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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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Chapter 56

Summary This chapter occurs on Katie's wedding day, which is also moving day. After Katie marries McShane, the family is moving to a nicer neighborhood. Before the wedding, however, Katie insists on doing her job of cleaning her houses.

In order to reminisce about her days in Brooklyn, Francie takes Laurie around the neighborhood. First they go to Carney's junk shop, a favorite place of Francie when she was a young child. She then takes Laurie to her old school, at which she gazes nostalgically. She passes the saloon and thinks about when she worked there; she remembers that McGarrity does not own it anymore. After lunch Francie goes to the library and even mentions to the librarian how she used to come here every day; the librarian does not even look up to see who is talking.

At home, Francie goes through her diary and laughs to herself at what she has written. As she irons Neeley's shirt, she thinks about also ironing her father's clothes. Before Neeley departs, she gives him a big hug, for she knows she will soon be leaving for college in Michigan and will miss her brother. When she starts crying, Neeley pushes her away, saying that girls are too mushy; in truth, he is afraid that he will start crying himself. As she watches him leave the Williamsburg house for the last time, Francie realizes that he is really a lot like Johnny.

While Francie dresses for her date with Ben, she recollects how she used to longingly watch the girls in the neighborhood leave on their dates. As she looks out the window, she sees a young girl watching her. She also spies the tree in the yard and is suddenly amazed that it has survived for all these years. Even though its branches have been cut way back, new growth continues to sprout forth. She realizes that the tree is much like her family that always managed to spring back to life after every trauma.


Notes

In this last chapter, Francie reminisces about her past, which in retrospect seems very ordinary, but very pleasant. She takes Laurie to the places in Williamsburg that were special to her as a child, including the junk shop and the school. Francie also goes to the library, where she used to go and check out a book every day. As she dresses for a date with Ben, she notices a young girl watching her, just as she used to watch the older girls prepare to go out when she was little.

Francie also notices the tree in the front yard that gives the book its title. Even though its branches have been cut back, its renewed efforts to grow indicate its strength and resilience. The tree has become a symbol of the Nolan family, who always manages to pick themselves up from a difficult situation and move on with life. The novel ends with a note of nostalgia and a feeling of continuity.

It is important to notice the love that Francie has for her family; it is truly what has sustained her. When she thinks about going off to college in Michigan and leaving Neeley behind, she gives him a big hug and starts crying. Neeley also has to fight back the tears. Additionally, Francie shows her love to Laurie and she takes her all around the neighborhood and explains the special places of her childhood. Finally, Francie is delighted that her mother is finally able to leave her poverty behind, as she moves from Williamsburg and starts a new life with Sergeant McShane.

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