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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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Chapter 39

Summary In May, Francie and Neeley go through confirmation at church. Katie makes them new clothes for the occasion. She also takes lots of picture.

Francie continues to enjoy writing, but her subject matter has changed. Instead of writing about pretty subjects, like birds and trees, she writes about the family's poverty and about her father, including his kindness, his drinking, and his untimely death. Her teacher now regularly gives Francie a grade of C for her compositions, rather than a grade of A. She criticizes her writing for talking about ugly subjects, like poverty, starvation, and drunkenness, and suggests that she write imaginatively about beautiful things. Francie does not agree with her teacher's comments. She is, therefore, not surprised when the teacher decides to use Beatrice Williams' play for the graduation day presentation; her drama about fairies and magic is much more romantic and pretty than Francie's more realistic one.

On her own, Francie starts writing a novel about a girl born and brought up in luxury. She imagines the teacher being pleased about it, especially about its subject matter. After a while, Francie is unable to continue the novel, for she does not understand the life of luxury about which she is trying to write.

Francie worries about Katie. She knows that her mother is still working too hard, especially since she is in the latter stages of her pregnancy. She prays to God to keep her mother safe and healthy and promises to give up writing, the thing she likes doing best, if only He keeps Katie well.

As Katie's due date draws near, she tells Francie that she should remain nearby to her at all times. Obviously, she is relying upon her daughter more and more during this pregnancy. Francie actually feels close to her mother for the first time ever. Although Katie loves Neeley better, Francie realizes that she needs her daughter more than her son. She is pleased to realize this about her mother.


Notes

As always, Katie tries to make things special for the children. As their confirmation day draws near, she makes Francie and Neeley new clothes. She also takes lots of pictures of them in order to remember the special day.

The change that occurs in Francie's writing is reflective of her changed way of thinking. She has matured beyond her chronological age due to the drunkenness and untimely death of her father, the constant state of poverty of the family, her mother's hard work to make ends meet even in her advanced stages of pregnancy, and Francie's own work in the saloon. She feels she can no longer write about nice, pretty subjects, such as nature; instead, she wants to write about the realities of poverty, death, and hard work. The teacher objects to Francie's subject matter, saying it is too ugly and realistic. She suggests that Francie write about beautiful and fantastic things; but Francie feels a need to write the truth as she knows it.

Francie is upset when her play, written for graduation day, is rejected; she knows that the teacher did not like it because of its realism. In fact, she chose a romantic play about fairies to present on graduation day. In her anger, Francie begins to write a novel about the life of luxury, which she believes her teacher will appreciate. However, she finds that she cannot continue the book, for it is too hard to write about illusory dreams and subjects about which she has no experience.

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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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