Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Summary Francie learns a great deal in school; most of it, however, does not come from classroom lessons. The first thing she learns is how the class system operates; she quickly realizes that the teachers prefer the girls of the prosperous storekeepers to the poorer children. The wealthier students never have to share their seats with anyone. Also, they are never punished. Even though corporal punishment is supposedly forbidden, the poor children are surreptitiously spanked for misbehavior, sometimes on their naked bottoms. Ironically, the cruelest teachers seem to be the ones who have come from homes similar to those of the poor children.
Francie also learns about bullies. The students are supposed to use the bathroom during recess, for they are not usually permitted to leave class. During recess, the bullies prevent the children, especially the poor ones, from entering the bathroom. One time Sissy spies Francie at school and realizes she needs to use the bathroom. Understanding what is going on, Sissy tells the teacher that Francie has a kidney problem; she also lies and says that her own husband is a policeman. The frightened teacher does not give Francie any trouble about going to the bathroom after Sissy comes to her aid.
Although Katie will still not allow Sissy in her house, she misses her sister greatly and often tries to learn what is going on in her life. Through the insurance agent, she learns that Sissy has given birth to another baby, who lives for only two hours. When Katie hears this news, she feels terrible. She sends a message to Sissy through the insurance agent. Soon the two sisters are reunited.
When Francie starts school, she learns many things other than her classroom lessons. First, she realizes that the world is not a fair place. The teachers in school show great favoritism towards the richer students, never punishing them or making them share a seat. At first Francie is confused and angry about the discrimination she must endure; later she simply accepts it as part of her fate.
The portrayal of public schools is not a positive one. Besides showing partiality to the wealthier students, the teachers also ignore the rules about corporal punishment. They often spank the poorer kids, often on their bare bottoms. In addition, they do not let them leave the classroom to use the bathroom, and when the bullies block them from the bathroom at recess, the uncaring teachers do nothing to stop it. Sissy, however, comes to Francie's rescue. She tells the teacher that Francie has a kidney problem and must be permitted to use the restroom; for affect, she adds that her husband is a cop. After Sissy's conversation with the teacher, Francie is permitted to leave class to go to the bathroom.
Katie, who is still not seeing her sister, learns that Sissy has given birth to another baby who only lives for two hours. Missing her sister and now feeling sorry for her, Katie's heart softens, and she sends a message to Sissy. Soon the sisters are enjoying each other's company once again. Sissy is also delighted to be able to visit with her niece and nephew whenever she wants.