A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century.This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
The curriculet is being added to your library
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is where the main character of this story lives. Williamsburg, close to Manhattan and the Williamsburg Bridge, is the light green section at the top center of the map below. Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs of New York City. The other four are Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens. (This annotation contains an image)
The setting of a story includes the time and place in which the action happens. The first two sentences tell us that this story takes place in Brooklyn, New York, and the time is the summer of 1912.In these two paragraphs what do the details about the tree in Francie's yard add to our understanding of the setting?
The picture below shows a "tenement district" in Brooklyn in the early 1900's. A "tenement" is an overcrowded apartment building. Looking ahead: Notice the horse-drawn carriages that line the streets. They were an important means of transportation in 1912. (This annotation contains an image)
Authors sometimes repeat a word or phrase to make an idea clearer. The repetition of the word rusty in this paragraph emphasizes the idea that
Below is a picture of the Manhattan Street Bridge being built in 1909, an event Francie would have witnessed. (This annotation contains an image)
Francie describes the streets as she walks to "the best nickel and dime store in the world," and we learn that Brooklyn is made up of different ethnic groups. How does Francie feel as she walks through the Jewish neighborhood?
Why does Mama let Francie have coffee and milk everyday even though she knows that at the end of the meal her daughter will pour it down the drain?
Why do "waves of panic" pass over Francie?
Watch the following video to learn about irony. (This annotation contains a video)
Irony is an inconsistency between the actual outcome of an event and the normal, expected result. What is ironic about this scene in which Neeley and his friends bully a Jewish boy on his way to the temple?
Watch the following video to learn about a story's point of view. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the point of view of this story?
Notice the fire escapes on this tenement building. As Francie sits on hers, hidden by the "Tree of Heaven," she enjoys watching the stories unfold in the apartments (or "flats," as she calls them) across from her as well as on the street below. (This annotation contains an image)
Francie likes her "fire-escape-sitting time" because
Find two sentences in the highlighted paragraphs that show the difference between the way Frank and Willie get along with their horses, Bob and Drummer. Write the sentences in the space below.
How do Francie's use of the words starved and hungry help us understand the difference between Flossie Gaddis and Aunt Sissy's attitudes towards men?
"Molly Malone" is a famous Irish song about a fictional character who was a fishmonger on the streets of Dublin. Molly died young of a fever. Click on the video below to listen to what Francie hears Papa sing. (This annotation contains a video)
Infer means to conclude or deduce from evidence given instead of being told directly. We can infer from evidence in the highlighted paragraph that belonging to a Union
A Prima Donna is the name for the lead female singer in an opera company, and the term sometimes refers to a person who thinks she is better than others. Notice, however, that Papa uses the nickname because of Francie's "tuneful" crying when she was a baby.
Half way through this chapter about Johnny Nolan, Francie admits that she knows her mother is a "good woman" and that her father is "no good." Why, then, do you think Francie says she likes her father better than her mother?
A "masquerade ball" is an event where people show up in costume wearing masks. Flossie's gowns are "decollete," which means they have low necklines. (This annotation contains an image)
This paragraph reveals that Francie's point of view is changing from the beginning of the chapter because
Notice the power of words in this scene when Francie goes to Moore Street to buy a pickle. Goyem is a derogatory word that describes non-Jews. Sheeney is an offensive word for Jew. What causes the conflict in this scene?
The butcher shops Francie visits are similar to the one pictured below. Notice the different experiences she has with each butcher. (This annotation contains an image)
A confessional is a booth where people can confess their sins privately to a priest. The priest then gives penances--actions to do in order to show you are sorry.The link below will take you to a picture of a confessional booth that is similar to the one Francie uses. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_RpTRoam5eOc/TLOmAfJkkTI/AAAAAAAAQy0/qvCeAgwu0iA/s1600/StationXIV_TheConfes...Why is there a long line outside of Father O'Flynn's confessional?
What is a Saturday ritual (a repeated practice) in the Nolan household?
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." (Jojen Reed, from A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin)Besides reading Shakespeare and the Bible, how else do Kate, Johnny, and Francie fill their lives with stories on Saturday nights?
