A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


Betty Smith

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Francie goes back into her building and visits Flossie Gaddis to see what costume she has designed. On her way in, she greets Flossie’s brother, Henny, who looks healthy, despite having tuberculosis. Every Saturday night, Flossie goes to a masquerade ball, wearing a different costume each time, each designed to hide her disfigured arm. The costume that she wears on this particular night is a “popular conception of what a Klondike dance hall girl wore.” Flossie has won two dozen “tightly rolled, never-used silk umbrellas,” all of different colors, as prizes for her costumes. Francie feels that the Grim Reaper is hiding behind these costumes and their brilliant colors, waiting for Henny.
Flossie and Henny are examples of how some people in Francie’s neighborhood persevere and find ways to be happy, despite their suffering. Flossie finds ways to make herself beautiful, despite the perceived ugliness of her arm. She works so hard at designing costumes because she wants her talent to become her distinguishing characteristic, not her childhood injury. Henny’s “healthy” look emanates from within—it his will to live, despite his awareness that he will soon succumb to his illness.
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