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Course Hero, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Study Guide," August 3, 2017, accessed July 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tree-Grows-in-Brooklyn/.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Quotes

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1.

No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky.


Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 1

The titular tree is an important symbol in the novel. It represents both Francie (Katie compares the sickly newborn to the tree) and the poor people in Williamsburg. Their perseverance in the face of hardship—set in stark relief by Katie and Aunt Sissy's resoluteness—is much like the tree's dogged growth. Best of all, it provides the sort of shade that feels like protection against the world.

2.

Johnny and Katie talked away the night and ... their voices [were] a safe and soothing sound in the dark.


Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 5

Francie and Neeley fall asleep to the comforting sounds of their parents' voices. This stability, which, due to Johnny's drinking, is increasingly lacking, provides the children with the feeling of safety that allows them to (initially, anyway) not feel the terrible burden of poverty.

3.

To be born a woman meant a life of humble hardship.


Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 7

Here describing Granma Mary Rommely's thoughts, the narrator signals that Mary knows life is particularly hard for women. It's not just that their bodies are often worn down by pregnancy after pregnancy, but that they are not treated as equals to men. In every facet of their lives, they are second-class citizens.

4.

Johnny knew he was doomed and accepted it. Katie wouldn't accept it.


Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 10

The difference between Johnny and Katie is encapsulated here. Johnny's weak character means all he will ever do is dream, where Katie, much more resilient and practical, refuses to give in to the hardness of life.

5.

Neighborhood stores are an important part of a city child's life ... they hold the unattainable.


Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 16

The details of Williamsburg's shops and places of interest make up much of the character and ambiance of the neighborhood. They are also influential in a child's life, offering the first glimpses of what the world is or can be.

6.

I know they're poor but they could wash.


Doctor, Book 3, Chapter 16

The callous doctor thinks Francie can't understand what he's saying. Thinking she's unclean because she's poor, he insults her. He not only doesn't know she's simply been making mud pies with Neeley, he is also ignorant about poor people. This speaks to one of the various prejudices against, and indignities foisted upon, the poor.

7.

And you don't have to tell him. You told me.


Francie Nolan, Book 3, Chapter 16

Francie, only seven years old, stands up to the derisive doctor on behalf of herself, her brother, and all poor people. She shows the strength of character that will see her through to the end of the novel.

8.

From that time on, the world was hers for the reading.


Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 22

When Francie learns to read, the whole world opens up. Finding meaning in words is nothing short of a monumental discovery for the young child. The significance of education is encapsulated in just a few lines.

9.

There were other worlds beside the world she had been born into and ... these ... were not unattainable.


Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 23

Early on, Francie has a clear idea of what she wants, even if she doesn't always know why or how to get it. After she has stumbled upon what looks like the perfect school, she enlists Johnny's help (not Katie's, since this project is for a dreamer). He's going to find a way for her to transfer to her dream school.

The reader also learns that even a small trip can change a person's life. Just as Francie looks at the Williamsburg Bridge with awe because it takes people way from Brooklyn to the big city, moving to another school can open up new worlds.

10.

Three thousand children crowded into this ugly brutalizing school that had facilities for only one thousand.


Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 24

Public education is supposed to help ensure equality and develop the next generation of citizens, people able to participate in and sustain the life of the democracy. But some people seem to be more equal than others. The conditions in which the poor children are educated—including the educators themselves—leave little doubt there isn't much learning going on.

11.

The attempt to write stories kept her straight on the dividing line between truth and fiction.


Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 26

Francie can tell a great lie. In this way, she is very much like her Aunt Sissy. And though she means no harm, she needs the outlet of storytelling to help curb this growing skill.

12.

Education would pull them out of the grime and the dirt.


Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 27

Katie realizes what her mother meant when, after Francie's birth, she instructed Katie to read to the baby every night. It was a practice continued after Neeley is born, and for years after. Katie realizes that education is the door to escaping poverty.

13.

Maybe when she gets education, she will be ashamed of me—the way I talk.


Katie Nolan, Book 3, Chapter 27

Katie knows about the chasm that can appear between people who are educated and people who are not. Society marks this distinction in terms of a hierarchy, and Katie is worried Francie will develop an elitist attitude toward her.

14.

Them two kids is gotta live in this world. They got to get used to it.


Christmas tree lot owner, Book 3, Chapter 27

Hardship is almost invariably presented in the novel as, if not a necessary evil, an important one. It toughens people up for life, which is almost always hard and often unfair. That certainly is one way to explain why it exists. This is the Christmas tree lot owner's justification for chucking trees—especially at little kids like Francie and Neeley Nolan.

15.

Good-bye, Francie.


Francie Nolan, Book 5, Chapter 56

When Francie finishes packing her things at the Grand Street house, she says good-bye to her childhood, and welcomes the future.

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