Angela's Ashes: Character Profiles
Aunt Aggie is Angela’s sister in Limerick, who begrudges the family all their needs upon returning to Ireland penniless. She blames Malachy for not being able to get a job but takes out her anger on the children as well, speaking sharply to them should they request luxuries such as sugar for their tea.
Cyril Benson is a champion Irish dancer, a boy held in high esteem by the residents of Limerick for earning some extra income for his mother by dancing traditionally. Frank has no desire to become a dancer, and in fact feels disgraced to attend classes on Saturdays until he decides to instead spend the money on the cinema and sweets, for which he loses a tooth in a toffee and is discovered.
Declan Callopy is the prefect of the St. Finbar’s section of the Arch Confraternity. He tells Frank and the other boys under his leadership that absences will not be tolerated, as he is looking to earn favors in church and one day open his own linoleum shop.
Theresa Carmody is the teenage daughter of a wealthy family, who opens the door to receive a telegram and is responsible for Frank losing his virginity. His peers have warned him that she has the consumption (tuberculosis) and thus is eager to become sexually active, and despite the risk to his health Frank becomes enamored of her and grieves for her death.
Paddy Clohessy is a boy in Frank’s school who comes barefoot and in many ways is worse off than the McCourt children. Frank feels sorry for the boy, whose head is shaved to prevent lice and whose nose is always running, and gives him the one raisin he finds in his bun, for which the other boys tease him. His father once danced with Angela Sheehan, and as he suffers from the consumption he fondly remembers their youth. Patrick and his father join many of their countrymen in England to make decent wages during the war.
Peter “Quasimodo” Dooley
Peter “Quasimodo” Dooley is a hunchback child Frank befriends and pities. His greatest ambition is to be an announcer on the BBC, and he practices proper English diction with great care although he dies of consumption before realizing his dream.
Brigid Finucane is an elderly and illiterate recipient of a telegram fifteen-year-old Frank delivers, who pays him to write menacing letters to her debtors. She is pleased when his threats result in repayment, but Frank is ashamed to force poor people, many of them neighbors and friends of his family, to pay what they owe at great expense to their hungry children, and never tells his mother about the extra income.
Bill Galvin is a Protestant who lives with Frank’s grandmother and for a while Frank is sent with his lunch pail to earn an extra sixpence. However, hunger gets the better of him and he cannot resist sampling the contents, and as punishment for eating the whole lunch he must deliver it without pay and return the empty pail after watching the boarder devour its contents without offering up a morsel.
Laman Griffin is a relation of Angela Sheehan’s who is told by her mother to put the family up when they are evicted from the lane. Laman gruntingly moves to the loft, giving the two beds to the family, but requires Angela and, at times, Frank, to empty his chamber pot. He also sleeps with Angela, to Frank’s disgust, and when she does not stick up for her son who has worked for three weeks to earn the privilege of borrowing Laman’s bicycle, Frank leaves the house even before starting work as a telegram delivery boy.
Bridey Hannon is Angela’s neighbor in Limerick, who comes over to gossip by the fire and smoke cigarettes when Malachy is out. Her father temporarily employs Frank to make coal deliveries, as his legs are bad and he can’t get down from the cart easily.
Pa Keating is Aggie’s husband, who was gassed in the war and is perpetually black from working with gas back in Limerick. He enjoys his beer but seems also to recognize limits, and on Christmas is appalled to find Frank and Malachy scrounging for coal. He takes them to the pub to be given some proper pieces to heat the pig’s head that will be their dinner.
Freddie Leibowitz is the friend and neighbor of Frank and Malachy on Classon Avenue in Brooklyn. His family is Jewish and speaks oddly, and when Margaret dies his mother brings pea and lentil soup.
Patricia Madigan is a fourteen-year-old diphtheria patient in the same hospital Frank is admitted to with typhoid when he is ten. She shares a book with him on an English history and teaches him several poems, including The Highwayman and The Owl and the Pussycat, before dying. Frank feels guilty for her death, and remains extremely grateful for her companionship and her books.
Mikey Malloy is a cross-eyed boy older than Frank who lives nearby and tells him dirty things, saying that due to his fits he never became a Catholic and thus it doesn’t matter.
Nora Malloy is the mother of five children, including Mikey, who periodically enters the lunatic asylum when her husband spends the dole drinking. He is known as a champion pint drinker, and when she can’t take anymore of her life, she goes into a baking frenzy attempting to ensure her children won’t starve while she is away.
Mr. McCaffrey is the manager of Eason and Son, Ltd. He employs Frank as a delivery boy for such publications as The Irish Times, an English newspaper. He has strong Catholic convictions, and after a delivery of John O’London’s Weekly, he tells Frank, Eamon and Peter they must bring back every page 16, which includes references to birth control. He is satisfied to watch the pages burn, never learning the boys are reselling the pages for a profit.
