A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


Betty Smith

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Lorimer Street is “more refined” than Bogart Street. Its residents are comprised of mail carriers, firemen, and store owners who do well enough not to have to live in their back rooms. The Nolans’ flat has a bathroom with a bathtub. To Francie, this is the largest body of water she has ever seen. Katie and Johnny work to keep the building clean in exchange for their rent. During the summer, the children spend most of their days on the stoop. They are the only children in the building. Francie is nearly four and already responsible for watching Neeley, who is nearly three, while their parents work.
By “more refined,” Smith is implying that people who live on Lorimer Street make more money and have steadier jobs than those who live on Bogart Street. As a result, the Nolans live in a nicer apartment. The fact that Francie and Neeley are the only children in the building also suggests that the mail carriers, firefighters, and store owners who live in the building are mostly unmarried. The benefit is that Neeley and Francie have their own outdoor space.
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A year passes. Katie works harder every season. Johnny works less and drinks more. Katie continues to read to them and humorously improvises when she reaches stage directions in the Shakespearean plays that she does not understand. Pennies accumulate in the tin-can bank. On warm days, Francie plays alone in the streets or on the stoop. She yearns for playmates, but she cannot relate easily to other little girls. They make fun of her speech, which is heavily influenced by Katie’s readings. Instead, Francie plays with imaginary children, whom she imagines to be nicer than real companions. Still, she finds it difficult to tune out their games and songs, from which she is excluded.
Katie and Johnny are growing farther apart due to a difference in their priorities. Katie is parenting on her own and preparing, single-handedly, for her family’s financial future. Francie’s longing for playmates makes her lonely, but it doesn’t convince her to change who she is. Katie’s readings have made her a highly literate and articulate girl, which separates and distinguishes her from most of the children in her neighborhood who are probably not read to.
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