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Focus on Angela's Ashes: Research

A guide for Frank McCourt's memoir, Angela's Ashes

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TCC Library's Literary Databases

Research Tips

  • Use keywords in library databases instead of sentences and questions. Use the Keyword worksheet to plan and focus your research.
    • When searching the library catalog or one of TCC's literary databases, try a search for your topic keyword(s) along with "Frank McCourt" or "Angela's Ashes" For example: ("Religion" AND "Frank McCourt") or ("Poverty" AND "Angela's Ashes"). Try several variations to maximize the number of relevant results. 
  • To look for an exact phrase, type your phrase within quotation marks ("  "). The results will contain the exact words in the quotation marks.
  • Use an asterisk (*) at the end of a root word, known as truncation, to retrieve results containing any form of the root word.
    • Example: teen* will find teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers
  • Use filters to refine your results by subject terms/topics, date, type of publication, language, peer-reviewed, etc.
  • Some databases use Boolean Operators. Narrow or expand your search by combining keywords using  AND / OR / NOT operators, as shown below.


Topic Ideas

If you're looking for inspiration on what direction to take your research, here are a few ideas published on the Gavilan College website: 

Gender: How are men and women portrayed in the book? What traits are associated with masculinity or femininity? Does McCourt seem to adhere to or promote certain stereotypes of men and/or women?  What does he seem to be suggesting about the nature of masculinity or femininity?

Narrative Voice: Evaluate McCourt's choice of narrator for this book. From whose point of view is the story being told?  Does the voice of the narrator change at all throughout the book? Why does McCourt choose this particular narrator to tell the story? Do you think the narrator's voice is effective and/or believable? Why or why not?

Family Ties: What is the central impression that McCourt gives of his family? Are they a close family? Does Frank feel proud or ashamed to be a member of the family? How would you describe his relationship to his parents and siblings (including the dead brothers and sister)? 

Religion: What role does religion play in McCourt's life? What was he taught about religion in New York, and how did that change when he moved to Ireland? What is his relationship to the Catholic Church?  What does he suggest about the influence of religion in the lives of people like those in Limerick?

Story-telling: Analyze the role of storytelling in the book.  Who tells stories, and for what purpose?  What role do stories play in Frank's life?  What does McCourt seem to be suggesting about the importance of storytelling in everyday life?

Tone:  How would you describe the tone of the novel? Is it depressing? Humorous? Uplifting? Angry? Self-pitying? Evaluate how effective McCourt's tone is. What effect does his tone have on the reader? How does the tone help the reader to a deeper understanding of how McCourt views his childhood?

Poverty: How does living in poverty affect the McCourts, as a family and as individuals? Do individual family members view their poverty differently? How about Frank himself - how does he feel about being so poor?  How does it affect the way he views the world? 

Searching the Library Catalog

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