The Influence of the Family Members on the Life of Francie Nolan by Betty Smith

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The Influence of the Family Members on the Life of Francie Nolan

The main character in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, is certainly the brilliant and resourceful Francie Nolan, however, three other characters in the novel deserve credit for guiding Francie through her troublesome childhood. Francie Nolan grows up in the slums of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Despite Francie’s lifestyle of poverty and distress, she manages to work several respectable jobs, attend college and, fall in love. Although Francie works hard, she would not have been able to survive without the encouragement and support of Johnny Nolan, Sissy Rommely and Katie Nolan.

Francie’s father, Johnny Nolan, is a loving man who always supports and entertains his only daughter. However, Johnny Nolan is a useless dreamer, he continuously tells tall tales about a better life, but instead of turning his dreams into reality, he resorts to drinking to escape his stress. Although Francie hates her father’s constant drinking, his loving charm wins her heart over. Francie enjoys listening to Johnny’s exciting rambling late at night after a hard day’s work. Many nights he confides in Francie and makes promises he cannot keep such as, “I’m going to take you on a trip just you and me. We will go down south where the cotton blossoms grow" (24). Although Francie knows that Johnny will not be able to keep these promises, she admires her father for trying to bring happiness into her life. In Francie’s mind Johnny is the only family member that truly understands her as a person. Johnny knows Francie has the determination and the intelligence to make something of herself in life. Because of his great faith in Francie, he allows Francie to attend an elementary ...

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... education. Katie firmly believes that schooling is her children’s only escape from poverty. She is not embarrassed that Francie’s knowledge surpasses her own, instead she pushes her daughter to work harder. Kaite’s constant pushing results in Francie’s acceptance into a college university. Katie Nolan is the heart and soul of the Nolan family and without her Francie would not grow up to be a hard working, intelligent young woman.

On the final page of the novel the author writes of a tree. “The tree in the Nolan yard, whose leaf umbrellas had curled around fire escapes and washing lines, the tree that survives without much food or care, that tree lived and could not be destroyed” (430). Like the tree, Francie also lives. The support of Johnny, nurturing of Sissy and dedication of Katie enables Francie to become, just as the once struggling tree, indestructible.

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