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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The setting of the entire novel is the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, from 1902 to 1919. Through the entire novel, the Nolan family lives in this poor neighborhood, only shifting from one area to another when the need arises. The Williamsburg streets, the neighborhood stores, the saloon that Johnny Nolan frequents, and the homes portray an extremely low class background. In spite of the poverty that surrounds them, the Nolan family thrives in Williamsburg, and the children manage to get a good education. In the latter part of the novel, Francie is seen travelling to New York City for her job, but the central setting is Brooklyn.


LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Francie Nolan

The main character and protagonist of the novel. Francie is developed in the novel from a young girl to a mature teenager, who is characterized by good sense and intelligence. She flourishes in spite of the poverty that surrounds her.

Katie Nolan

Francie's mother who is an intensely capable and practical woman. She carries the entire responsibility of her family on her frail shoulders.

Johnny Nolan

Katie's husband and Francie's father. Although he is an inveterate alcoholic who cannot hold a job, he comes across as a warm human being with deep love for his family.

Neeley Nolan

Francie's younger brother and the apple of his mother's eye. The obvious affection towards the son is not lost on Francie; but she manages to take the partiality in her stride.

Minor Characters

Sissy Rommely

Katie's sister who has a vivacious personality. In spite of the fact that she is a man-chaser, she has deep-rooted faith in humanity and loves the world, especially children.

Evy Rommely

Katie's other sister. Though more stable than Sissy, she has a wonderful sense of humor and wit.

Mary Rommely

Katie's mother. It is she who imparts to Katie the need for education, as well as the necessity to save money for the future.

Willie Flittman

Evy's husband, a weak man who is a source of continuous laughter for the entire Rommely family.

Steve

Sissy's third husband, who finally asserts himself as the man of the house, gaining Sissy's total love.

Ben Blake

Aa summer student at the college that Francie attends. He helps her with her lessons, and she feels like she is in love with him.

Lee Rhynor

Aan irresponsible young man who is in Brooklyn for a few days from out of town. Francie's friend sets her up with a date with Lee, and she receives her first kiss and pledge of love from him. Francie is crushed when he goes home and immediately marries his fiancée, after pledging his love to her.

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