A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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            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. The author goes on to talk about how the Tree of Heaven grew in abandoned lots, neglected rubbish heaps, and cement. “It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts”. From what I understand the tree symbolizes Francie, and the book title A Tree Grows in Brooklyn means Francie (The tree) grows up in Brooklyn, simple enough? So as Betty Smith (The author) talks about the tree’s determination to grow no matter what odds are against it, she’s talking about Francie and her iron will to get an education and make things easier for her family. At the end of the book Francie is getting ready for some big occasion and she looks across the lot and sees herself  7 years ago when she was ten and still lugging junk to Carney’s for pennies. She calls out to the girl saying “Hello Francie!” and then the girl gets a defensive and starts telling Francie that she is Florry and that Francie knows it. That confuses you right? Francie calls Florry Francie when Francie knows Florry is really Florry, ugh a mouth full. Francie sees that she was exactly like Florry at that age and she calls Florry Francie because she sees herself, earlier. Within the last two pages of the book the author (Betty Smith) talks about the landlord sending two men two chop down the tree because it was in the middle of a wash line. They did, but the tree didn’t die. A new one grew up from the stump, where there were no wash lines, and started to reach for the sky again.

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“This tree lived! It lived! And nothing could destroy it”. This symbolizes Francie’s troubles as she grew up, her dad dying, no food, her mom working so hard even with a new fetus, Francie skipping high school to make money, etc. But like the tree, Francie gets back up, tallies the losses and keeps going. She eventually makes it to college and that’s where the story ends. At the very end of the book she says “Goodbye Francie”, which means she’s beyond her past and moving on.
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