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 February 19, 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 February 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tree-Grows-in-Brooklyn/.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Book 3, Chapters 41–42 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 41

With Laurie's arrival, the family's schedule changes. After all, Laurie can't be left alone. So, Katie works very early in the morning. Then, when Francie and Neeley go off to school, Katie cleans her building, leaving the apartment door open so she can hear if Laurie cries. Francie and Neeley continue working at McGarrity's, since his business is doing well. As Francie works, she overhears snippets of conversations. People are talking about Prohibition, whether or not America will enter the war, and newfangled technologies.

Chapter 42

Francie and Neeley graduate in June 1916. Their graduations are on the same day, so Katie goes to his, and Sissy goes to Francie's. Francie is a little hurt that her mother attends Neeley's graduation, but she knows it's not his fault that she chose to change schools.

Katie wants both children to go to high school, but she knows money problems will make this almost impossible. But now is the time to celebrate their graduations. Francie even receives roses, sent by Papa. He'd given the money to Sissy two years before in preparation for this day. And so, today, even if Francie can finally start to properly grieve her father's death, she, Neeley, Katie, and Sissy can eat ice cream, and even leave a tip.

Analysis

Book 3 ends with chapters devoted to Francie's inner turmoil as she continues to try making sense of things. So much has changed, and there is more change still to come. For her, the world is "spinning in confusion."

Once again, Francie's world is changing dramatically. Not only is she ending an important time in her life, but her future is uncertain. She wants desperately to go to high school, but this is not guaranteed—money is involved. Things around her are clearly changing as well. What she overhears tells the reader about various changes (impending Prohibition, war), and they feel big and foreign and frightening. In this context, it makes sense both for Katie to leave a tip she can't afford, and for Francie to internally cheer when it happens. When things feel out of control, small gestures at least give the momentary illusion that one can still be a master of one's fate.

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