During his childhood in both the United States and Limerick, Ireland, McCourt was faced with many challenges. He grew up poor in a large family with an alcoholic father that had the "odd manner" along with a northern Ireland accent that didn't let him land job anywhere. His father, Malachy, spends all the dole money at the pub and cannot provide for his family and it shows. The family loses many members due to malnutrition, starvation, and disease that inhabits almost ever square inch of the poor slums of Limerick.
Francis attends dance lessons so he can learn all the fine customs of his Irish heritage along with receiving his first Communion. Religion is repeatedly forced down his throat by his grandmother and community because it is really the only thing that they all have to hold onto in the hard times.
Throughout his childhood, Francis is told to die for something, whether its his dad asking him and his brothers if they'll die for Ireland or the priest at their church saying that the young ones should want nothing more than to die for the Faith. It frustrates him that everyone is asking him to die for something. Around the age of 11 he begins to try and be more of the man around the house since his father continues to drink all the dole at the local pubs.