Living in an alcoholic household can have dramatic and severe effects on children.3Malachys substance abuse caused his family to live in hunger and poverty.
His problem with alcohol leaves permanent damage on his wife and kids. Malachys wife Angela relied on him to support the family financially while she raised their children. He did have a job but he spent most of his wages on drinks: “I know when Dad does the bad thing. I know when he drinks the dole money and Mam is desperate and has to beg . . .
but I don’t want to back away from him and run to Mam.(208)” Frank has a constant struggle throughout the novel in terms of deciding whether to love or hate his father. Despite the fact that Malachy is the cause of most of the family’s problems, Frank still cherishes the moments he shares with his father but realizes that not backing away from Malachy might offend his mother.
Malachy puts all his children in a position where they are constantly having to choose between their parents. Not only did malachy spend the family’s money on alcohol, he also came home drunk many times. He would often interact with his kids while he was drunk. One of Franks most vivid memories of his father were when he would wake the kids up in the middle of the night and make them swear to die for Ireland: “Mam says, Leave those boys alone. They’re gone to bed half hungry because you have to fill your belly with whiskey. He comes to the bedroom door.
Up, boys, up. A nickel for everyone who promises to die for Ireland.(25)” Malachy Irish patriotism is something that he tries to instil within his children.
In the early days of the Irish struggles Malachy fought for independence from Britain, and he blames the British for everything that’s wrong in Ireland. The boys are forced to wake up at all hours of the night and listen to songs about Irish freedom fighters, meanwhile they are tired and malnourished. Since the family was never quite sure when their next meal would be and they could not rely on Malachy for that they would usually rely on the generosity of others to get by. When the family lived in America their next door neighbours, the Leibowitszes were a constant help: ” Mrs.
Leibowitz shakes her head at Malachy and me. Oy, so thin. She says Oy so much Malachy laughs and says Oy and the Leibowitzes laugh.(34)” Mrs. Leibowitz would watch and feed the kids whenever Angela needed and especially when Margaret their only daughter died. Angela was very depressed at the time and the neighbours were very helpful not only for making meals for the boys but also in being loving towards them. Malachys drinking and inability to hold a job causes his family to be constantly struggling.4The McCourts have a rocky relationship with the catholic church.
Angela and Malachy are both very religious people, they are both strong believers in the catholic church. Malachy teaches his boys how to say their prayers properly and shows them how to follow catholic tradition when he takes them to church. The McCourts accept the church fully but the church does not accept them. Frank’s life is heavily influenced by religion and the church often uses scare tactics, guilt, and peer pressure to make sure that Frank and his schoolmates grow to be good Catholics. A priest tells Frank that Jesus is always watching him, ready to punish sin. Frank at a young age, is terrified of going to hell for some of the things he does, even if he does them to feed his little brothers.
A couple of times when he tries to go to confession, he gets kicked out of the church. This is because the church frowns upon Malachys drinking. Alcoholism is unacceptable in the eyes of the church. Frank is a very smart kid but because of his dads problem the church turns him down even with his recommendation from Mr.
O’ Halloran he is turned down: “Mr. O’Halloran at Leamy’s says he’s bright and would there be any chance of getting him in here for secondary school? We don’t have room for him, says Brother Murray and closes the door in our faces.(289)” The church simply refused him because he is poor. This causes Frank to start doubting his faith.
The church knows about his alcoholic father and denies Frank, and so due to alcoholism the McCourt family is further cut off from societal support.5Malachys actions have a permanent effect on Frank.