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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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Chapter 14

Summary Katie feels it is necessary to move once again; this time it is due to the behavior of her sister Sissy. One day on her way to the Nolans' house, Sissy spies a dazzling tricycle in a yard. Seeing that it is unattended, she takes it and gives it to Francie and Neeley. When the little boy and his mother come over and accuse Sissy of stealing the tricycle, Sissy defends herself by saying that she had only borrowed it. When a policeman arrives, Sissy flirts with him until he actually takes her side. This episode has all the women in the neighborhood talking about the Nolans and all the men looking at Sissy.

Another time Katie gives Sissy the responsibility of looking after the children while she goes to work. Sissy decides she wants to go out on a date. She leaves Francie and Neeley with a few playthings from her purse to entertain themselves while she is gone; among the items is a box of condoms. The children open the box. Not knowing the purpose of a condom, they tie it on a string and hang it outside the window for all the neighbors to see. This incident has serious repercussions. Katie tells her sister never to enter the Nolan household again. Additionally, Katie feels that she must move out of the neighborhood to avoid shame and embarrassment. They find another house to rent in a different area of Williamsburg.


Notes

Despite the irresponsible behavior of Sissy that is described, this chapter is filled with humor, bringing a lighthearted mood to the novel. Sissy is not intentionally bad; she just does not use her head. When she sees the unattended tricycle, she thinks about how much Francie and Neeley would enjoy it; wanting to please her niece and nephew, she takes the bike, never thinking about the fact that she is stealing. Then when the policeman comes to investigate what has happened, Sissy tries to seduce him and wins him to her side.

The incident with the condom is also humorous. Sissy never thinks about the fact that she is giving the children a box of contraceptives; she simply tells them not to open the box and assumes that they will not. Of course, as soon as Sissy departs, the children open the box. Not knowing what a condom is for, they hang it out of the window for all the neighbors to see. In the early twentieth century, such a sight is a real shock to the people in the neighborhood. Katie is so humiliated by the incident that she feels the family must move again; she cannot bear to endure the snubs that she receives. She also forbids Sissy to come to the house again.

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