The author, Betty Smith, begins Book Two because
When Hildy confronts Katie about stealing her "feller," Katie's reaction can be best described by the word
Notice that we are moving further into the past in Book Two as we read more about Francie's parents and grandparents. Watch the following video to learn about the order of events in a story. (This annotation contains a video)
Mary Rommely tries to protect her children from the cruelty of their father by
A simile is a comparison using like or as. Notice that John Two uses a simile to describe Sissy. He compares her to "quicksilver" which is another name for the element, mercury, and the word can "mean rapid or unpredictable in movement or change" (dictionary.com).What are some ways that Sissy is like quicksilver?
How do we explain the fact that Eliza does not appear in this list of the Rommely women?
Irish Town was situated west of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (in white) on this map in Vinegar Hill and underneath the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. (This annotation contains an image)
Which statement below best describes the author's main point in these two chapters about the Rommely and Nolan families?
Here is a copy of the American newspaper that Johnny reads to Katie read as they clean the school. (This annotation contains a link)
How does Johhny react to Katie's labor with Francie?
Like real people, interesting characters in a story usually have an intricate mix of strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of what you see as some of Johnny's strengths and weaknesses so far in the novel.
When making decisions, we often try to balance our "heads" (information, reasoning) with our "hearts" (feelings, emotions). In the rest of this chapter, pay particular attention to the decisions Sissy makes, and think about how she makes them. Does she rely mostly on her "head, her "heart," or a combination of both? (This annotation contains an image)
When making decisions, Sissy relies mostly on
A midwife is someone who is trained to assist a woman during childbirth. The following is an image from "Call the Midwife," a TV show about a group of midwives in the 1950's. As you read on notice the advice the midwife gives Katie. What do you think of this advice? (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the following video to learn how authors use a literary device known as a "motif." (This annotation contains a video)
In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the author uses trees as a motif throughout the novel. We noticed in the early chapters that some people call the tree Francie hides behind while on her fire escape the "Tree of Heaven."Look closely at the highlighted passage. How does the author develop the tree motif in this chapter?
Johnny is experiencing "delirium tremens" (also known as the DT's), which is a form of alcohol withdrawal that involves severe mental and nervous system changes. The DT's occur after heavy, prolonged drinking and can last anywhere from forty-eight hours to several days.
Sissy helps Johnny by treating him like a caring
Purgatory is a Catholic belief in a temporary state of purification after death for some people who are on their way to heaven. See the chart below. (This annotation contains an image)
Ice was harvested in the winter from the Hudson River and delivered in horse-drawn wagons. Notice that the "ice man" also makes money by using his wagon to move furniture. (This annotation contains an image)
Katie reads the babies a page from Shakespeare and a page from the Bible because
Here Francie is quoting a line from Shakespeare's play, Macbeth. Macbeth makes the following statement right after he learns his wife has died: "Out, out, brief candle! / Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more: it is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing." (Act 5, Scene 5) (This annotation contains an image)
The best synonym for disdain is
"Potsy" is another name for "hopscotch." Unlike the game pictured below, Francie plays all by herself. (This annotation contains an image)
Francie says that because there was always music on the streets, the "long ago summers should have been joyous." Why does she say the music-filled summers were "sad"?
"Pie wagon" is a slang term for a police wagon used to collect large numbers of people who are arrested. The crowd disperses because the "cop" threatens to send for a pie wagon like the one pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
The narrator says that Sissy's giving the children a package of condoms to play with "was very innocent, looked at in the right way." According to the narrator what is the "right" point of view?
When the Williamsburg Bridge opened on December 19th, 1903, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world. It connects Francie's neighborhood, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Imagine how this new way to cross the East River changed Brooklyn. Click on the blue link below for more photos and information. (This annotation contains a link)
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which a writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story. How is the final sentence of this chapter an example of foreshadowing?
Below is a picture of the kind of tree growing in Francie's yard. The ailanthus altissima, also called "The Tree of Heaven," is native to both northeast and central China and Taiwan. So, like Francie's grandparents, the tree is also an "immigrant" in Brooklyn. (This annotation contains an image)
Francie never likes blackboard erasers after
Here is a picture of an airshaft. The one in Francie's apartment is probably more narrow. Notice the comparisons Francie makes when she describes the airshaft. (This annotation contains an image)
Francie cries because
Francie delights in watching the "tea man" measures out tea and coffee using scales like the ones pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
What are mysteries "of the Orient" that Francie experiences in Brooklyn?
