Coming of Age in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

1049 Words3 Pages

Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn presents the problems of a young girl coming of age, a time when she is faced with new challenges and must overcome obstacles. Throughout the book the protagonist, Francie Nolan discovers herself maturing as she struggles with loneliness, the loss of innocence and a life of poverty in a Brooklyn slum. This theme is evident in (1.) her love for books which she uses as companionship, (2.) her outlook on the world as she matures and finally, (3.) her realization that in order to succeed in life she must obtain an education and work hard to do it. One of the biggest challenges Francie faces while growing up is loneliness. As a young child living in a Brooklyn slum, Francie has no friends her age. The other children either find her too quiet or shun her for being different because of her extensive vocabulary. Betty Smith describes how most of Francie's childhood days are spent: "in the warm summer days the lonesome child sat on her stoop and pretended disdain for the group of children playing on the sidewalk. Francie played with her imaginary companions and made believe they were better than real children. But all the while her heart beat in rhythm to the poignant sadness of the song the children sang while walking around in a ring with hands joined." (106). Francie is lonely, and longs to be included. As Francie matures, she begins to experience a different kind of loneliness. Betty Smith portrays her feelings as she observes her neighborhood: "spring came early that year and the sweet warm nights made her restless. She walked up and down the streets and through the park. And wherever she went, she saw a boy and a girl together, walking arm-in-arm, sitting on a park bench with their arms around each other, standing closely and in silence in a vestibule. Everyone in the world but Francie had a sweetheart or a friend she seemed to be the only lonely one in Brooklyn without a friend." (403). Loneliness is a constant challenge for Francie but it is through her loneliness that she finds a new companion in her books. Francie reads as an alternative for her lack of friends and companions. It is through her love of reading that Francie develops her extensive, sophisticated vocabulary. Her books lead her into maturity and help her learn to be independent and overcome her many hardships.

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