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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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BOOK II

CHAPTER 7

Summary

This chapter is a flashback to twelve years earlier, when Johnny Nolan meets Katie Rommely for the first time. Katie and her best friend, Hildy O'Dair, work in the Castle Braid Factory, and Johnny is Hildy's boyfriend. Katie, however, finds him extremely attractive. One day, she reaches the gate of the factory before Hildy and speaks to Johnny, who is waiting outside. They begin to see each other frequently, and before long, they realize that they are in love with each another. Hildy is hurt at her friend's deception, but Johnny and Katie are too much in love to worry about Hildy. They marry within four months.

Katie's father is a massive, but handsome, man, who seems to hate everybody. He never forgives his daughter for marrying Johnny. Katie's mother, though uneducated and simple, has instilled good values in her children. In spite of her upbringing, Sissy, the oldest daughter, turns out to be a brazen young girl, who marries Jim at a young age. She is excited when she learns she is pregnant and hopes the baby is a boy, whom she plans to name John. The baby, however, is stillborn, so she begins to call her husband John. After three more stillborn babies, she leaves Jim and remarries. She insists on calling her new husband John as well; but she leaves him after she has three more stillborn babies. Sissy marries again and is still with her third husband even though she delivered more stillborn babies.

The second daughter, Eliza, is a plain girl who chooses to enter a convent and become a nun; Mary is delighted to give one of her daughters to the work of the church. Evy, the third daughter, is vivacious like her oldest sister. She marries Willie Flittman, a good, but weak, man, who plays the fiddle beautifully. Evy and Willie have two sons and one daughter.

All the Rommely women, including Katie, her sisters, and even Francie, are slender and frail; but inside they are all made of "invisible steel."


Notes

In this chapter, there is a flashback to give details of the Rommely family history. More is learned about Katie, her three sisters, and her parents. Their mother, Mary, wanted the girls to have an education; she also sought to instill her own simple values in them, especially teaching them to have tenacity. Even though all four daughters appear frail on the outside, they are like steel inside. Ironically, the three sisters that marry all choose weak men for husbands, including Johnny, Willie, and Jim; all three men, however, have a musical talent.

There is also an explanation of the courtship of Katie and Johnny. Even though he was the boyfriend of her best friend, the seventeen-year-old Katie fell for him because of his good looks and smart style in dressing. She quickly won his love, and they married within four months. When they have children, Katie passes down the values of her mother to her Francie and Neeley; Francie, in particular, is also as strong as steel, refusing to ever give up.

Sissy is the least tenacious of the Rommely women. She has married three different times. Her first two marriages ended largely because she was unable to give birth to a baby who was not stillborn. Although she still has no children of her own, she clearly shows her love for her nieces and nephews. She has also stayed married to her third husband.

It is obvious that the Rommely and Nolan families are very matriarchal, for the mothers are the dominant characters. Mary, Katie, and Francie all prove that they have the inner strength and tenacity to deal with any situation in life.

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