Coming of Age in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Coming of Age in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Length: 1256 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓

Coming of Age in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn presents the problems of a child growing up, the coming of age when one meets challenges and overcomes obstacles.  The protagonist, Francie Nolan, undergoes a self-discovery as she strives to mature living in the Brooklyn slum despite its poverty and privation.  Thus, Smith's thematic treatment of the struggle of maturity has become for the reader an exploration of loneliness, family relationships, the loss of innocence, and death and disease.


One of the challenges of growing up is loneliness. As a small child living in Brooklyn Francie had no friends her age, the kids in her neighborhood that would have been candidates for friends either found her too quiet or shunned her for being different. Betty Smith describes on page 106 how most of Francie's childhood days were spent: "So 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." As time went by and Francie got older she began to get to know a different kind of loneliness. Betty Smith narrates her feelings on page 403: "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." Loneliness is one of the challenges we must all conquer as part of maturing and it helps us learn to be independent and overcome hardship.


Family relationships are a second problem faced by all in their coming of age. Francie loves her Johnny Nolan, her father, more than anything, she adores the way he talks and the way that he sings.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Coming of Age in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." 20 Feb 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Coming of Age in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

- 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....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
1049 words (3 pages)

A Tree Grows By Betty Smith Essay

- A Tree Grows in the Brooklyn The novel, ‘A Tree Grows in the Brooklyn’ by Betty Smith explores the story of Francie’s fall from innocence and her coming of age. Francie eventually learns to value life more as she grew up. She experiences an assertion of life when the Americans initially enter the war that she must live each day the best she can. Francie aptly realizes that the minor issues in life that most people overlook constitute the much-needed happiness. The author underscores that Francie espouses desirable qualities from both her father and mother....   [tags: Family, Mother, The Nolans]

Research Papers
966 words (2.8 pages)

Essay A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

-             A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an appropriate name for the book. It’s about 7 years of Frances Nolan’s life. The book’s title is highly symbolical and took me several passes through it before I understood it completely. In the beginning of the book the author talks about the “Tree of Heaven”. “No matter where the seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky”, is an excerpt from the first page of Book One. Until you finish the book or at least most of it you think the author is talking about a type of tree and the title makes absolutely positively no sense whatsoever because of that....   [tags: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Essays]

Free Essays
471 words (1.3 pages)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Essay

- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Francie Nolan, A Questing Hero In the fictional novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith tells the life experiences of one girl growing up in Brooklyn, New York. The main character of the book, Francie, fulfills the pattern of a questing hero. Smith leads the reader through the high points of Francie's life as well as the low. One learns of all the obstacles Francie accomplished and while reading, begins to love and appreciate the girl. The reader is first introduced to Francie when she is at the age of eleven....   [tags: essays papers]

Free Essays
559 words (1.6 pages)

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn Analysis Essays

- Evolution is nature's ability to ensure that living things will adapt in response to changes in the environment to ensure the maximum probability of survival, even under the most extreme circumstances. This ability almost seems granted to us by a kind of divinity, of which without all living things on our planet would have surely met their doom. Similarly, as a person ascends through the years of his or her lifetime, the intrinsic changes in an individual in response to the extrinsic obstacles can be quite uncanny....   [tags: Betty Smith]

Free Essays
1044 words (3 pages)

A tree grows in brooklyn Essay

- “A person who pulls himself up from a low environment via the boot-strap route has two choices. Having risen above his environment, he can forget it; or, he can rise above it and never forget it and keep compassion in his heart for those has left behind him in the cruel up climb.” (pg 129) Betty Smith’s novel A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is a tale of poignant family relationships and childhood and also of grim privation. The story revolves around the protagonist of the story, young Francie Nolan....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
1576 words (4.5 pages)

a tree grows in brooklyn Essay

- A Tree Grown in Brooklyn A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, what a splendid name for this book. Most people that have not read this book might only think that this book is about a tree growing in Brooklyn. Not knowing that this book is really about Francie Nolan. Francie is the tree that is growing in Brooklyn. She is growing up so quickly, not because she wants to, but because she has too. Francie was basically forced to grow up in her mid-teens. She had to help support her family....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
1353 words (3.9 pages)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Essay

- I read A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. The story takes place in the summer of 1912 in Brooklyn New York. Johnny and Katie Nolan met very young in 1900. Soon, after six months of meeting, and getting married they have their first child, Francie Nolan who is eleven when the book begins. Later they have their second and last child Neely Nolan. As Francie grows up she begins to lose her innocence through a tree-throwing ritual and an encounter with a sex offender who was shot by Katie....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
793 words (2.3 pages)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith Essay

