A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Study Guide

Betty Smith

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Course Hero. "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Study Guide." August 3, 2017. Accessed September 25, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tree-Grows-in-Brooklyn/.

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Course Hero, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Study Guide," August 3, 2017, accessed September 25, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tree-Grows-in-Brooklyn/.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Book 1, Chapters 3–4 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 3

Francie knows Papa is home when she hears him singing "Molly Malone" as he makes his way up the stairs. She loves him dearly, and does not connect his drinking with any flaw. It's just the way things are. As always, he asks where her mother is—it's like a standard greeting. Today, however, she is out at the movies with Aunt Sissy.

With Katie out, Francie irons an apron for Papa to wear to work that night and remembers a conversation she overheard at the union headquarters—he's a member of the Waiters Union, but his drinking keeps him from working continuously. Some men were saying that Johnny shouldn't spend his tip money on drinks at McGarrity's, the local saloon, but on his family. But she chooses to focus on the fact that, despite this, he's very popular.

After returning from the dry-goods store, where she picks up his work linen, Francie finds that Papa is shaved and combed and ready to put in the pearl studs Katie bought him as a wedding present: "No matter how hard up the Nolans were, the studs were never pawned." But it's her father that makes her proud, not the studs. She thinks no man has "ever looked so gallant."

Chapter 4

After Papa leaves for work, Francie goes to visit Flossie. In addition to Frank, Flossie's main preoccupations are her masquerade party costumes and gloves. Francie marvels at the getups in Flossie's closet, and is interested to see what her neighbor will create for tonight's event.

Flossie deserves some fun. She works in a glove factory to support her mother and brother Henny, who, Francie has been told, is dying of consumption—the disease now known as tuberculosis. She thinks he looks all right, and reminds him that she's real skinny but doesn't think she's dying. "You won't die, Francie," he responds, "You were born to lick this rotten life." As Francie peers into Flossie's closet, she's sure she sees a skull and bones emerging from the dark.

Analysis

In Chapter 3, the reader learns about Francie's unadulterated devotion to, and admiration of, her father. The pearls represent Katie's devotion. The chapter also reveals more of the tension between Johnny's charm and his apparent inability to fulfill the conventional role of father.

Despite the fact that Johnny Nolan looks fetching in his tuxedo and wears a carefree demeanor, it's clear that all is not well. When he brings Francie to the union headquarters one day, two men notice how bedraggled and skinny she is, which is juxtaposed by Johnny's own appearance.

Flossie, with her fancy costumes, represents a bit of what Francie hopes her life will be. At the same time, Henny is a reminder of what happens to all of us. Even if Francie is too young to properly think about death, there are reminders around her, which is not unusual in such a poor neighborhood. It also foreshadows her father's early death.

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