‘A Tree Grows In Brooklyn’ Remembers Francie’s Struggles

This article explores Francie’s struggle and her life story. In addition, this book explains some of Betty Smith’s journey in life.

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As an illustration, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, this book explores Francie’s life through a looking glass. The book written by Betty Smith, is a semi-autobiography of her life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Significantly, this story takes place in the summer of 1912. The Tree of Heaven starts to grow near Francie’s house. Granted that Francie and her brother, Nolan, are both eleven years old they are up against poverty. In fact, Katie, her mother, and her father, Johnny Nolan, have another child-Neely-only a year after Francie was born. Including her siblings, having multiple children places pressure on the family financially.

Cover of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith, with a foreword by Anna Quindlen

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Flashbacks to Childhood

By all means Francie didn’t have an easy life, the beginning of the book talks about how her brother, Nolan, and herself look for junk to sell for barely any money. Despite this, she loves her home and neighborhood. In the hope that she can watch her neighbors from the fire escape, she runs errands for her mother, including the library. Given that her entire family lives in a run down apartment all they can offer each other is love. Most compelling evidence is the amount of times they are forced to move because of her father and aunt’s bad actions.

Under those circumstances, Francie was faced with impossible choices to survive and help out the family. Consequently, Francie and her mother step up to the responsibilities; her father devolves into an alcoholic. With this in mind, Katie sends both Francie and Nolan to school. Even though Francie loved the idea of school; people bullied her, including her neighbors and people from school. Significantly, Francie moves to a nicer school with her father’s help. When holidays come around she spends them with her family, despite their lack of financial stability. Even the memory of a giant Christmas tree is significant because people threw it at her family for a Brooklyn tradition, and her family was grateful despite this, for the tree.

The In-Between

For Francie, life grows harder with time as she meets a sex-offender. As a result, her mother intervenes and shoots the man. Then Francine starts to question sexuality after this and soon after starts her period. Thus, she became more aware of women’s expectations and her family dynamic. Owing to the sexual encounter, she begins to notice her fathers alcholism with fresh eyes. While her father is unemployed, her mother becomes pregnant again; yet Johnny dies months before baby Annie is born. After all she experienced, her father’s death impacted her the hardest as it shaped her personality as an adult.

Given these points, Francie loses faith in her religion. With this intention, she burns all of her “flowery” poems, symbolically grieving the loss of her innocence. Frequently writing is what drove Francie to wanting to become a writer. She is still empathetic; caring for her widowed mother during the delivery. Ultimately, with Johnny gone, both Nolan and Francie have to work right after their eight grade graduation. Later Nolan is allowed to go to college. However, Francie has to stay home because her mother needs the money to support the family. In the long run, Francie enrolls in summer college courses.

Reaching For Freedom

During World War One, America and the world began to change. Meanwhile, her aunt delivers another baby. After the war started, she fell in love with a soldier named Lee Ryner, who moved on to marry his fiance. As a result, feeling broken-hearted, Francie moves on to a boy named Ben Blake. Regardless whether they met in summer school or not, she explores love as a new adult. Similarly, her mother remarries to Sergeant McShane, who eventually takes care of her financially. Equally, both Nolan and Francie go to a higher college for an education. Before her mothers wedding, the couple moves out of the apartment. That is to say the tree kept on growing afterwards.

In summary, this book has a lot of hidden exposition; her life is more than just the plot. As can be seen; the tree of life represents adversity; which is why it continues to grow after everyone leaves the apartment. Given these points, Betty Smith plays on the idea of overcoming trauma and struggles. For the most part, the characters each have a role that impacts Francie’s life; especially her father dying. On balance, however, Francie turns out fine when she enters adulthood and pursues her goals of writing. Ultimately, it’ll never be known whether or not her life would have turned out the same if she hadn’t experienced the poverty, codependence, and grief in her life.

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