Metronomes are devices musicians use to keep a steady tempo. The following video shows one in action. Notice the different ways Neeley and Francie respond to the metronome. (This annotation contains a video)
In her forward to the novel, Anna Quindlen states, "There is no doubt that this is an autobiographical story; originally written as a memoir, it was reconfigured as fiction at the request of an editor at its publishing house."What does Francie's conversation with Miss Tynmore reveal about the author, Betty Smith?
What is ironic about the health authorities' attempt to explain to the "poor and illiterate" the reason for requiring children to receive vaccinations before entering school?
The phrase "to pull yourself up by your bootstraps" means to improve your situation by your own efforts. What do you think of the nurses's effort to improve her situation?
Quiz on Chapters 1-18
Look closely at the highlighted paragraph. Which of the following statements best describes a scapegoat?
"Brutalizing is the only adjective for the public schools of that district around 1908 and '09."What are three examples from Francie's experience that support this statement?
Notice how the author uses the simile, "trembling like a leaf" to further develop the connection between Francie and the tree.
Sissy seeing "which way the wind blew" means that she figures out the situation about how the teacher favors the more wealthy children. The phrase is also an example of which of the following literary devices?
The Rommelys pay for life insurance policies, and the collector is the person to whom they pay their weekly premiums. Notice the irony here: it takes a person outside the family to reconnect Katie and Sissy.
A theme is an main idea or underlying meaning in a literary work. Through this observation about the children who are infected with lice, what theme does Betty Smith continue to develop about Francie's school life?
Head lice are "democratic" because they like to live in anyone's hair. Notice how Katie's treatments for Francie lead to her becoming more of an outsider. (This annotation contains an image)
A metaphor is a figure of speech which makes a comparison between two things or objects that are very different from each other but have some similar characteristics between them. The following line is an example: The "two visiting teachers were the gold and silver sun-splash in the great muddy river of school days." In the context of Francie's school days, what are the similarities between the visiting teachers and "gold and silver sun-splash"?
What do reading and arithmetic have in common for Francie?
Which statement best describes Francie's feelings about roll call at the beginning of each term?
To be brutal is to be extremely cruel or harsh. Why are the teaches and students less "brutalized" in Francie's new school?
Below is a picture of the 1913 Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1947 the Dodgers started Jackie Robinson at first base and became the first National League team to break the color barrier in baseball. (This annotation contains an image)
This Lenape Indian Chief is the namesake for a corrupt political organization called the Tammany Society. The society emerges as a Democratic Party political machine that plays a major role in controlling New York City and New York State politics and helping immigrants, most notably the Irish, rise up in American politics from the 1790s to the 1960s. Notice the examples of corruption that Johnny describes in the next few pages. (This annotation contains an image)
A "ward heeler" is a person who works in a specified area to gain votes for a particular political candidate. The term has a negative connotation because at this time the job entails paying people off, ripping down opponents' posters, and other corrupt practices. As we read more about election day in Brooklyn, notice some of the "bribes" the Nolan family accept.
Why does Mama suddenly put on her cotton gloves?
A subplot is a story within the larger story, or a secondary plot line. What subplot does the author introduce in this chapter that is mostly about election day?
Below is an example of a political button similar to the ones "with Mattie's mug on them." (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following are examples of bribes or favors given for the purpose of gaining votes on election day?
Below is a picture of Francie's favorite kind of carriage, the hansom cab. It was designed and patented in 1834 by Joseph Hansom in New York. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Johnny take Francie to Bushwick Avenue?
Dr. Frederick cook is a noted explorer who claimed to reach the North Pole on April 21, 1908. Francie is proud that this famous man is a fellow citizen of Brooklyn. (This annotation contains an image)
The term "slamming gates" refers to the children's Thanksgiving Day tradition of
Francie says that it was "at a Thanksgiving time" that she decided to become a writer. Summarize the incident that leads to her decision.
Allusion is a brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance. It does not describe in detail the person or thing to which it refers. It is just a passing comment and the writer expects the reader to possess enough knowledge to spot the allusion and grasp its importance in a text. Here we see a Biblical allusion--a referenece to the story of Jesus' birth which is the focus of Christmas Eve. Look for more allusions as you read this chapter.
The tree thrower went through a kind of Gethsemane is another allusion to the story of Jesus. Gethsemane is the garden where Jesus prays the night before he dies, and he is in great anguish about his impending suffering and death. How does this allusion relate to the "tree thrower"?
Which of the following statements best summarizes what Katie figures out as she watches Johnny and the children bring the tree up the stairs?
