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 December 11, 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 December 11, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tree-Grows-in-Brooklyn/.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Book 2, Chapters 13–14 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 13

Life on Lorimer Street is much the same as it was before they moved, although it's a slight cut above. Shopkeepers can afford to live somewhere other than the back of their store. At first, Johnny helps Katie with the janitorial work, this but slowly fades away. Katie is left to do it by herself.

Summertime is full of kids in the streets. Francie tries making friends, but it proves difficult; she doesn't fit in when, for example, she misuses the fancy vocabulary found in the Bible and Shakespeare. She tells one little girl that she's going to "go in and begat my rope and we'll play jumping." That leads to name-calling and tears.

Chapter 14

A largely uneventful year is followed by two mishaps that force the Nolan family to move once again. One day, Sissy sees a tricycle about a block from the Nolan home, and decides her niece and nephew would like a ride. The tricycle's owner starts crying, and his mother rushes after Sissy yelling, "Robber!" until a beat cop comes over. He takes one look at Sissy's ample curves and calms the woman and the boy down. The ride continues, the cop accompanying them around the block, and the neighbors' tongues begin to wag.

Then Sissy comes over on her day off to see Francie and Neeley. When she eventually has to leave, the children are upset, so she looks in her purse for something to give them for amusement. Francie and Neeley help, and Francie finds a box that looks very enticing. It's from Sissy's factory, and she is reluctant to leave the American Dreams box with them, but they beg and beg. She finally relents, telling them that it contains cigarettes and they are not to open it under any circumstances. But of course, after arguing over what must be in the box—snakes?—they do.

The contents are less exciting than they had hoped for, but they tie them to a string, which they hang out the window. They then forget about it, finding the box itself more intriguing. Johnny finds the string of condoms hanging out the window when he arrives home. It's time to move again. Katie bans Sissy from coming to their home.

The family moves to Grand Street, which brings the reader back to where the book starts in Book 1, Chapter 1. Francie is six, almost seven. She stands on the roof of the new tenement with her father, while her mother argues on the street with the movers. Johnny declares this new home to be his—not their—last. Little does Francie know how prescient his declaration is.

Analysis

Not just Johnny, but also Sissy, have weaknesses that disgrace the family. Both are, however, good people. The tension for Katie—and the reader—is created by loving them despite those weaknesses.

It is perhaps a testament to Katie's big heart that she never seems more than momentarily resentful—if that. Her husband surely gives her reason to believe she and her children would be better off without him, but she never kicks him out. It is as if she understands at some level that what he brings to his family is, in some ways, as important as the stability and material support that she provides. For Johnny is able to love his children in ways that Katie can't, even if she were afforded the opportunity. She is practical; he is artistic. She is focused; he is a dreamer. She is emotionally unavailable; he is unafraid to reveal himself.

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