Here you will find a Angela's Ashes summary (Frank McCourt's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.
P.S.: As an Amazon Associate, we earn money from purchases made through links in this page. But the summaries are totally free!
The account revolves around a boy, Frank, who shares the tale of his parents meeting in New York City. His mother, Angela, falls pregnant with him leading to their marriage. Angela finds it hard to feed her growing brood of boys as her husband, Malachy, squanders his earnings on liquor. The family is further strained by the death of Frank's beloved younger sister, Margaret, which plunges Angela into depression. In an attempt to escape their hardships, the family moves back to Ireland, where they encounter additional challenges: Angela miscarries, two of Frank's brothers die, and Malachy persists in his alcoholic habits. Frank recounts his impoverished childhood, fraught with deprivation yet also filled with humor and adventure. They are forced to move to the second level of their home due to flooding, symbolically leaving 'Ireland' (the damp bottom floor) for 'Italy' (the warm upper one). Despite Malachy's destructive alcoholism, he wins Frank's affection with captivating stories about Irish heroes and their neighbors. As Frank grows, Angela births two more sons, Michael and Alphonsus. School becomes a focal point in Frank's life, especially after a bout of typhoid fever lands him in the hospital where he discovers Shakespeare. His love for stories and his talent for storytelling catch his teacher's attention. As World War II breaks out, many fathers, including Malachy, leave for England, hoping to secure work and support their families. However, Malachy fails to send money back home. Frank, now working, dreams of saving enough to provide for his family. After eviction forces them to live with a relative, Angela enters a sexual relationship with their host, causing Frank great discomfort and exacerbating his guilt about his own sexual desires. Frank begins his own sexual journey with a young woman, Theresa, whose untimely death leaves him devastated. Having managed to save enough money, Frank finally leaves for New York, hopeful yet melancholic about leaving his homeland and family.
Frank shares the story of his "miserable Irish Catholic childhood," complete with a drunk father and an oppressed mother in a rain-soaked, disease-filled Limerick. He recounts how his parents, Angela and Malachy, met and married in New York before returning to Ireland with their four sons. His father, Malachy, had a troubled past in the north of Ireland involving a crime that led to a bounty on his head. He fled to America to avoid getting killed, and after years of drinking in the States and England, he settled in Belfast. Frank's mother, Angela, was raised in a Limerick slum and named after the New Year's midnight bells. Tragedy struck when her baby brother was dropped, resulting in his mental impairment. Angela eventually moved to America where she met Malachy, fresh out of jail for stealing a truckload of buttons. Angela's relatives, the McNamara sisters, pressured Malachy into marrying Angela after she got pregnant. Malachy tried to escape the marriage by moving to California, but squandered his train fare at the pub. The couple had four children - Frank, Malachy, and twins Eugene and Oliver. Frank fondly recalls his early years in New York, playing with Malachy, and listening to his father's tales and songs. But their father's constant drinking and job losses led to financial struggles, leaving Angela unable to feed her children. The birth of their daughter, Margaret, briefly sobered Malachy, but her untimely death led to Angela's depression and neglect. Despite their neighbors' best efforts, conditions didn't improve. The McNamara sisters were informed, leading to their request for funds from Angela's mother for the McCourts' return passage to Ireland. The chapter concludes with a young Frank witnessing his mother's seasickness and the fading view of the Statue of Liberty.
The McCourts reach Ireland and are met with a cold reception by Malachy’s family in Northern Ireland. Grandpa’s advice to Malachy is to request for financial aid from the IRA for his past service. The family heads to Dublin, where Malachy’s plea for his IRA pension claim is denied due to lack of proof. They end up spending the night at a police station, and the next day, funds are collected by the police to cover their train fare to Limerick. Upon reaching Limerick, Angela’s mother gives them another frosty welcome. Aunt Aggie, who is living with Grandma, assists the McCourts in finding a room. However, the room’s mattress is flea-infested. Later, Angela miscarries and ends up in the hospital. Malachy’s unemployment benefits are insufficient so Angela seeks assistance from a charity. Despite initial mistrust, Angela gains the women's respect after sharing her miscarriage story. She befriends a witty woman named Nora Molloy, who helps her navigate the grocery store. Tragedy strikes when Oliver, Frank’s younger brother, falls ill and passes away. The family spends time at Aunt Aggie’s house and returns home to the sad news. Frank’s father squanders his unemployment benefits on alcohol following Oliver's death. They move to a new room and Angela starts collecting Malachy’s unemployment benefits to curb his spending on drinks. Frank and Malachy begin attending school, which is described as a tough place where crying is not tolerated. Disaster occurs again when another of Frank's brothers, Eugene, dies of pneumonia. Angela is prescribed medication for her nerves while Malachy deals with his grief through alcohol. On the day of the funeral, Frank has to fetch his father from the pub and finds him drinking over Eugene’s coffin. After the funeral, Frank reflects on his brothers and imagines them in heaven.
Angela, prompted by painful memories of Eugene, shifts her family from Harstonge Street to Roden Lane where they find a shared lavatory serving eleven families. Malachy sustains an injury while hanging his Pope Leo XIII picture. The family's precarious financial state worsens as they must survive on a meager sixteen shillings weekly, due to lesser public aid after Eugene and Oliver's death. Malachy Sr. often disappears into the countryside searching for work, spending his earnings on alcohol. A fortnight before Christmas, their house floods, forcing the family to relocate upstairs, fondly referred to as "Italy" due to its warmth. Angela fails to secure Christmas meat, settling for a pig's head. Frank's peers mock them for their poverty, and Malachy Sr. deems carrying items through the streets beneath him. On Christmas morning, Malachy and Frank attend Mass and gather coal remnants for cooking. They receive a bag of actual coal from the South's pub landlord, thanks to Pa Keating, and endure further ridicule on their way home. Angela prepares a festive dinner from the pig's head. Angela gives birth to Michael, thought to be a gift from an angel on their seventh stair. Michael falls ill and is saved by Malachy Sr. Welfare society representatives arrive for an inspection. Angela's request for boots for her sons annoys Malachy Sr., who tries to repair their shoes with old tire pieces, earning the boys mockery at school. Their schoolmaster warns against further teasing. Frank converses with the imaginary "Angel on the Seventh Step," sharing his school-related grievances. His amused parents overhear his conversation. Frank then narrates about the local jobless men who spend their days idly after collecting the dole, while their wives manage the households. Frank attends Easter Mass and expresses his impatience with his lack of understanding of adult matters. His father reassures him that he'll understand when he's older. Malachy Sr. finds work at a cement factory, but disappoints the family by not returning home with his wages on payday. A familiar scene ensues as he returns home drunk, singing about dying for Ireland, leading to him losing his job and returning to public aid.
Mikey Molloy, an eleven-year-old neighborhood boy familiar with adult subjects, lives with his mother, Nora, who's periodically committed to the asylum due to her husband's alcoholism and its subsequent financial strain. Prior to her admissions, Nora bakes plenty of bread for her children, although it's uncertain whether this is due to her mania or her desire for peace. Frank is about to have his First Communion, a Catholic rite involving the consumption of a Communion wafer, which Mikey has never been able to do. Mikey tells Frank that this occasion will bring him money from neighbors, a trip to the movies, and candy. Mr. Benson, Frank's new schoolmaster, is an ardent Catholic who teaches the catechism, but doesn't appreciate being questioned. Among his students are the inquisitive Brendan "Question" Quigley and the destitute Paddy Clohessy. When Frank once discovered a raisin in his school pastry, he gave it to the hungry Paddy instead of his pleading classmates. While learning catechism, Frank and his friends gather under streetlights for their own readings. Mikey shares a crude story about Emer, the wife of Cuchulain, a legendary hero. Troubled by hearing the inappropriate tale, Frank seeks advice from an angelic presence and his father, both advising him to confess the sin. During his First Confession, Frank shares the story, amusing the priest who pardons him but warns about the potential dangers of books for kids. On the day of his First Communion, Frank struggles to swallow the Communion wafer and ends up vomiting his breakfast at his grandmother's house. His grandmother, worried about the religious implications, insists on taking him back to church for advice on cleaning the mess. The priest is amused but irritated when asked whether to use holy or ordinary water. Because of the incident, Frank misses the money collection ceremony and can't afford to go to the movies. Nevertheless, Mikey fakes a fit to distract the ticket man, allowing Frank to sneak into the cinema.
Frank discusses the deeply rooted prejudices in his community, like the disdain for families who, in the past, allied with the English or converted to Protestantism to escape starvation. These individuals, referred to as “soupers,” are despised for their perceived betrayal. In contrast to the non-communication among his kin, Frank's mother, Angela, engages in warm, open chats with her neighbor Bridey Hannon. In one such talk, Angela gets overly emotional reciting a poem about a Northern Ireland couple. Frank's father, Malachy, writes eloquently for the locals who admire his penmanship and command of language. When a Protestant man, Bill Galvin, moves into Frank's grandmother’s home, Frank is tasked with delivering Bill's lunch. Frank's hunger leads him to eat Bill’s food, and so he is made to provide the service unpaid for two weeks. Due to their smoking habits, Angela and Malachy need to replace their real teeth with dentures. In a humorous incident, Frank's younger brother gets their father's dentures stuck in his mouth and needs to go to the hospital. During this visit, a doctor determines that Frank needs his tonsils removed. Angela insists Frank take Irish dance classes. However, Frank feels embarrassed and spends his lesson money on movies and sweets instead. To hide his actions, he makes up dance moves at home. His deception is uncovered when his dance teacher informs his parents about his absenteeism, leading to a forced confession at church. Frank grows older with his father unable to hold a job due to his drinking problem. Angela shares her troubles with Bridey Hannon while they smoke cigarettes by the fireplace. Frank is made to join the Arch Confraternity of the Redemptorist Church in Limerick as a testament to their Catholic upbringing. However, regular attendance is mandatory or else they face the wrath of Father Gorey and bring shame upon their family. Despite the strict religious environment, Frank's father dreams of him becoming an altar boy and teaches him the Latin Mass. However, when they inquire at the church, they are swiftly turned away. Angela attributes this rejection to classism.
Frank is currently in the fourth form at school under Mr. O’Neill, who has a deep love for teaching geometry. This upsets Mr. O’Dea, the fifth-form master, who believes that geometry should be taught in the fifth form. The headmaster then instructs Mr. O’Neill to stop teaching the subject. Mr. O’Neill offers apple peels as rewards for answering challenging questions. One day, Fintan Slattery, a boy known for his sanctimonious behavior, wins the apple peel and shares it with Frank, Quigley, and Paddy Clohessy. The boys feel embarrassed due to their association with Fintan. He then invites Frank and Paddy to his house, enticing them with food. They enjoy milk and sandwiches with mustard at Fintan’s house, but are uncomfortable when Fintan accompanies them to the bathroom. A few days later, Fintan invites the boys to his house for lunch again. However, he eats his sandwich alone, leaving the boys hungry and upset. This leads them to skip school and steal food from a farm. When Quigley informs Frank that his parents are looking for him, a fearful Frank accompanies Paddy to his impoverished house. There, Paddy’s sick father lies in bed, coughing up green fluid. The following morning, Angela finds Frank with the school guard and expresses her worry. Angela and Mr. Clohessy reminisce about their past, and Angela cries for the sick man and her lost youth. Although Frank empathizes with Mr. Clohessy, he is relieved he’s not in trouble.
Malachy still squanders his welfare payments on drink, leading his sons, including three-year-old Michael, to ignore him on weekends after his binges. Frank's friend Mickey Spellacy has siblings succumbing to tuberculosis one by one. Their deaths earn Mickey time off school and sympathy from adults, which sparks envy among his peers. Mickey requests Frank and another boy, Billy Campbell, to pray that his sick sister survives until the school term, so he can enjoy a week off. Despite his sister's timely death, Frank and Billy are not invited to the wake. When Mickey himself succumbs to consumption without enjoying any school break, Frank feels a sense of satisfaction. Frank's grandmother persuades him to assist Uncle Pat in delivering newspapers, a job that proves strenuous and poorly paid. During his rounds, Frank meets Mr. Timoney, an intelligent yet eccentric elderly man to whom he reads for payment. Despite having a second job, Frank clashes with Declan Collopy for missing the Confraternity's Friday meetings. Frank's relationship with Mr. Timoney is short-lived as the old man is declared insane and admitted to City Home due to his unorthodox behavior. During summer, Angela gives birth to a boy named Alphonsus, a name Frank isn't fond of. Upon receiving a money order from Grandpa, Angela sends Malachy to cash it, with Frank and Malachy Jr. accompanying him to ensure he doesn't spend it on alcohol. However, Malachy tricks his sons, sends them home, and heads to the pub. While searching for their father, Frank steals a drunken man's meal and later confesses to a priest. The priest empathizes with Frank's plight, stating that he should be serving those he hears confess rather than punishing them. Upon locating his father, Frank is filled with anger, yet he recalls fond memories of his father. He goes home with Malachy, hoping for a change. But he knows his father's decision to squander money intended for a baby is a new low.
As a ten-year-old, Frank is set to have his Confirmation. Known as “Quasimodo”, Peter Dooley tempts Frank, Billy Campbell, and Mikey Molloy with a glimpse of his naked sisters for a shilling. Just before their Confirmation, they visit Peter’s home. Attempting to peek, Mikey falls from a drainpipe during a fit caused by masturbation. Quasimodo’s mother reprimands the boys and suggests that Frank attend Confession. However, Angela defends Frank, insisting he won’t miss his Confirmation over an "innocent gawk at the scrawny arse of Mona Dooley." She brings him home and makes him promise he didn’t see Mona undressed. The Confirmation proceeds, but Frank suffers an unending nosebleed afterward and falls ill. He’s diagnosed with typhoid fever by a home-visiting doctor, and hospitalized. His condition worsens, leading to him receiving the rites of Extreme Unction. However, the simple act of a doctor farting in his presence convinces Frank that he's not dying. His father's rare display of affection during a visit adds to his optimism. During his hospital stay, Frank meets Patricia Madigan, a diphtheria patient, and they make friends with Seamus, a hospital cleaner. Patricia lends Frank a history book introducing him to Shakespeare. They share a fondness for literature, but a nurse relocates Frank after catching them conversing, citing medical reasons. Patricia's death comes as a shock to Frank. Seamus helps Frank learn the ending of Patricia's favorite poem, “The Highwayman.” Frank spends the rest of his hospital stay reading books. He returns home after his eleventh birthday, greeted warmly by his neighbors. He's disheartened to repeat his school year but after writing an essay on Jesus growing up in Limerick, he's moved to the sixth grade. Frank’s father stories charm him despite his resentment for his drinking habit. In a conversation, Malachy mentions the historical oppression of Irish education by the English and his desire to work in America. The chapter concludes with a description of the unpleasant smells and infestations at the McCourts’ residence, and Frank's sorrow over the death of a neighborhood horse.
Angela McCourt declares she's finished bearing children, which means she's decided to abstain from sex, much to her husband Malachy's displeasure. As families around them grow wealthier due to the fathers joining the fight in WWII in England, Angela contemplates leaving to work there. This compels Malachy to depart for England to work in a munitions factory. As they send him off, Angela plans to lavish the boys with weekly eggs once the money from Malachy comes in. She dreams of using the future funds for a new home, electricity, garments, and food for the boys. To their disappointment, no money is sent by Malachy. When Angela learns the Meagher family is getting help from the Dispensary, she deems it a disgrace, viewing it as one step away from putting your kids in an orphanage and begging. Frank contracts a severe eye infection, which his grandmother attributes to his incessant reading. Angela takes him to the Dispensary, where the doctor diagnoses him with the worst case of conjunctivitis he's ever seen and sends him to the hospital. At the hospital, Frank encounters Seamus and Mr. Timoney. Mr. Timoney appears older and quieter, though he advises Frank to "read till they fall out of your head." Seamus leaves soon for work in an English factory. Upon Frank's return, he finds his father has succumbed to alcoholism, squandering his earnings at bars. With no other choice, Angela decides to swallow her pride and apply for public assistance at the Dispensary. There, a self-righteous official named Mr. Kane accuses her of seeking help undeservingly, further humiliating her.
The McCourt family relocates to a higher floor to avoid dampness and chilling cold. Angela falls ill, craving lemonade in her fevered state. Frank resorts to stealing two lemonade bottles from South’s pub and a bread loaf from a van nearby O’Connell’s grocery. He amuses his brothers by dramatizing the theft incidents, earning him the title 'outlaw' from Michael. Malachy likens Frank's actions to Robin Hood's deeds. The following day, Frank swipes a food box from a rich neighborhood, providing them with sufficient food but no fuel. The boys unsuccessfully seek help from well-off households, leading them to steal fuel from gardens. Soon, an officer shows up at their place to question about the boys' school absence. On his order, Frank fetches Grandma and Aunt Aggie, who summon the doctor. Angela is diagnosed with pneumonia and taken to the hospital, while the boys are sent to stay with Aggie. Despite Pa Keating's kindness and food offerings, Aggie mistreats the boys. Frank informs his father about Angela's hospitalisation in a letter. Malachy comes back to care for his sons, only to leave for England again just after Angela returns from the hospital. With only one paycheck coming home, Angela has to plea for funds from the Dispensary again. When Angela is seen begging for food outside a church, Frank's sorrow intensifies into despair. The sight of his mother as a “beggar” fills him with such shame that he cannot bear to look at her.
Frank, driven by the memory of his mother's red flapper dress, forms a football team with his brother and friend, naming it “The Red Hearts of Limerick". Discovering his parents' wedding certificate while repurposing the dress for the team's uniforms, he learns he was born only six months after their wedding, causing him to question the circumstances of his birth. Accompanying Mikey Molloy and his father to the pub for Mikey's sixteenth birthday, Frank is told by Mikey that his early birth makes him a bastard destined for Limbo. After learning about conception from Mikey, he lends Frank a penny for a prayer candle. However, instead of praying for his soul, Frank uses the coin to buy toffee. During the pub outing, Peter Molloy, a notorious drinker, decides to turn his life around starting with sobriety, driving his family to England. Frank's team wins a football match against a group of wealthy boys, with Frank scoring the winning goal, which he believes is a divine sign he's not condemned to Limbo. Frank starts working at the coal yard with his neighbor, Mr. Hannon, and enjoys the responsibility. Despite his classmates' envy, Frank's work is cut short when the coal dust aggravates his eyes. They worsen to the point that Angela doesn't permit him to work, despite Mr. Hannon's reliance on him due to worsening sores on his legs. When Mr. Hannon is hospitalized and told he can no longer work, Mrs. Hannon tells Frank he gave her husband the feeling of having a son, causing Frank to tear up.
Frank's father shows up for Christmas, insisting he's changed. He's late and brings a box of partly eaten chocolates. They feast on a sheep's head before he leaves again. Frank steers clear of the "respectable boys" on his way to school, convinced their futures are bright while his and his brothers' aren't. Angela, often unwell, stays home. She can't resist assisting penniless women who solicit her; similarly, Michael can't help but care for ill dogs or elderly men. However, they stop inviting strangers when an old man infests their home with lice. Frank finds solace from their destitution by listening to Mrs. Purcell's radio, where he hears Shakespeare and dreams of America. One chilly day, she lets him inside and feeds him bread with jelly. Angela can't afford rent for four weeks and in desperation, they burn part of a wall for warmth. Despite her warning, the boys damage a load-bearing beam when she's not home, causing the roof to cave in. Their landlord evicts them upon discovering the missing wall. They move in with Angela's cousin, Laman Griffin, an ex-Royal Navy officer. He's reliable but degrades Angela by having her clean his chamber pot. Frank is permitted to borrow books for himself when he visits the library to collect books for Laman. Abruptly, Frank reports the death of their Grandma from pneumonia, followed by Uncle Tom and his wife from consumption. Frank's brother Malachy leaves Limerick for the Army School of Music in Dublin.
Frank persuades Laman to lend him his bike for a school outing by offering daily errand services and chamber pot clearance. On a library visit, Frank becomes engrossed in a book on saint life and martyrdom, gifted by the librarian, Miss O’Riordan, mistaking his interest for religious fervour. Unsure of the meaning of "virgin", Frank's dictionary search leaves him perplexed. Impressed by Frank's intellect, his teacher, Mr. O’Halloran, insists he pursue further education rather than waste his abilities as a messenger boy. Despite his advice, Angela and Frank face rejection from the Christian Brothers school, causing Angela's annoyance. The post office supervisor proposes a telegram messenger role to Frank, which appeals to his desire to leave school. Mr. O’Halloran expresses his frustration over the system forcing bright students into lowly jobs, advising Frank to escape to America. Frank's attempt to join the Foreign Legion as a chaplain is thwarted by a doctor refusing him the required physical due to his age. Battling guilt over his own sexual exploration and his mother's relationship with Laman, Frank hits a roadblock when he forgets to clear Laman's chamber pot. In response, Laman withdraws his bike lending promise and lashes out at Frank. To escape this, Frank relocates to his Uncle Ab Sheehan's place.
Angela dispatches Michael to Ab Sheehan’s place to deliver Frank's meal. Michael desires his older brother's company and pleads with him to return. Although Frank declines, the sight of his younger brother walking away in tattered attire and worn-out shoes, fills him with guilt. He dreams of the day he can provide for Michael with his future post office job. Frank's days are filled with long strolls in the countryside. He carries the shame of his indulgence in self-gratification, a guilt that deepens when he succumbs to the act in an exposed location, "in full view of Ireland." When Uncle Ab withholds food, Frank resorts to stealing from affluent households. He rationalizes his actions believing that he is already doomed for his sins. Yet, he can't help but feel like a beggar, foraging for leftovers outside stores. Frank discovers a sex manual by Lin Yutang in the library, providing clarity about sexual intercourse. He remarks, “My father lied to me for years about the Angel on the Seventh Step.” The librarian, shocked by his reading choice, expels him. He later dozes off in a park, waking up to a group of bystanders watching his wet dream unfold. Anticipating his first day as a messenger boy, Frank washes his clothes at Ab’s house. He finds a loaf of bread Ab had hidden and eats a slice, washing it down with water to create a feeling of fullness. As his clothes dry, he wears his grandmother's old dress to keep warm. When his Aunt Aggie brings his intoxicated uncle home, she finds Frank in the dress. He explains his situation, asserting that he is staying with Ab until he can afford a house for his family, to which she agrees, commenting, “more than your father would do.”
Frank turns fourteen and is excited to start his job at the post office. He's teased about his worn-out clothes, prompting Aunt Aggie to buy him new attire and treating him to tea and a bun. He eventually starts his job the following week. As a temporary worker, he earns less than permanent staff and his employment will terminate when he turns sixteen. One of his early tasks includes delivering a telegram to Paddy Clohessy’s mother. Her home, once a haven of filth, now flourishes with new furniture, colorful clothing, and abundant food. Her change in fortune is attributed to Paddy and his father sending money home from England. She credits her survival to Hitler. Frank earns his first pound and takes his brother, Michael, out for a treat. He ponders on saving his earnings for his dream to visit America at twenty. He observes that only the poor, widows, and ministers' wives tip him for his services. Rich people, nuns, and priests don't. Regardless of risking his job, Frank assists the bedridden elderly by cashing their money orders and fetching groceries for them. When school season starts, Michael shifts to Frank's residence at Ab Sheehan’s house. Angela, their mother, visits her sons more frequently and gradually moves into Ab’s place. Malachy, Frank’s brother, returns from Dublin, reuniting the family. Despite giving most of his paycheck to Angela, Frank enjoys his job as it gives him the freedom to cycle around, and dream about his future. Frank's life takes a detour when he meets and falls for a sickly seventeen-year-old girl, Theresa Carmody, while delivering a telegram. Their relationship escalates quickly into a physical one, despite Theresa's illness. Unfortunately, Theresa ends up in the hospital and succumbs to her condition. Frank, consumed with guilt, fears that Theresa's soul might be damned due to their premarital sexual encounters. He turns to fasting, praying, and attending Mass, pleading for God's mercy on Theresa's soul.
Frank brings a sympathy note to a man called Mr. Harrington whose partner has died. The Englishman, who is intoxicated, belittles the Irish and makes Frank join him in his grief, coercing him into drinking sherry. Alone with the deceased woman while Mr. Harrington fetches more drink, Frank wonders if he can save her soul as she was a Protestant. He decides to baptize her with sherry but is discovered by Mr. Harrington who forces a ham sandwich into Frank's mouth. Frank throws up onto the rosebushes below the window and flees the scene by leaping into the bushes, resulting in his dismissal from his job. However, a priest's letter to the post office gets him reemployed. Frank's job involves delivering a telegram to a creditor called Mrs. Brigid Finucane. He strikes a deal to pen intimidating letters to her debtors in exchange for money. His use of complex words in these letters scares the debtors into repaying their debts. Some letter recipients are Frank's acquaintances, and his mother, Angela, expresses her disdain for the letter writer. Nonetheless, Frank justifies his actions with his determination to make it to America. Frank contemplates taking the test for a permanent position at the post office until Pa Keating paints an image of the monotonous life that would follow: a wife, five children, and ennui. Heeding Pa Keating's warning that this would result in spiritual death before turning thirty, Frank opts for a job distributing Protestant newspapers for Mr. McCaffrey. Frank's superior, Mrs. O’Connell, is disappointed and affronted when she hears that Frank decided against the post office exam, believing that he considers himself superior to the role of a postman.
As Frank's sixteenth birthday approaches, he visits the pub for his inaugural pint without his absent father, accompanied instead by Pa Keating. The men discuss the recent suicide of Hermann Goering and the atrocities of the concentration camps, while Frank becomes markedly intoxicated. Upon leaving the pub, he attempts confession but is dismissed due to his drunken state. He goes home, confronts Angela about her affair with Laman Griffin, and even slaps her in his drunken rage. The following day, while at church, Frank contemplates the inefficacy of his prayers to St. Francis of Assisi. Father Gregory, a compassionate priest, finds Frank in tears and offers him a chance to unburden himself. Frank candidly shares his grievances, revealing his struggles with family, loss, guilt, desire, and the sense of injustice bred by a world tolerant of concentration camps. Father Gregory absolves Frank, advising him to practice self-forgiveness. Frank commences employment at Easons Ltd. as a newspaper delivery boy for The Irish Times, working alongside Peter and Eamon. Frank also gets involved in the censorship of an article on contraception in John O’London’s Weekly, removing pages deemed unsuitable for Irish readership. He secretly keeps some copies and sells them to affluent Limerick residents, amassing nine pounds in the process. He saves most of the money for his American dream, bribes Peter to stay silent, and treats his family to a hearty meal. Angela finds employment in the household of Mr. Sliney, a former acquaintance of Mr. Timoney. Upon visiting his mother at work, Frank observes Angela's satisfaction with her employment in the opulent house. Meanwhile, Frank ascends to become the senior delivery boy, further nurturing his American aspirations. Malachy, Frank's brother, loses his job at a prestigious Catholic private school due to his cheerful demeanor. Soon after, he finds work at a coal-shoveling gas plant in England and anticipates joining Frank in America.
For three years, Frank works at Easons and writes letters for Mrs. Finucane. On the eve of his nineteenth birthday, Mrs. Finucane passes away, leading Frank to take some money from her belongings. Taking on the persona of Robin Hood, Frank tosses her ledger into the River Shannon, freeing her debtors from any further repayments. With his newfound wealth, Frank has enough funds to travel to America. He breaks the news to Angela, causing her to weep. Frank spends his last few days in his hometown, trying to take in as much of it as he possibly can. His impending departure from home invites melancholy, with many tearful evenings spent around the fire with his family. A farewell party is thrown in Frank's honor, with the attendance of Pa Keating and Aunt Aggie. As he boards the Irish Oak, Frank harbors a sentiment of regret, wishing he had chosen to stay back in Ireland to support his family. The priest from his hometown, now living in Los Angeles, consoles him. When his ship arrives in Manhattan, Frank is awe-struck by the city's resemblance to a film set. The ship is redirected to Albany, New York, and makes a stop at Poughkeepsie. Here, an Irish pilot invites Frank and company to an onshore party, where Frank meets a group of alluring women. He drinks and ends up sleeping with a woman named Frieda, much to the priest's disapproval. Back at the ship, the Wireless Officer makes a remark about the greatness of America. The next chapter is extremely brief, with Frank responding to the Wireless Officer's remark about America with a simple, “'Tis.”