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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.


For example:


"I feel like crying but if you cry in America they'll think you're simple or drunk or both." (Emotion)


"I hate this country. I hate its ignorance and its arrogance and its racism and its violence." (Opinion)


"I love this country. I love its freedom and its diversity and its culture and its generosity." (Opinion)


"I miss Ireland. I miss its greenness and its wetness and its music and its poetry." (Sentiment)


"I don't miss Ireland. I don't miss its poverty and its misery and its oppression and its hypocrisy." (Sentiment)


"I'm sorry for what I did to Alberta. She was a good wife and a good mother and I betrayed her." (Regret)


"I'm proud of what I did as a teacher. I was a good teacher and a good mentor and I inspired many students." (Pride)


The Themes and Messages of 'Tis




'Tis is not just a memoir of McCourt's life; it is also a memoir of McCourt's thoughts. It explores various themes and messages that reflect McCourt's worldview and philosophy. Some of the main themes and messages are:


The Theme of Identity and Belonging




One of the main themes of 'Tis is the theme of identity and belonging. McCourt struggles to find his place in the world and his sense of self. He is torn between his Irish roots and his American dreams, between his past and his present, between his family and his friends, between his culture and his individuality. He is constantly searching for a home, a community, a purpose, a meaning. He is constantly asking himself: Who am I? Where do I belong? What do I want?


For example:


"I'm an Irishman who doesn't know what he is. I don't know where I belong or what I want." (Identity crisis)


"I'm an American citizen but I don't feel like one. I don't understand this country or its people or its politics or its values." (Alienation)


"I'm a Catholic but I don't believe in the Church or its doctrines or its rituals or its authority." (Dissent)


"I'm a teacher but I don't fit in the system or the curriculum or the bureaucracy or the expectations." (Rebellion)


"I'm a writer but I don't know how to write or what to write or why to write or for whom to write." (Doubt)


The Theme of Education and Learning




Another main theme of 'Tis is the theme of education and learning. McCourt values knowledge and education as a way to improve his life and the lives of others. He believes that education and learning are not only about acquiring information and skills, but also about developing critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, empathy, and wisdom. He believes that education and learning are not only about formal institutions and degrees, but also about informal experiences and interactions. He believes that education and learning are not only for the young, but also for the old.


For example:


"Education is the key to everything. It opens doors, it breaks barriers, it changes minds, it transforms lives." (Value)


"Learning is a lifelong process. It never stops, it never ends, it never gets old. There is always something new to learn, something new to discover, something new to understand." (Process)


"Teaching is a noble profession. It is not just a job, it is a vocation, a calling, a mission. It is not just about imparting knowledge, it is about inspiring passion, it is about igniting sparks, it is about making a difference." (Profession)


"Writing is a form of learning. It is not just a way of expressing oneself, it is a way of exploring oneself, it is a way of questioning oneself, it is a way of knowing oneself." (Form)


The Theme of Happiness and Fulfillment




A third main theme of 'Tis is the theme of happiness and fulfillment. McCourt strives for happiness and fulfillment in his personal and professional life. He wants to be happy with himself, with his relationships, with his work, with his achievements. He wants to be fulfilled by his choices, by his actions, by his contributions, by his legacy. He wants to find joy and peace in his life.


For example:


"Happiness is not something you can buy or sell or trade or steal. Happiness is something you can only find within yourself." (Source)


"Fulfillment is not something you can measure or compare or compete or boast. Fulfillment is something you can only feel within yourself." (Measure)


"Happiness and fulfillment are not something you can chase or force or fake or pretend. Happiness and fulfillment are something you can only create within yourself." (Method)


The Reception and Impact of 'Tis




'Tis was published in 1999, three years after Angela's Ashes. It was eagerly awaited by McCourt's fans and readers who wanted to know more about his life in America. It was also widely reviewed by critics and journalists who wanted to evaluate his literary skills and merits.


The Praise and Criticism of 'Tis




'Tis received mixed reviews from critics and readers. Some praised it for its honesty, humor, emotion, insight, and style. They admired McCourt's courage to tell his story without embellishment or sentimentality. They enjoyed McCourt's wit and charm to make his story entertaining and engaging. They appreciated McCourt's wisdom and perspective to make his story meaningful and inspiring.


