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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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Chapter 11

Summary

On his twenty-first birthday, Johnny gets drunk for three days. Katie finally locks him up in the bedroom so that he cannot have access to more alcohol. He is beside himself, so Katie asks Sissy to help her out.

Sissy, with utmost calm, hides a bottle of whisky in her corset between her generous breasts and locks herself in Johnny's room. She is going to sober him up gradually. She quiets Johnny by giving him a swig of whiskey and holding him close. All night long, she repeats the process as Johnny keeps muttering all his sorrows to her. While Sissy comforts him, he finally goes off to sleep. The next morning, Johnny is sober. Katie is a little uncertain of what actually happened inside the bedroom, but Sissy humorously reprimands her for having any bad thoughts. The two sisters discuss Johnny and his weakness, and Katie promises to be good to Johnny, taking care of him.


Notes

This tragic chapter is also filled with humor. When Johnny goes on a drunken binge for his birthday, Katie finally locks him in the bedroom and calls Sissy for help. Sissy has a unique way of sobering Johnny up. She spends the entire night alone with him, giving him periodic swigs of whisky and comforting him at her breast. After he pours out all his drunken miseries to Sissy, he finally falls into a deep sleep, which sobers him up.

Sissy's loose reputation is called into question in the chapter. When she loosens her corset to take out the bottle of whisky that she has hidden there, Johnny wonders if she is going to take advantage of him. Then when she emerges from the bedroom in the morning with her corset strings loosened and her dress disarray, even Katie is uncertain about what has gone on in the bedroom; however, Sissy's straightforwardness and humor calm Katie's fears.

The wise and worldly Sissy is able to give Katie advice about Johnny and her marriage. She tells Katie that she married Johnny because she wanted to sleep with him but did not have the guts to do so outside the rules of the church. Now that she is married to him, she needs to stand by him and help him overcome his weaknesses. Katie promises to love Johnny in spite of his shortcomings.

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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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