A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Study Guide

Betty Smith

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Book 3, Chapters 23–24 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 23

More improvement in Francie's educational life comes by chance. A Saturday stroll in October brings Francie to a little brick school. She has found her ideal school, and waits patiently that night to speak to her Papa about it. He tells her he'll see about getting her in, and though the scheme involves lying about their residence, Francie is deliriously happy at her new school. Neeley chooses to remain where he is.

Chapter 24

Although Johnny drinks more than ever, when he is sober, he tries to show his children what is possible. Johnny, a Democrat, wants them to believe in the politicians' promises of the American Dream and hope of a better future. Katie, in keeping with her chosen role as family anchor, is too suspicious to believe them. Sure, she'll go along on outings like those sponsored by the Mattie Mahoney Association, named after an apparent ghost of a politician. The association wants to cultivate the younger generation's support, even if she can't vote—yet. She meets interesting people, too, like one Sergeant Michael McShane, who seems to have taken a shine to her. Katie wants a better future for her children, too, but it's not ephemeral; she's too much of a pragmatist for that. If it's not already, the depth of her fortitude will soon become clear.

Analysis

Francie's strength of character and undiminished love of learning shine through when she expresses her desire to transfer schools. It is worth noting that she turns to her Papa for support in achieving her goal. Practical-minded Katie would be unlikely to recognize its importance to Francie. There are times, to be sure, when one needs a dreamer.

There are times, though, when practicality, or a pragmatic approach to life, is more sensible. The reader can see this in the different ways in which Johnny and Katie think about politics. Lest the reader forget, Katie and other women don't have the right to vote.

A noteworthy scene in Chapter 23 gives the reader some important insight into the American experience in the early 1900s. Francie learns that she is the only child in her class with American-born parents. All the others are first-generation Americans. There can be no doubt that the United States is a nation of immigrants. So unusual is it at her school for one's parents to have been born in America that her teacher thinks she's misunderstood the question about the children's country of birth. She expects Francie to say "Irish-American" or "Polish-American." Francie insists she's "American," and she's proud when her teacher says, "Brooklyn? Hm. I guess that makes you American all right."

Chapter 24 introduces the reader to Sergeant Michael McShane, who, in his smart policeman's uniform, gives Francie some tickets so she can eat. He also notices Katie, who, in turn, takes notice of him.

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