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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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Chapter 18

Summary Katie makes arrangement for the children to attend school. Francie looks forward to it with great anticipation. First, however, she and Neeley must be vaccinated. Katie, knowing that she will not be able to watch her children endure pain, insists on them going to the doctor on their own.

On the day they are to visit the doctor, Francie and Neeley pass their time making mud pies; they fail to wash up before departing for their appointment. When the doctor looks at Francie's dirty arm, he nastily comments on poor people, saying they refuse to keep themselves clean. Upset by the doctor's rudeness, Francie cannot resist striking back. Before she leaves the room, she tells the doctor, "My brother is next. His arm is just as dirty as mine. You don't have to tell him. You told me."

During the night, Francie runs a fever, and her arm swells in reaction to the vaccination. In order to stop her from scratching her arm, Katie tells her daughter that her arm will fall off if she scratches the area of the vaccination. Francie then becomes terrified about her arm and her life. Fortunately, her father is able to comfort and calm her; he also cleans and dresses her sore arm. It is obvious that he is much more tender than Katie.


Notes

Another side of Katie is seen in this chapter. Despite her great inner strength, she cannot bear the thought of seeing her children get a shot; she knows she would be unable to endure their pain. As a result, she sends Francie and Neeley to the doctor on their own. Francie is the first one to see the doctor. When he sees her arm, dirty from making mud pies, he makes a rude comment about poor people refusing to keep themselves clean. The ugly comment hurts Francie much more than the shot. Before she leaves, she tells the doctor that there is no need to comment on the fact that Neeley's arm is also dirty. Both the nurse and doctor are shocked at the anger of her response.

When Francie returns home and tells her mother about the doctor's comment and her own response, Katie seems to ignore the situation; instead, she places an emphasis on the injection itself. Once again Katie fails to understand or respond to her daughter's needs. She complicates matters further when she tells Francie her arm will drop off if she scratches the area of the vaccination.

Fortunately, Johnny is tender enough to comfort Francie. In the middle of the night, he offers her soothing words and nurses her swollen arm. He even rips off his undershirt to bandage it. In spite of his irresponsibility, Johnny proves himself to be a kind father. In contrast to his wife who cannot show her tenderness, he is able to openly express his love.

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