Gorey Father Gorey is the priest in charge of the Arch Confraternity of the Holy Family.
Laman Griffin Laman Griffin is Angela's cousin and briefly becomes her lover, most likely in exchange for shelter, when she and her children are evicted from the house in the lanes. Frank fights with him when he does not allow Frank to use his bike as promised. Frank has many male authority figures and role models in his life, some beneficent and some not. He manages most of them with equanimity. He even treats his father with a certain amount of love and respect. But with Griffin he recognizes a foe, and he stands up for his own rights and his mother's dignity.
Gerry Halvey A messenger at Eason and Son, Gerry Halvey delivers small orders on his bicycle and leaves for London with his girlfriend soon after Frank begins work.
Bridey Hannon Mrs. Bridey Hannon is Angela's friend, neighbor, and confidante. They spend many afternoons smoking and commiserating by the fire.
John Hannon Mr. John Hannon, Bridey's husband, gives Frank his first real job delivering coal. When the job becomes a danger to Frank's health, Mr. Hannon encourages Frank to focus on school so he can find a better job in the future.
Willie Harold A schoolmate of Frank's, Willie Harold confesses to having looked at his sister's naked body. He later becomes Frank's co-worker at Eason's.
Mr. Harrington The refined English widower of a Limerick woman, Mr. Harrington complains to the post office about Frank's behavior—which he himself insisted on—and nearly gets him fired.
Paddy Hartigan One of Frank's schoolmates, Paddy Hartigan confesses to having stolen 10 shillings from his aunt's purse.
Heffernan A big boy at Leamy's National School, Heffernan bullies Frank and causes trouble for him on his first day there.
Charlie Heggarty Charlie Heggarty is the man in Dublin who refuses to compensate Malachy Sr. for service in the IRA.
Mr. Hutchinson Mr. Hutchinson is the news agent who objects when Mr. McCaffery instructs his workers to tear out the page containing a contraception advertisement in every copy of a weekly magazine.
Mr. Kane One of the officials at the Dispensary, Mr. Kane likes to flirt with women and decides what benefits they will receive.
Aunt Aggie Keating Aunt Aggie (Agnes) Sheehan Keating is Angela's surly sister who has no children of her own. She resents Angela's family, perhaps out of jealousy or anger that her sister married an outsider from the North, but she takes care of the boys when Angela is sick and likely borrows money to buy Frank new clothes for his job at the post office.
Uncle Pa Keating Aunt Aggie's quirky husband, Pa Keating takes on a father's role when he buys Frank the traditional first pint of beer. He is kind and encourages Frank's dream to go to America.
Mrs. Leibowitz Freddie's mother and the McCourts' New York neighbor, Mrs. Leibowitz takes care of the McCourt children when Angela falls into a deep depression after Margaret's death.
Freddie Leibowitz Seven-year-old Freddie Leibowitz is Frank and Malachy Jr.'s friend in New York.
Mr. MacAdorey Mr. MacAdorey is Minnie MacAdorey's husband and a New York neighbor who is Malachy Sr.'s friend.
Minnie MacAdorey Mrs. Minnie MacAdorey is a New York neighbor who helps the McCourts when Angela falls into a deep depression after Margaret's death.
Toby Mackey Toby Mackey is one of the boys who deliver telegrams with Frank.
Patricia Madigan Patricia Madigan is the girl in the hospital room next to Frank's; she introduces him to literature.
Mr. McCaffrey Mr. McCaffrey is Frank's boss at Eason and Son, the newspaper and magazine delivery company. He encourages Frank to work hard so he can get out of the lanes.
Alphie McCourt Alphie (Alphonsus) McCourt is Frank's youngest brother. After his birth Angela decides not have more children.
Eugene McCourt Eugene McCourt is one of Frank's twin brothers. Devastated after his twin's death, Eugene searches for him everywhere and dies six months later.
Grandma McCourt Grandma McCourt and her husband welcome their son, Malachy, and his family in their home for one night. She offers them a good meal but seems suspicious of Americans in her home.
Grandpa McCourt Grandpa McCourt and his wife welcome their son, Malachy, and his family in their home for one night. He offers bus fare to Dublin and suggests Malachy ask for a pension from the IRA.
Malachy McCourt Jr. Charming, outgoing, responsible Malachy McCourt Jr. is Frank's younger brother. Only a year apart in age, the two are very close, working together to provide for the family.
Margaret McCourt Margaret McCourt is Angela and Malachy Sr.'s long-awaited baby girl whose death at seven weeks causes Angela to fall into a deep depression and Malachy Sr. to go on a drinking spree. Her death also is the impetus for the family's return to Ireland.
Michael McCourt Michael is Frank's little brother whose empathy shows in his love for stray animals and old people. He reveals his strength of character and courage when he holds a wake over the corpse of a beloved horse and protects it from careless movers.
Oliver McCourt Still a toddler, Oliver McCourt, one of Frank's twin brothers, dies of pneumonia.
Mrs. McGrath Mrs. McGrath is the Limerick grocer whose honesty in weights and measures has been questioned.
Mikey Molloy Mikey Molloy, an older epileptic boy who loves reading, particularly adult material inappropriate for his age, is the self-proclaimed resource for all things relating to girls.
Nora Molloy Overwhelmed by her husband's alcoholism and the demands of raising her children by herself, Nora Molloy periodically checks herself into the mental hospital, as if to get away for some well-deserved rest.
