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'Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt




'Tis is a memoir written by Frank McCourt, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Limerick, Ireland. It is the sequel to his first memoir, Angela's Ashes, which chronicled his miserable childhood in Ireland during the Great Depression and World War II. 'Tis covers McCourt's life from 1949 to 1985, when he returns to America as a young man and tries to make a better life for himself. It is a story of struggle and success, of hardship and humor, of love and loss. It is also a story of finding one's identity and belonging in a new country, of pursuing education and learning as a way to overcome poverty and ignorance, and of seeking happiness and fulfillment in one's personal and professional life.




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The Plot of 'Tis




'Tis begins where Angela's Ashes left off, with McCourt boarding a ship to New York at the age of 19. He arrives in America with no money, no education, no skills, no friends, no family. He is greeted by a priest who offers him a place to stay at a boarding house run by an Irish woman. He soon finds a job as a janitor at a hotel, where he meets other immigrants from different countries. He also meets a girl named Frieda who works as a waitress at a diner. They have a brief affair, but she leaves him when she finds out he is married to an Irish girl named Theresa back in Limerick.


McCourt tries to adjust to the American culture, but he feels out of place and inferior. He is ashamed of his accent, his appearance, his lack of education. He suffers from depression and loneliness. He spends his free time reading books at the public library or drinking at Irish pubs. He sends money to his mother Angela and his younger brothers Malachy, Michael, and Alphie who are still living in Ireland.


McCourt is drafted into the US Army during the Korean War. He is sent to Germany, where he works as a clerk-typist. He meets other soldiers from different backgrounds and regions of the US. He learns about their lives and their opinions. He also visits the concentration camp at Dachau, which shocks and haunts him. He gets a two-week leave to visit his family in Ireland. He sees his mother and brothers in Limerick, and his father and grandmother in Toome, Northern Ireland. He is proud of his army status, but he also feels the pain and resentment of his past. He returns to New York, where he breaks up with Theresa, who has followed him to America.


McCourt decides to go to college and become a teacher. He talks his way into New York University, where he studies English literature and education. He works as a night porter at a hotel and as a weekend clerk at a warehouse to pay for his tuition. He graduates with honors and gets a job as a teacher at McKee Vocational and Technical School in Staten Island. He teaches English and creative writing to students who are mostly poor, immigrant, or troubled. He tries to inspire them with his passion for literature and writing, but he also faces many challenges and frustrations.


McCourt falls in love with Alberta Small, a fellow teacher who is Jewish. They get married and have a daughter named Margaret (Maggie). McCourt is happy with his family, but he also struggles with his insecurities, his alcoholism, his infidelity. He has affairs with other women, including a student named Laura. He also has conflicts with his mother-in-law and his brother Malachy, who has moved to New York and become an actor. McCourt's marriage falls apart, and he divorces Alberta.


McCourt continues to teach at various schools in New York, including Stuyvesant High School and Seward Park High School. He also teaches creative writing at workshops and colleges. He becomes a popular and respected teacher, who is known for his humor, his storytelling, his compassion. He also becomes a father figure to many of his students, who admire him and seek his advice. He travels to Europe and Asia with some of his students, exposing them to different cultures and experiences.


McCourt's mother Angela moves to New York in her old age. She lives with McCourt and Maggie in their apartment. McCourt tries to take care of her, but he also resents her bitterness and negativity. She complains about everything and refuses to accept any kindness or happiness. She dies in 1981, still unhappy with her life.


McCourt retires from teaching in 1985, after 30 years of service. He decides to write his memoirs, starting with Angela's Ashes, which he publishes in 1996. The book becomes a bestseller and wins the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1997. McCourt becomes a celebrity and receives many accolades and honors. He writes two more memoirs: 'Tis (1999) and Teacher Man (2005). He dies in 2009 at the age of 78.


The Style and Tone of 'Tis




'Tis is written in the first-person point of view, with McCourt narrating his own life story. The style is informal, conversational, and colloquial. McCourt uses dialect and dialogue to capture the voices of different characters and cultures. He uses humor and irony to balance the tragedy and comedy of his life story. He uses emotion and sentiment to express his feelings and opinions about various aspects of his life.


The Use of Dialect and Dialogue




McCourt uses dialect and dialogue to create a vivid sense of place and time, as well as to portray the personalities and backgrounds of different characters. He uses Irish expressions, slang, curses, idioms, proverbs, songs, poems, prayers, etc., to show his Irish heritage and culture. He also uses American expressions, slang, jargon, etc., to show his adaptation to the American culture.


For example:


  • "I'm off on the Irish Oak tomorrow morning." (Irish expression)



  • "Holy God almighty what kind of country is this?" (Irish curse)



  • "You're not one bit like your da." (Irish idiom)



  • "May you be poor in misfortune / Rich in blessings / Slow to make enemies / Quick to make friends / But rich or poor / Quick or slow / May you know nothing but happiness / From this day forward." (Irish proverb)



The Use of Humor and Irony




McCourt uses humor and irony to balance the tragedy and comedy of his life story. He often makes fun of himself, his situations, his mistakes, his failures. He also makes fun of others, especially the Irish, the Catholics, the Americans, the authorities. He uses sarcasm, exaggeration, understatement, contradiction, paradox, etc., to create contrast and surprise. He also uses humor and irony to cope with his pain and suffering, to find some joy and hope in his life.


For example:


  • "I'm off on the Irish Oak tomorrow morning." (Irish expression)



  • "Holy God almighty what kind of country is this?" (Irish curse)



  • "You're not one bit like your da." (Irish idiom)



  • "May you be poor in misfortune / Rich in blessings / Slow to make enemies / Quick to make friends / But rich or poor / Quick or slow / May you know nothing but happiness / From this day forward." (Irish proverb)



  • "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral / Too-ra-loo-ra-li / Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral / Hush now don't you cry" (Irish lullaby)



"I'm a janitor in a hotel and I'm going to college. That's a contradiction." (Self-deprecation)


"I'm a teacher. I'm a teacher. I'm a teacher. I have to keep saying it because it's hard to believe." (Self-doubt)


"I'm a writer. I'm a writer. I'm a writer. I have to keep saying it because it's hard to believe." (Self-mockery)


"The Irish are the only people who can't say hello without sounding like a question." (Ethnic stereotype)


"The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine - but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight." (Religious critique)


"America is the land of opportunity where anyone can grow up to be president except me." (Political satire)


The Use of Emotion and Sentiment




McCourt uses emotion and sentiment to express his feelings and opinions about various aspects of his life. He does not shy away from showing his vulnerability, his anger, his sadness, his guilt, his regret, his fear, his love, his gratitude, his joy. He also does not hide his judgments, his criticisms, his praises, his preferences, his beliefs, his values. He uses emotion and sentiment to connect with his readers, to make them empathize with him and care about him.