A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Study Guide

Betty Smith

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Course Hero. "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Study Guide." Course Hero. 3 Aug. 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 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 November 20, 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 November 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tree-Grows-in-Brooklyn/.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Book 3, Chapters 29–30 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 29

Johnny's misguided attempts at fatherhood are foregrounded when he decides Francie and Neeley need to see the ocean. He takes them out on a fishing boat, where they catch nothing but sunburns. Then he buys fish for lunch, but it's rotten and makes the children sick. When they arrive home, Katie has to throw out the fish, and the virulence of her tongue lashing would suggest to someone who didn't know better that Johnny is about to get tossed, too.

Chapter 30

The summer she's thirteen, Francie starts keeping a diary. She should have an entry for this Saturday that reflects great happiness. After all, one of her compositions has been chosen as the best seventh-grade work. It will be published in the school magazine, and the school's janitor, Mr. Jenson, has promised to set aside a copy for her. Instead, however, she sees features of society that baffle her.

Women, she learns, aren't always kind to each other, especially when sexual matters are involved; and society isn't always kind to women. She observes as Joanna, a girl with a baby born out of wedlock, is taunted and ridiculed by the neighborhood women. When Joanna stands up to them, they throw rocks at her. They don't stop until one hits her baby in the head, making it bleed.

That same day, Francie begins to bleed herself. Katie tells her she should remember Joanna now that she's a woman, too.

Analysis

In Chapter 29, the reader experiences Johnny's goodhearted but ill-fated attempts to be a good father. His misadventures seem clownish, but they reveal how hard it is for him to be responsible. After all, his tuxedo is ruined when he falls in the water on the disastrous fishing trip. Even after the cost of cleaning it, which the family can't afford, it won't be wearable again. Johnny always wore that tuxedo—it is the only suit he owns. Though the lapels were threadbare, the suit had fit him perfectly. To lose it is yet another step toward his final downfall.

Francie finds social mores confusing. Especially where women are concerned, it seems, they're inconsistent and unkind. One of the women who jeers at Joanna, for example, had her first baby soon after she was married. What's the real difference, Francie wonders, between her and Joanna? When Joanna had smiled at her before the fight broke out, she didn't smile back, thinking it wouldn't be right. But she feels badly about what's happened, thinking Joanna's only crime had been that she hadn't got her boyfriend to the altar. His family had convinced him that Joanna, having had sex with him before marriage, couldn't be trusted. The baby could be anyone's. In Francie's mind, it is the women who aren't to be trusted: "It seemed like their great birth pains shrank their hearts and souls." This would be ironic, given how generous and loving all of the women are in Francie's family. But Francie explicitly chooses these women as her role models.

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