A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by

Betty Smith

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Chapter 53 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Francie writes Lee that night, as promised. On Friday, she receives a letter from Mrs. Elizabeth Rhynor. Francie thinks that she is Lee’s mother or sister-in-law and that maybe he was sick and couldn’t write to her himself. When she continues reading, she finds out that the letter is from Lee’s wife and that Lee pretended to be in love with Francie. Francie cries out for Katie, who empathizes but, as a mother, feels  powerless to protect her daughter from heartache. Francie asks her mother to say something. All that Katie can say is that, Francie will never forget the boy and, when she falls in love again, it’ll be because something in the next man will remind her of Lee.
Francie experiences her first love and her first heartbreak, but she also learns something about the willingness of some men to manipulate women for sex. Francie asks Katie to say something because she wants her mother to provide some explanation for what Lee did, though there isn’t one that will be satisfying to Francie. Katie senses that Francie will always maintain Lee as the standard for the kind of love she wishes to feel, just as Johnny set the standard for Katie.
Themes
Gender, Sexuality, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Francie then talks about how Lee invited her to sleep with him. As a mother, Katie worries about the “horrible things” that might have happened and the possibility of Francie’s life being ruined. As a woman, however, she admits that it would’ve been a beautiful experience. Francie regrets not going with him.
Katie takes a nuanced view. Still, she worries about the possibility of Francie having become pregnant and “being ruined,” or losing the virginity that Katie thinks Francie’s future husband should take.
Themes
Gender, Sexuality, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Romanticism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Katie then mentions that she, too, received a letter from Sergeant McShane, announcing that he will pay the family a visit the following week. Francie gets up earlier than usual and decides to stay up. She gets a box of writing paper and begins a letter to Ben. She then tears it up, refusing to give in to her feeling of needing someone but wanting to be needed.
Francie wants Ben’s companionship but dislikes the way in which her need for him makes her vulnerable. Her upbringing with Katie has also shown her that marriage should involve some form of dependency as opposed to mutual cooperation.
Themes
Gender, Sexuality, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Romanticism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon