"Angela's Ashes"-Would The Family Have Been Better Off in NYC?

I just reread “Angela’s Ashes”. As you may remember, the family was Irish-they had immigrated to the USA. When the Great Depression Struck, the father made the decision to return to Ireland. I read that the father had participated (or claimed to have done so)in the Irish Uprising of the 1920’s-he thought that he could get some kind of pension for this service.
When they arrived back in Ireland (Limerick), they found that there was no record of the father’s service-so the family was forced to go on the “dole” (welfare)-their poverty was terrible.
My question: had the family stayed in the US-would they have been better off? NYC had some limited welfare in the 1930’s-and it was probably easier to get a job in NYC-what would you have done?

It’s hard to quantify, but I can tell you that all four of my grandparents moved from Ireland to America during the Great Depression years, and none ever regretted it for a second.

Poverty is miserable no matter where you live, but American poverty can still look mighty attractive to people experiencing poverty elsewhere.

That said… Malachy McCourt Sr. was a drunken bum, and he’d have made life extremely hard for his family no matter where they lived. If you’ve read the book, you know that McCourt Sr.'s problem was NOT his inability to get a job. He managed to get hired many times- but invariably, he’d spend his entire first paycheck on booze, and get fired.

That could have happened just as easily and just as often in New York.

It’s true that Malachy Sr probably would have been a hopeless drunk whether he was in Ireland, New York or Mars. Would it have been more likely for Angela to get a job in New York, or for the kids to go to better schools?

Reported for forum change.

I think non-religious charitable social services were a little more established in New York (I’m thinking of things like the Henry Street Settlement and Children’s Aid Society that provided integrated child and parent assistance (ie, playgrounds, employment assistance/training, small scale loans, etc). By 1940, when Frank turned 10, the WPA was doing quite a lot in NYC as well (this NYT article says one out of every $7 WPA dollars spent, was spent in New York).

Educationally, they would have access to the public library system. The kids would have gone to a public school, though whether their local school would be better or worse than their Catholic schools in Ireland I don’t know. Though, as so aptly described in A Tree Grows In Brooklyn there have always been ways to game school placement.

Then again, Angela’s family was in Limerick, though, they didn’t seem to be much help to her. But you really don’t know, a 10-year old’s memories might not tell the whole story.

From my reading, the family probably would have had better opportunities in NYC (Frank returned to the USA after the war).
Some feel that McCourt overstated the family’s woes, but if its true, its proof you don’t need all that much. Prewar Ireland wasn’t very prosperous.

The schools Frank McCourt went to weren’t bad at all. He resented some of the elite Catholic schools in Limerick that rejected him, but he got a very decent education from the schools he did attend. He was quite literate and well versed in history, after all. I don’t know that he’d have done notably better in an ordinary New York city public school.

I don’t know. But Frank McCourt wouldn’t have been Frank McCourt (and quite possibly not a teacher either) if it hadn’t been for Ireland. It’s kind of all relative, really.

Is there some indication in the book that they didn’t have access to libraries? It’s been years since I read it. However, historically in that period public libraries were widespread helped largely by the philantropy of Andrew Carnegie.

I don’t know that he ever mentioned NOT having a library but he’s always bitching and moaning about how awful everyone is to him, especially the nuns of course, … I would tend to assume that for someone who liked to read, access to a free library would have been something he would note and write about as being formative… Anyway, that article said most of the libraries in Limerick were very small, the NYP system is enormous. In the US it’s second only to the Library of Congress, which is the largest library in the world.

But that’s comparing a small rural town to an immense city. He would have also had more access to libraries in Dublin - Ireland does have them.

Well it’s a city but a small one with only about 90,000 in its urban area at present.

But he never lived in Dublin. Why would Dublin have anything to do with this conversation? The question was, comparing Limerick and New York City (the only 2 places Frank McCourt lived), is there better educational access in Limerick or in New York. I said I really didn’t know how to compare the school systems themselves, but the existence of the NYPL is a point in NYC’s favor. I really don’t see how the existence of libraries in Dublin changes that comparison.

I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t have been. Until the Celtic Tiger years Ireland was one of the poorer and least developed countries in Western Europe. Meanwhile, 1940-1975 or so was a period of near unceasing prosperity for the US.

Because, when comparing a small place to a really big place, both in countries that have public libraries, it’d be strange if there weren’t more libraries in the big place.

I still don’t understand how the libraries in Dublin are relevant. I never said Ireland lacked a library system, or that poor people in Dublin didn’t have any libraries. I said that I thought Frank McCourt’s opportunities to experience public libraries were more substantial in New York City than in Limerick. As you say, it’s almost indisputable that this is true.

Look, if you say that, compared to New York City, people have more opportunities to experience beautiful scenery in Limerick, and I say, but there’s beautiful scenery in Arizona! that really has nothing to do with the comparison between New York City and Limerick. It may be true, but it’s totally irrelevant.

Ok… But it was you that brought up the point you’re now saying is irrelevant, not me.

I never said anything about the libraries in Dublin or anywhere other than Limerick and New York City.

nm, double post