"Scapulars," Mary Rommely's presents to Neeley and Francie, are devotional items intended to remind the wearers of their faith. Examples are pictured below. "Heiliges Weihnachten" is a German expression, and it means "Holy Christmas." (This annotation contains an image)
Why do none of the many girls named "Mary" respond to the invitation to receive a beautiful new doll?
When Francie asks to take Mary as a middle name when she is confirmed, what is ironic about her mother's response?
A "stock company" is a troupe of actors who perform regularly in a theater. There are three theaters in Francie's neighborhood.
Which statement below best expresses the theme of this chapter?
Canarsie is a working class and middle class residential and commercial neighborhood in the southeastern portion of Brooklyn. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Johnny concerned about Little Tilly?
Pictured below is the inside of a Brooklyn trolley car just like the one Johnny and the children ride. Trolleys run on tracks that run down most main streets. (This annotation contains an image)
An idiom is an expression or phrase that means something quite different from what the individual words of the phrase imply.Katie gives Johnny a tongue lashing. The idiom tongue lashing means
Why should this particular Saturday be the happiest of Francie's life?
A pun is a play on words in which a humorous effect is produced by using a word that suggests two or more meanings or by exploiting similar sounding words having different meanings. Here is an example:My rechargeable batteries are revolting.Which of the following words from the highlighted paragraph is used as a pun?
This highlighted sentence contains another Biblical allusion. A woman is caught in adultery and is about to be stoned when Jesus intervenes. Click on the link below to read this brief story.http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+8%3A1-11&version=NLTHow does this Biblical story help us understand the author's point of view about Joanna's situation?
In the second half of this chapter, what causes Francie to connect in a more personal way to Joanna and her story?
Below is a picture of a New York milk wagon. (This annotation contains an image)
In what way are Evy and Drummer similar characters?
Notice the different story-telling techniques in chapters 31 and 32. As you continue reading, think about why the author uses the diary-entry method to tell this part of Francie's story.
The term euphemism refers to polite, indirect expressions which replace words and phrases considered harsh and impolite or which suggest something unpleasant.What is an example of a euphemism in Francie's diary entries?
What does the way Katie explains sex to her children reveal about her?
Notice Johnny's joke in this highlighted passage. Why do you think he "abruptly" stops laughing?
Francie's reaction to this traumatic event is
What is ironic about Francie's situation?
What is the "lucky thing" that happened about the newspapers?
The highlighted sentence contains an example of
The Statue of Liberty, pictured below, is an important symbol for people coming to live in America. Think about why "Statch' Lib'ty" is an appropriate name for Sissy. (This annotation contains an image)
The Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus. Because the birth of Jesus was miraculous, many Catholics believes Mary is sometimes the source of miracles in people's lives. This reference to the Virgin Mary is an example of
Notice that Francie tells her father that he "won" because he finishes singing "Molly Malone" before Mama opens the door for him. What do the words in the final verse, Johhny's reaction to winning, and Francie's thoughts before and after he arrives at the door suggest about this unusual situation?
Clotheslines like the one pictured below are a common sight in Francie's neighborhood, and families use them year-round to dry their "wash." Because it is winter, the wash is frozen stiff, so Neeley and Francie have a hard time bringing it in the window. (This annotation contains an image)
"Come, Little Leaves" is a favorite American children's song in Francie's time, one that that Mr. Morton teaches in music class. Listen to it in the video below to see why Neeley calls it a "baby song." (This annotation contains a video)
Inscrutable means mysterious or hard to understand. Describe one of Katie's inscrutable ways that Francie and Neeley discuss.
We finally learn why Johnny has been acting so strangely. The reason is that
The only identification Johnny has on him is his Saint Anthony's medal. St Anthony is venerated all over the world as the Patron Saint for lost articles, and is credited with many miracles involving lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual goods. (This annotation contains an image)
The undertaker say that he "respects" Johnny and that he is Katie's "friend." These statements are examples of
"It's no skin off your teeth" is an idiom that means "it is no risk for you." The idiom may be a mixed metaphor with a phrase used in the context of boxing: a boxer with "no skin off his nose" is one who loses nothing in a fight. The doctor has nothing to lose by stating pneumonia is the official cause of Johhny's death.
What do Katie's views of McGarrity's influence on Johnny and the children's viewing the open coffin reveal about her beliefs?