Alphonsus McCourt, or Alphie, is the youngest child of Angela and Malachy. He is born in Limerick after three siblings have died, and his mother declares he is the last she will bear. Shortly after his birth, his father goes to England for work, and Frank becomes a primary caretaker of the baby, pushing him in the pram and keeping him fed and clean.
Angela McCourt is Frank’s mother and the namesake of his autobiography, which he dedicates to his brothers but acknowledges is an exaltation of women, who, like his saintly mother, endure all sorts of hardships in the interest of giving their children a better life. Despite poverty, illness, alcoholism, rain, cold and many children to raise on limited funds without much in the way of family or community resources, Angela manages to provide her sons with love and encouragement even in the toughest of times in both New York and her native Limerick.
Eugene McCourt is Frank’s younger brother and the twin of Oliver. He dies when he is only two, six months after his twin brother, having been on the look-out for him since his death.
Frank McCourt is the author and protagonist of the autobiography, who shares his memories of a childhood of poverty in New York and Limerick, the eldest son of an alcoholic father and determined mother who survive three of their children and raise four boys despite the obstacles of hunger and illness. At times Frankie and at others Francis, Frank consistently voices the perspective of a child perplexed by the injustices of the world yet clever enough to find creative means to feed himself and his family and to overcome.
Malachy McCourt is Frank’s father, originally from Northern Ireland and possessing an accent and “strange manner” attributed to being from the northern part of the island. This also makes it harder for him to get a job in Limerick. His drinking problem further contributes to the difficulty of finding and keeping paid employment, and although his children love his stories, Frank and then all of them recognize his alcoholism endangers their well-being. He moves to England during the war but fails to send telegrams to support the family, instead drinking any earnings abroad just as he always has.
Malachy McCourt Jr.
Malachy McCourt Jr is Frank’s younger brother by one year, named for his father who was unintelligible in giving his first son’s name, therefore recorded only as “male.” Frank at times resents being named for St. Francis of Assisi and begrudges his brother’s blond hair and blue eyes and beguiling smile, instead possessing his father’s “odd manner” and off-putting demeanor even as a child. Malachy’s winsome personality endears him to family and strangers alike, but he struggles in adolescence to find a place for himself and returns from the army band to Limerick where he works in a stockroom of auto parts.
Margaret McCourt is the first daughter in the family, who is born and dies in Brooklyn before even being baptized. She is beloved by her parents and all others for her beauty and sweetness, but her health was never good and her little body is taken away by her father and supposedly sold for scientific experiments, the money from which he spends drinking.
Michael McCourt is born in Limerick, after three children have been lost, and his difference in age with Frank and Malachy make his early years somewhat lonely. He is too young to play with them, too much older than the baby Alphie to relate to him. When Frank leaves Laman Griffin’s, Michael finds him at Uncle Pat’s at first to ask him to come home, and then to spend time with his responsible oldest brother.
Oliver McCourt and his twin Eugene are born in Brooklyn, and die in Limerick where the family remains destitute. Oliver’s sickness is blamed on the dampness of the River Shannon. He is buried in Limerick where his father is offered and accepts free drinks for his troubles.
Kathleen O’Connell is a grocer who agrees to give the McCourts food on credit, even though they rarely can afford to pay for the food they need to survive.
Mrs. O’Connell employs Frank as a telegram delivery boy, and resents the fact that he doesn’t take the exam.
Mr. O’Dea is Frank’s teacher at school, who tortures and threatens him for over a year, holding him back in fifth grade. He assigns him a composition about Jesus Christ in Limerick, and when Frank reads it aloud he is promoted to the sixth class despite the time he lost in the hospital with typhoid.
Brendan “Question” Quigley
Brendan “Question” Quigley is a classmate of Frank’s who is reprimanded and nicknamed for asking so many questions. He invites Frank to join the boys’ division of the Arch Confraternity, hardly a choice in a community where membership is mandatory and absences are punished severely by the boys themselves. He moves to England during the war.
Seamus is the porter at the hospital where Frank stays due to having typhoid. Seamus enables Frank to befriend the young diphtheria patient in the next room, and despite his illiteracy memorizes the poem The Highwayman to later share with Frank.
Pat Sheehan is Angela’s brother, who was dropped on his head as a child and is called “the Abbott.” He lives with his mother and sells newspapers, his only pleasure being to single-handedly drink his stout.
Mr. Timoney is an elderly man who pays Frank to read Gulliver’s Travels to him. He is a Buddhist, and, largely due to be considered a threat to Catholics, is locked up after laughing when his dog Macushla bites several people—a postman, a milkman, and a passing man.