A Brief Biography
"It is lovely to know that the world can't interfere with the inside of your mind."
Comparison to the 1700s
If I had the abilities which McCourt had, lived in the 1700s, and lived in a situation relative to my current lifestyle, I would have used my skills to write a book which exposed the miserable lives of the poor, either in America or in Ireland, depending on my experiences. If I lived in a situation similar to how I live today, I would have had at least some influence over society, at least enough to where a book I had written would have been noticed. McCourt had an amazing ability to make the reader empathize with the character, and I would use this ability to hopefully influence wealthier readers to connect with those living in poverty. Although this would not have been a panacea for poverty, it could have helped with starting a cause for alleviating poverty at the time.
Parallels between the 1930s-40s and who Frank McCourt became
- Frank McCourt was raised during the Great Depression, and often had to fend for himself. This fight to survive and get ahead can be seen through the way he talked his way into college. He was not at all qualified, but he used his cunning to convince the admissions department to accept him.
- The Catholic Church was a dominating influence in Ireland when McCourt was raised. It both shunned and comforted McCourt in his times of need, and the stories of it's saints were influential in McCourt's early years. The stories of these saints, many of whom stayed strong in times of immense difficulty, led Frank on the path to perseverance and mental toughness. Oftentimes, it was only the refuge of his mind which carried McCourt through the trying times in his life.
Summation of "Frank McCourt and the American Memoir."
Jennifer Schuessler asserts that although memoirs have recently come under fire for inaccuracies and other controversies, Frank McCourt and his memoir Angela's Ashes represent how the line between memoirs and narratives is always blurred, despite the innocence of the book. Initially, Schuessler discusses the controversy regarding James Frey's memoir and the alleged fabrications which it contains, contrasting it with McCourt's memoir, which captivated readers of every variety. She insists that although the memoir genre has come under fire, it still remains the most dominant type of contemporary literature, as demonstrated by the abundance of memoirs, many quite ridiculous, in book stores. Scuessler contrasts the ridiculousness of these memoirs with those that focus on childhood, which she asserts is the center of the genre. Using the example of Tobias Wolfe, who she maintains is the first to write a memoir about one's self, Schuessler describes the memoir boom and how it gave authors the ability to write a book based in non fiction with room for some stretching of the truth as well. She continues, showing that memoirs (participial phrase) and Angela's Ashes in particular were able to truly capture the empathy and understanding of readers. Despite this, however, she asserts that Angela's Ashes had its critics too (periodic sentence). Readers, especially Irish readers, she asserts, viewed the novel as over dramatizing Limerick and its poverty. Finally, she mentions that the line between novels and memoirs will always be blurred, as some fiction will inevitable seep into memoirs. Despite this, Schuessler shows that even McCourt began to be frustrated with the genre, as his later memoirs forced him to change names and details in order to avoid angering people. Ultimately, Schuessler shows through an essay written by McCourt that even though he is constrained, he also has more freedom to spin things as he wants rather than absolute truth, demonstrating the fine line between fiction and memoir.
- Poverty-the McCourts live in desperate poverty and the weight which it has on Frank and the family is a major theme of the book.
- The twofaced Catholic Church- the church dominates Irish life, and although it turns away Frank many times, the priests also help Frank learn to forgive himself in addition to advising him. The saints, such as Saint Francis, also bring Frank a source of hope.
- America-America is the goal Frank works towards, and is the constant source of hope throughout the memoir. He will work hard and live a respectable life there, in order to bring his family out of poverty.
- The English and the class system-the English are blamed for everything wrong with Ireland. They imposed a class system, a theme of the novel which serves as a reminder of the constant struggle the McCourts face in addition to poverty.
Reflection of the 1990s and McCourt's Life at the Time
Perception in the 1930s
-Coincidentally, I was familiar with much of the diction used thanks to my grandparents, who are from Ireland, and my dad, who also uses Irish phrases on occasion. One phrase which both he and McCourt's teachers are fond of is "omadhaun," which means fool, or idiot. Luckily for me, it is used lightheartedly by my dad, whereas McCourt's teachers used it in a much harsher manner.
How Does McCourt's Writing Style Compare to Other Writers?
When the writing style of McCourt is compared to that of Nathaniel Hawethorne, one finds that it is drastically different. Hawethorne, especially in The Scarlet Letter, makes heavy use of symbolism, whereas McCourt is very candid in his writing. McCourt explicitly states the points he makes, and they usually relate directly to his life. However, Hawethorne relies on symbolism and narrative to make his points, which makes his style much different than that of McCourt.
Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, also has a style which is much different than Frank McCourt's. Miller relies almost entirely on dialogue and fictional characters in his play whereas McCourt omits quotations entirely and his memoir is rooted in slightly embellished truth. However, the writing style of Miller is at least slightly more similar to McCourt's style than McCourt's style is to that of Hawethorne's, as both Miller and McCourt based their writings on truth, whereas Hawethorne's writing is reflective of a time period as a whole.
"A Writer Risen From the Ashes." Www.achievement.org. Academy of Achievement, 29 July
2009. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
"Frank McCourt Obituary." Legacy.com. Legacy.com, 2009. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.
McCourt, Frank. Angela's Ashes. New York: Scribner, 2003. Print.
Russell, Tony, Allen Brizee, and Elizabeth Angeli. “MLA Formatting and Style Guide.” The
Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 4 Apr. 2010. 22 Mar. 2015
Scheussler, Jennifer. "Frank McCourt and the American Memoir." www.nytimes.com. The
New York Times, 25 July 2009. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
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