Picking up her father's mug in the barber shop teaches Francie something new about her father's life. Notice the personal shaving mugs on the shelf in the picture below. (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz on Chapters 19-36
What causes Francie and Neeley to finally cry about their father's death?
In the Catholic faith Jesus is believed to be both the son of God and the fully human son of Mary. Notice why Francie says she believes in Jesus but not in God.
Notice the multiple references to the story of Jesus: earlier in the chapter Francie said she believes in him and she describes some of his life; before bed the family reads the Christmas story together.What are some connections developed in this chapter between the story of Jesus and the Nolan's life?
As Katie describes her budget, consider what it costs to support a family of three. Their apartment rent is between three and five dollars a month. The following list helps us understand how prices in 1912 compare to today. ----”Tooth soap” cost $0.25 (1896) ----Board at Clemson College for 40 weeks cost $59 (1896) ----A home on Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn, NY cost $7,000 to $12,000 (1901) ----One Oldsmobile cost $650 (1904) ----One pound of coffee cost $0.15 ----$1 in 1912 = $23.28 today
Because Francie is fourteen, she can leave school and go to work. Neeley is still too young. Notice the difference between Katie and Evy's views of education.
What do Katie's prayers suggest about her beliefs?
Notice the author devotes a large portion of this chapter developing a new character--McGarrity. What do McGarrity's dreams reveal about Johnny?
In this conversation with McGarrity, Katie proves herself to be
Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments through which Catholics pass in the process of their religious upbringing. A sacrament is a visible ritual believed to channel God's presence and grace. According to Catholic doctrine, in this sacrament they are sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and are strengthened in their Christian life. Francie and Neeley go to classes for several weeks to prepare for the ceremony.
What can we infer from this conversation between Jim and Mae McGarrity?
Notice that Francie learns more than one lesson from Joanna.
Francie laughs "for the first time since Papa had died." What do you think are the main reasons for her being able to cope better with her grief?
Watch the following video to learn more about about using textual evidence to make "inferences." (This annotation contains a video)
What can we infer about Miss Garnder from her conversation with Francie about writing?
Francie's writing changes after her father dies--she becomes more truthful about her experiences and her family. Notice the use of the word "sordid" in this chapter and the way the word affects Francie. Who is demonstrating the more "ugliness" in this episode, Francie or Miss Gardner?
Francie's dream suggests that she is looking for
Notice Miss Garnder does teach Francie a lesson, but not the one she intended. It is significant that Francie keeps only four compositions that are about her father, and she burns the rest. Ironically, Franice learns that all her successful compositions that earned her high marks are lies. She finds them less valuable than the true descriptions of her father.
After Francie burns her writing she feels "frightened and lonely." Now she feels a great "tenderness" for her mother. What causes the change?
Katie's labor begins. She keeps asking about the time, perhaps because her contractions have begun and she is counting the minutes between them. As you continue to read this chapter, notice how the theme of which child Katie loves best continues to develop as Francie helps her mother.
Earlier in the chapter Francie asks her mother if she wants Neeley to be with her because he "is more of a comfort" to her than Francie. Here Katie comes back to the topic for the third time, even though she is distracted by birth pain.What realization does Katie come to about the way she treats her children?
Katie asks Francie about Troilus and Cressida, two young lovers whose time together is cut short during the Trojan War. Think about how the allusion is fitting at this point in the novel.
Why does Francie worry about keeping plates hot?
An "omniscient narrator" can reveal the thoughts of any character. Notice how the narrative perspective moves to all of the flats (apartments) near the Nolan's as the people in them hear Katie's screams. What is the common thought among all of these different people?
Once the baby is born, Francie feels that she and her mother are stangers again. How does Katie reconnect with Francie?
It is 1916, and Francie is hearing talk about World War I which has been going on in Europe since 1914. President Woodrow Wilson, pictured below, spent two years keeping America out of the war. However, on April 2, 1917, Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. (This annotation contains an image)
As Francie listens to the conversations in the saloon, she tries to understand "a world spinning in confusion." Besides the war, what are other changes that are adding to the "confusion." List at least three examples.
Gethsemane is another way of saying
As you read this conversation between Francie and Miss Garnder, notice how Francie's attitude toward her English teacher has changed.
