A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Study Guide

Original title:
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Betty Smith. It tells us about the childhood and growing up of a girl from a troubled but loving family that lives in the poor district of New York City. It won the approval of the audience almost immediately for the realistic and vivid depiction of life of Brooklyn and the main heroine’s aspirations, hopes, joys and sorrows.

We see Francie Nolan for the first time when she is ten. We learn about her family story, meet her determined and stubborn mother Katie, who works wherever she can get the job to support her family - her adorable and romantic, but absolutely impractical husband Johnnie, her daughter Francie and Francie’s little brother Cornelius. We learn the biography of Johnnie himself, who is now occasionally working as a singer and waiter in a small local restaurant, but slowly succumbs to alcoholism because he feels that he is unable to support the family as much as he wanted to. Still, despite all the struggles and issues of the couple, we see that they are a loving family for each other and their kids. Francie is an average child, she is happy to have her Mom, Dad and little brother and she doesn’t feel the burden of poverty too much - her parents do everything to protect her.

This doesn’t last long, and soon Francie also has to work hard to help her family survive. She grows up, becomes more mature, she loses her childish innocence facing the harshnesses and sorrows of the real life, but she never becomes jaded even when it seems that even her closest and most beloved ones are against her.

Francie’s story and the story of her family is tightly connected to the tree she calls The Tree of Heaven. She looks at that tree every day, she relates to it and the attempts of the locals to get rid of it break her heart. Still, in the end we see that despite everything the tree still grows, even bigger and more beautiful than before, representing that her family and Francie herself survived through everything that life has thrown at them.

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