Peter Molloy Peter Molloy, Mikey's father and Nora's husband, is an alcoholic who wins every drinking game at the pub, driving his wife insane. As time passes, he stops drinking.
Brother Murray The superior of the Christian Brothers school, Brother Murray refuses Frank admission and closes the door in his and Angela's faces.
Mrs. O'Connell Mrs. O'Connell works at the post office with Miss Barry, supervising the telegram boys. Upset because Frank decides not to take the post office exam, she accuses him of arrogance.
Kathleen O'Connell Kathleen O'Connell is a Limerick grocer who lets Angela buy food on credit.
Mrs. O'Connor Mrs. O'Connor teaches Irish dancing in Limerick; seven-year-old Frank attends her class but not for long.
Mr. O'Dea A teacher at Leamy's National School, Mr. O'Dea is upset that Mr. O'Neill teaches Euclid, although that is his subject; at first he holds Frank back in fifth grade after his hospital stay but then advocates for his advancement.
Mr. O'Halloran An admirer of things American and a teacher who encourages questions, Mr. Thomas O'Halloran is the school's headmaster and Frank's teacher in his final school year. He supports Frank's desire to learn, encourages him to make up his own mind, and go to America where he can escape the fate of a dead-end job.
Nurse O'Halloran Eager to get to a party, Nurse O'Halloran is the impatient midwife who assists at the birth of Angela Sheehan McCourt on New Year's Eve in Limerick.
Mr. O'Neill Frank's geometry teacher, Mr. O'Neill peels his apple in front of his students, offering the skin as a prize to the student who answers the hardest question correctly.
Miss O'Riordan Limerick librarian Miss O'Riordan allows Frank to read about the lives of saints for hours. When she notices he is also reading a book on sexual matters, she throws him out of the library.
Peter Peter is one of the boys who work at Eason and Son.
Priest on the boat The priest from Limerick, who lives in the United States, tells Frank homesickness never goes away.
Priests Several priests represent the Catholic Church with varying degrees of insistence on ritual and dogma even in the face of poverty and distress. One priest warns of the dangers of books and sexual transgression; another reacts with amusement to Frank's worries when vomiting the body of Christ; another offers sincere forgiveness when Frank admits to stealing out of hunger.
Mrs. Purcell Mrs. Purcell listens to American jazz and Shakespeare on the radio and allows Frank to listen with her.
Brendan Quigley Brendan (Question) Quigley is called "Question" because he is curious and asks many questions, drawing the scorn of his teachers.
Mr. Quinlivan Opposed to smoking, Mr. Quinlivan works for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Sister Rita Sister Rita is a nun who attends to Frank at the Fever Hospital.
Mr. Scallan Mr. Scallan is the headmaster at Leamy's National School in Limerick.
Seamus Seamus is the janitor at the hospital who carries books between Frank and Patricia. When Patricia dies, Seamus learns and recites the poem Patricia couldn't finish teaching to Frank.
Sergeant The sergeant cares Frank and his family at the police station in Dublin, allowing them to sleep on the floor and giving them some food and blankets.
Sergeant's wife The sergeant's gray-haired wife arrives with food for the family and cigarettes for Malachy Sr. She informs them of the money collected for their bus fare.
Galway Jane Sheehan Tom Sheehan's wife, Galway Jane Sheehan is called "Galway" because that is where she is from; the Sheehans don't like her because she is not local and is dark and looks Spanish. None of the Sheehans talk to her and her husband.
Grandma Sheehan Grandma Margaret Sheehan, Angela's mother, disapproves of Angela's choice of a husband and is vocal about her opinion, making the McCourt boys feel uncomfortable around her. However, she always helps when Angela has nowhere else to turn.
Uncle Pat Sheehan Dropped on his head as an infant, Angela's brother Pat Sheehan—called The Abbot or Ab—is mentally challenged and earns a living by delivering newspapers. Very frugal, he lives in Grandma Sheehan's house, where Frank goes to live after leaving Laman Griffin's.
Uncle Tom Sheehan No one in the family talks to Uncle Tom Sheehan, Angela's brother, nor do they talk to his family.
Fintan Slattery In somewhat better financial circumstances than his classmates and outwardly religious, Fintan Slattery wins the apple peel from Mr. O'Neill and shares it with his friends. Yet when he invites them to lunch at his house, he does not share.
Mr. Sliney Old and bedridden, Mr. Sliney is the man whom Angela is paid to take care of while his daughters work. He served in India with Mr. Timoney.
Mickey Spellacy Mickey Spellacy is a schoolmate who has lost several family members to consumption. He enjoys a few days off from school at every death. When his sister falls ill during the summer, he hopes she will not die before the school year begins in the fall.
Mrs. Spillane Mrs. Spillane, to whom Frank delivers telegrams, receives minimal support from her husband in England and has handicapped four-year-old twins.
Mr. Timoney A customer to whom Frank delivers telegrams and the first adult to take an interest in Frank's desire to learn, Mr. Timoney, who served in India, pays Frank to read "A Modest Proposal" to him.
Dr. Troy Dr. Troy is the Limerick physician whom the McCourts use and trust.
Wireless officer The wireless officer attends the party in Poughkeepsie after the ship lands; he says to Frank, "Isn't this a great country? Ending the book, Frank responds, "'Tis"
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