Sissy and Francie decide to lie to Katie about who gave Francie her flowers. This decision reveals that Sissy and Francie are
This popular anti-war song that the group sings in the ice-cream saloon was written by Ed Morton, and it was a hit in 1915. (This annotation contains an image)
Evy thinks that Katie's tip is
Through her new job, woking on an assembly line that produces artificial flowers, Francie is learning about the monotony of factory work. Notice in the next paragraph what memory her reaction to this kind of work brings to mind. Francie's workplace might look similar to the one pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
What makes Francie laugh even though she is being treated so unkindly by the other women?
Below is a picture of a New York City Automat like the one where Neeley eats lunch. Sandwiches and deserts are in the compartments on the wall, and patrons put a coin in the slot to buy their lunch. (This annotation contains an image)
Notice that Francie enjoys the figurative expression, "And tears stood in her eyes." Neeley sees only the literal meaning. Watch the video below to learn more about figurative and literal language. Then see how Francie uses this expression at the end of the chapter. (This annotation contains a video)
What do Francie's attitude towards new work, sodas, library books, and ice cream flavors reveal about her character?
In 1888 Burrelle's® Press Clipping Bureau formed in New York City after founder Frank Burrelle overheard two businessmen lament the difficulty of keeping up with the news in the papers. Burrelle and his wife transformed their kitchen table to a press clipping bureau, pulling from New York City newspapers the news of interest to his customers. Francie is working in a Press Clipping Bureau like Burrelle's. Click the link below to read more. (This annotation contains a link)
Which statement best explains the reason for Francie's disappointment with her job in New York City?
Francie commutes to New York city on an El, or "elevated" train system like the one pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
What is ironic about Francie and her boss's discussion of the new job offer?
Notice how highly the Nolan family--especially Franice--value education. Before you read further, make a prediction: what will Katie decide about Francie's new job and school?
Francie compares her argument with her mother to
Notice how the family habit of reading a page of Shakespeare every night has paid off for Neeley. He is an authority on Shakespeare's play before he begins studying it in high school. Below is a picture of scene from the play when Caesar's ghost haunts Brutus. (This annotation contains an image)
How can modern readers reconcile the anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment espoused by characters in the novel?
The highlighted statement refers to
Notice how the author reveals growth in Francie through her recalling the "tree-throwing" incident and remembering Johnny's singing that Christmas.
Neeley and Francie buy each other Christmas presents. The items they buy reveal that both of them
The word "crucifix" comes from the Latin "cruci fixus" meaning "(one) fixed to a cross." It is an image of Jesus on the cross as distinct from a bare cross. Francie admires the ones Grandpa Rommely carved from scrap wood.
Would you describe Francie as a religious person? Why or why not? Support your view with evidence.
What Francie is reading in the papers comes true three months later when the United States declares war on Germany. (This annotation contains an image)
What is ironic about Francie's view of Germans?
Like the tree, Katie's hands are another example of a "motif" in the novel. At one point the narrator describes them as red because her work requires Katie to put them in buckets of lye soap. When in public we notice that she sometimes wears gloves to hide her hands, and she refuses to let Francie help her with her work so Francie's hands will not be damaged like her mother's. In this passage, Katie's hands are steady as she makes the New Year's drinks, but she is concerned about what she is doing. As you read on consider why she thinks of this drinking as "something crucial."
Reread Francie's description of Brooklyn. She uses a simile to describe
Neeley is playing Ragtime Music and Jazz on the piano. Ragtime refers to the kind of "ragged" rhythm of this music, and it was most popular between 1895 and 1918. Scott Joplin was one of the most famous ragtime musicians, and his "Maple Leaf Rag" continue to be an all-time favorite tune. (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the video below to learn the difference between "internal" and "external" conflict. (This annotation contains a video)
This episode about Sissy and Steve provides an example of
The "change in life" Katie refers to is called "menopause." It is a time in a woman's life, usually in her late forties and early fifties, when she loses her ability to bear children. Notice Sissy's typically stubborn reaction.
Notice that Francie has a habit of eavesdropping on adult conversation. What can we infer from Sissy and Katie's discussion of revealing the truth to Steve that Sissy is not their baby's birth mother?
Through her work at the Model Press Clippings Bureau, Francie reads all of the headlines about this fateful day in American history. (This annotation contains an image)
Consider the poem Francie has saved. These lines are written by a Brooklyn poet, and they can be read as a description of Francie, herself. Pick one of the lines and provide some details from the story that show how the line represents Francie's character or life so far.
