A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


Betty Smith

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

The most mysterious shop in the neighborhood belongs to a Chinese man who wears a pigtail wrapped around his head. It is a laundry with only one window. When Francie takes Johnny’s soiled shirt there, the man whisks it under the counter, takes out “a square of mysteriously textured paper,” dips a thin brush into a pot of India ink and makes a few strokes, indicating that “this magic document” is a ticket, or tickee, in exchange for the shirt. When Francie returns and pays for the wrapped shirt, the man gives her two lychee nuts. Francie loves them and wonders about the hard nut at the center. Rumor has it that each stone contains a smaller stone. This is Francie’s first experience with infinity.
Much of Francie’s education comes through her experience of her neighborhood, which is becoming increasingly diverse. The Chinese man, like many Chinese immigrants at the time, runs a laundry because this is the only business that they haven’t been barred from. To Francie, the Chinese man and his shop are “mysterious” because his looks, his manners, style of dress, and the lychee treat that he gives her are all parts of a very different world. Unlike her interactions with Jewish immigrants, there is no hostility here.
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