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Frank McCourts Angelas Ashes

Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes is a powerful and emotional memoir of his life from childhood through early adulthood. This book is a wonderfully inspired piece of work that emotionally attaches the reader through McCourt’s life experiences. Its effectiveness is primarily due to McCourt’s evolving ‘innocent-eye’ narrative technique. He allows the reader to experience his own life in a changeable form. Through this unique story telling technique, the reader is able to watch Frank grow and evolve. Between the ages of four, eleven and fourteen changes in his writing can be easily identified. It is evident that the written text, McCourt’s thoughts, and the resultant relationship with the reader evolve and become more complex during this part of his life.

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When describing his experiences at the age of four, McCourt’s writing style is very much like a story told from a child’s perspective. He uses simple dialogue and a ‘tell it like it is’ approach: “We’re on the seesaw. Up, down, updown. Malachy goes up. I get off. Malachy goes down. Seesaw hits ground” (19). At this point, he demonstrated a basic, staccato-like sentence structure. McCourt presents information as if heard and interpreted by a child. On page38 Mrs. Leibowitz, a kind neighbour who lives in the same building as the McCourt family, says, “Nice Chewish name, have apiece of cake, eh? Why they give you a Chewish name, eh?” The reader knows that the word Jewish is spelled as it is heard and that this is typical of child interpretations.

Just as simple dialogue is used throughout the book, so are simple pattern thoughts. Children have a tangible stream of consciousness and often have a tendency to change subject matter quickly throughout a conversation: “They have their tea…uncle Pa Keating, who is my uncle because he’s married to my aunt Aggie, picks up Eugene” (87). The reader already knows from previous information that Pa Keating is the children’s uncle. Just as children often incorporate needless information into a conversation, McCourt does the same in his writing. The reader acquires an image that a real conversation is taking place.

Frank McCourt also shows the reader, through examples such as on page 16, that his thoughts as a child are quite simple. He tries to describe the anger he feels by stating “a blackness comes over me.” Because of his age, he…

…scriptive and has an involved sentence structure characteristic of a mature writer. His thoughts and his feelings are deeply profound. The relationship with the reader has changed extremely and is quite noticeable. In the beginning and parts of the middle of this book, the reader is ‘shown’, not described, a scenario where the result is often left to be interpreted. This is not so at the end of his memoir. Frank McCourt, instead of using a ‘show and tell’ narrative method, which applies in the beginning, is in a didactic mode where he explains everything in detail and there is nothing left for the reader to interpret. To conclude, there is an evolved Frank evidently noticed from the start through to the end.

As Frank McCourt grows and develops into an adult, so too does his writing. The written text, thoughts and the relationship with the reader indeed evolves and becomes more complex as Frank matures. Examples taken from the ages of four, eleven and fourteen show these noticeable differences. Through an evolving ‘innocent-eye’ narrative technique McCourt is able to establish a powerful emotion connection with the reader.

Bibliography:

Frank McCourt. Angela’s Ashes

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