One of the factors leading the US into war is the fact that German submarines came close to the Panama Canal with the intention of sinking ships. The "Panama Canal client" who turns out to be a spy is probably keeping Germany updated on activity around the canal. (This annotation contains an image)
Francie's internal conflict at this point in the story is between
The simile this highlighted sentence suggests that
What are some reasons Francie feels sick at this point in the story?
"Q. E. D." is from a Latin phrase that means "as was demonstrated." It usually follows a mathematical or logical statement. Here, Ben uses it to emphasize that there is no questions about Francie's passing French. Franice jokes by using responding with "P. D. Q," which stands for "pretty darn quickly."
Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States, was an inventor, statesman, and ambassador. He is famous for his ingenuity and success in starting with nothing and working hard to achieve great success. How is Benjamin Franklin Blake a fitting name for Francie's new friend?
Sissy demonstrates the change in attitudes towards childbirth in 1917. Having children in a hospital is unusual at the time because, as Katie later suggests, it is a place people go to die. Below is a picture taken in May, 1917, of a New York Hospital ward. As you read on, notice the difference of opinions among the sisters about having a Jewish or Christian doctor. Their discussion indicates another change in attitudes. (This annotation contains an image)
From Sissy's experience in the hospital, we can infer that
"Vignettes" are short incidents or scenes. Notice how this chapter is a series of vignettes that give us an impression of what the family is thinking and doing in 1917.
Which word best describes Mary Rommely's view of dying?
The conclusion to the cigarette discussion suggests that Francie
The chapter concludes on New Year's Eve, 1918. Notice that what the family drinks brings up fond memories of Johnny. However, thinking of Johnny, Katie is probably relieved that the children do not want "milk punch" with brandy in it.
How does Lee put Francie's mind as ease about their date?
When they tell each other their life stories, notice that Lee leaves out any mention of the girl to whom he is engaged, and Francie does not mention Ben Blake. Before you read on, make a prediction about how you think Francie's first date will turn out.
How is Francie just like Katie as she dances with Lee?
Notice how Lee is surprised about how honest Francie can be with her mother. Why does he cry? Has your prediction about Francie and Lee's relationship changed?
Francie mentions working extra shifts because of the "influenza epidemic." From 1918 to 1920 there was a flu pandemic, which infected a third of all people on earth and killed an estimated fifty million people. Below is a 1918 photograph of flu victims. (This annotation contains an image)
We can infer from Katie's description of Francie that Lee cries the last night he and Francie are together because
Notice the irony in Francie's question to her mother, "What makes you think you know everything all the time?" Francie has just asked Katie to help her sort out the painful experience with Ben.
Who is McShane?
The way the children react to McShane helps develop his character. Laurie falls asleep in his arms, indicating that he has a gentle way with children and that Laurie feels safe in his arms. As you read on, notice how Neeley and Francie's reactions to this man who is courting their mother help us better understand McShane's character.
A theme in this novel is that being "rich" does not always require money. Notice how Francie develops this idea in the highlighted passage. Through Katie's marriage to McShane, the Nolan family is about to become more wealthy than they have ever been. Why, then, does Francie describe Laurie as "poor"?
Watch the video to learn more about how characters develop in a story. Then, as you read the final two chapters of the novel, think about how the author shows us that Francie has changed. (This annotation contains a video)
Evy's reaction to Willie leaving her shows us again that the Rommely women are
We learn that Francie is on her way to the University of Michigan. Consider the significance of the fact that the novel comes to a close just as Francie is about to leave Brooklyn to begin her college career.
Which statement best describes Francie's attitude toward Lee and Ben?
The phrase "not profanely but prayerfully" means that Francie is not cursing at Charlie, she is asking him for a favor. Why do you think it is so important to Francie that a child has a chance to win a prize in his store?
As she visits her old school, Francie makes an interesting comment about the way we perceive places from our past. She says, "her eyes had grown used to looking at bigger things." Describe a place that seemed much smaller to you when you returned for a visit.
Francie continues to develop the idea of how we see places over time. Our perceptions change as we grow older and see new places. Does Francie decide never to come back "to the old neighborhood" because she has outgrown it, or because she wants to preserve an accurate memory of the place she loves?
In this scene with Francis and Neeley, what words remind us Johnny?
Earlier in the novel we noticed how the author uses the tree to help develop the setting. Here, at the close of the story, we see the tree again, and learn some new details about its growth. What ideas does the author emphasize through Francie's final observations about the tree?
Quiz on Chapters 37-56