- The Nolan’s are a young family, living in Brooklyn, New York. The members of the Nolan family are the main characters in the novel A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, beautifully written by Betty Smith. Johnny, Katie, and their two children Francie and Neely portray how life was in Brooklyn during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. This family is forced to make many important decisions, as all families must do. However, unfortunately often times the best outcome was not the end result. Before the birth of Katie and Johnny’s first child (Francie) the couple lived a stress free life....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
656 words (1.9 pages)

Essay about Where the Red Fern Grows

- Where the Red Fern Grows        I cannot remember the first time I read Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls. I read it at about age ten, and I have lost count of how many times I read it since. It was a period in my life when childhood was nearly over, but adolescence had not yet set in, and it was a time when animals were my greatest love.   Where the Red Fern Grows is a novel about a young boy and his two dogs, but to an animal-lover, it is much more. The story is told in the first person narrative, by an adult reminiscing about his childhood; the reader experiences life through the eyes of an eleven year old boy living in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas....   [tags: Where the Red Fern Grows Essays]

Research Papers
1781 words (5.1 pages)

Related Searches

She and him understand each other perfectly and Johnny Nolan is well aware of how to show Francie that he loves her. Francie's relationship with Katie Nolan, her mother, however is very different. Francie says at one time in the book that she does not understand Katie and Katie does not understand her because they are too alike, and on the contrary they can both understand Johnny and Francie's brother, Neely, because they are so different from them. Katie also loves Neely more than she does Francie and this proposes a problem because Francie is well aware of this and tries hard not to be jealous of her brother because of it. Also seen in the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the relationship between two people of the opposite sex and married couples which is different than the love of a child. Francie gets her first taste of romance when she overhears a conversation about how her parents first met. Kate and Johnny Nolan had once loved each other quite passionately, but as they faced hardships together and raised children their romance faded. Although Kate still loved Johnny she also hated him for his alcoholism. Francie's own first experience with male-companionship occurred when she was fourteen and a shy Albie Seedmore asked her to the movies. Although nothing came of that relationship she realized that she was becoming a women and yearned for love. Eventually Francie will meet Lee Rhynor with whom she falls passionately in love with but damages her further relationships and trust in the male sex when he plays a cruel joke on her. Before the end of the book Francie is proposed to by Ben Blake whom she knows will never betray her and is given time to think about their marriage. Francie also learns in growing up that sex is part of love through of her Aunt Sissy as she saw her being criticized for sexual scandals and having many lovers and witnessed several unmarried girls with their babies. The relationships you have as you come of age greatly effect how you feel about society and the world.


A third challenge everyone must face, as they grow older is loss of innocence. Francie lost the first of her innocence between her eleventh and twelfth birthdays as things began changing rapidly for her. She began noticing that days flew by quicker and soon began realizing that the future was not as far off as she first suspected and would soon be a thing of the past. Francie's loss of innocence ruined many things for her like the theater, the childish games she once played, and many of the things she had formerly grown to love were quickly dismissed as foolish and comical. The final loss of her innocence however came with her first romance involving a man by the name of Lee Rhynor. Francie and Lee had only known each other for forty-eight days when they confessed undying love for each other. Francie promises to wait for Lee while he is away fighting in the war: "And he asked for her whole life as simply as he'd ask for a date. And she promised away her whole life as simply as she'd offer a hand in greeting or farewell." (Page 450). Francie is heartbroken and in turn loses the last of her innocence when she finds out that Lee returned to his home town and proceeded to marry another girl and that his so called passionate love for her had only been a cruel joke. Francie's loss of innocence transformed her into a new person as she began to look at the world in a new light and see things as they were and not what she wanted them to be.


Death and disease is another obstacle everyone encounters as they mature. The first time Francie encounters this idea is when she finds out that Henny Gaddis, her friend's brother, is dying of consumption. Francie is often told that Henny is dying but does not believe it because she reports him as looking well. However she is told over and over until the idea is ground into her mind as a thing that will happen in the far off future, but when he dies so soon it comes as a shock to her. The next exposure she has to death comes with the death of her father. Johnny Nolan had been an alcoholic and was drove into depression after finding out he had been kicked out of the Waiter's Union which he had took a lot of pride in being a part of. He died when he ran out in the middle of the night and caught pneumonia. Francie had loved her father dearly and felt alone without him. Francie's experiences with death and disease helped shape her as a person and build her character and ideas about life.


We are all shaped as people in our coming of age through are experiences with loneliness, family relationships, loss of innocence, and death and disease. You cannot escape growing up nor avoid, but you can learn from Francie Nolan and approach it bravely with as much maturity and courage as she did.

Return to