For example:


The Influence and Legacy of 'Tis




'Tis had a significant impact on the literary and cultural scene. It was a bestseller, selling more than four million copies in the US and more than one million copies in the UK. It was translated into more than 30 languages and adapted into a stage play. It was also nominated for several awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize.


'Tis also inspired other writers and readers to share their own stories of immigration, assimilation, education, and identity. It contributed to the genre of memoir and autobiography, especially those that deal with childhood and adolescence. It also enriched the literature and history of Ireland and America, especially those that deal with the Irish diaspora and the American dream.


For example:


  • "'Tis is a remarkable achievement...a book that bears comparison with the finest work of James Joyce." - The Boston Globe



  • "'Tis is a testament to McCourt's skill as a writer and his power as a storyteller." - The Washington Post



  • "'Tis is a tribute to McCourt's courage as a man and his generosity as a writer." - The Chicago Tribune



  • "'Tis is a gift to McCourt's readers and his fans." - The New York Times



Conclusion




'Tis is a memoir by Frank McCourt that tells the story of his American journey from impoverished immigrant to brilliant teacher and raconteur. It is a sequel to his first memoir, Angela's Ashes, which told the story of his Irish childhood. It is a book that combines honesty, humor, emotion, insight, and style. It is a book that explores various themes and messages, such as identity and belonging, education and learning, happiness and fulfillment. It is a book that received mixed reviews from critics and readers, but also achieved great success and influence. It is a book that deserves to be read and appreciated by anyone who loves literature and life.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about 'Tis:


Q: How does 'Tis compare to Angela's Ashes?




A: 'Tis is different from Angela's Ashes in many ways. It covers a longer period of time (36 years vs 19 years), a different setting (New York vs Limerick), a different tone (more hopeful vs more tragic), a different perspective (adult vs child), and a different focus (self vs family). However, 'Tis also shares some similarities with Angela's Ashes. It has the same author (Frank McCourt), the same narrator (Frank McCourt), the same style (informal, conversational, colloquial), the same humor (ironic, sarcastic, self-deprecating), and the same emotion (sentimental, nostalgic, honest).


Q: What does 'Tis mean?




A: 'Tis is an old-fashioned contraction of "it is". It is often used in Irish speech and literature. McCourt chose this title for his memoir because it reflects his Irish roots and his love for language. It also suggests that his book is a continuation of his previous one, as if he is saying "it is more".


Q: What are some of the challenges that McCourt faces in 'Tis?




A: Some of the challenges that McCourt faces in 'Tis are:


  • Cultural shock: He has to adapt to the American culture, which is very different from his Irish culture.



  • Social discrimination: He faces prejudice and discrimination from some Americans who look down on him because of his accent, his appearance, his background.



  • Economic hardship: He has to work hard to make ends meet and to support his family in Ireland.



  • Educational gap: He has to catch up with his education and overcome his lack of qualifications.



  • Personal problems: He has to deal with his depression, his alcoholism, his infidelity, his divorce.



  • Family issues: He has to cope with his mother's bitterness, his father's absence, his brothers' troubles, his wife's unhappiness, his daughter's needs.



Q: What are some of the achievements that McCourt celebrates in 'Tis?




A: Some of the achievements that McCourt celebrates in 'Tis are:


  • Cultural integration: He learns to appreciate and enjoy the American culture, which is very diverse and rich.



  • Social recognition: He earns respect and admiration from some Americans who appreciate his talents, his skills, his personality.



  • Economic success: He makes enough money to live comfortably and to help his family in Ireland.



  • Educational advancement: He graduates from college and becomes a teacher, a writer, a lecturer.



  • Personal growth: He overcomes his depression, his alcoholism, his infidelity, his divorce.



  • Family happiness: He loves and cares for his mother, his father, his brothers, his wife, his daughter, his friends.



Q: What are some of the lessons that McCourt learns in 'Tis?




A: Some of the lessons that McCourt learns in 'Tis are:


  • Cultural diversity: He learns to respect and embrace the differences and similarities among different cultures and people.



  • Social responsibility: He learns to contribute and give back to the society that has given him so much.



  • Economic wisdom: He learns to manage and save his money wisely and not to waste it on frivolous things.



  • Educational passion: He learns to love and value education and learning as a way to improve himself and others.



  • Personal honesty: He learns to be honest and faithful to himself and others and not to lie or cheat or hurt anyone.



  • Family loyalty: He learns to be loyal and supportive to his family and friends and not to abandon or neglect them.




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