A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by

Betty Smith

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Chapter 56 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Saturday arrives and it is the Nolans’ last day in their home. The movers are coming on Monday morning for their things. Katie insists on working as usual that Saturday. Francie straps Laurie into her “two-wheeled sulky” and takes her outside. She watches kids lug junk to Carney’s and then go to Cheap Charlie’s. Francie goes into Charlie’s with a fifty-cent piece and announces that she wants all of the prize picks. Charlie admits that the prizes are fake. He pulls an ugly doll from behind the counter, which is worth sixty-nine cents, and offers that to Francie instead. Francie says that she’ll pay for it if he offers it up as a prize. She wants one little kid to get something for nothing. She tells him that the family is moving away. Charlie wishes her the best.
That last Saturday in Williamsburg seems like a replay of Francie’s childhood in the neighborhood. She watches other children performing the same rituals she did on Saturdays. With adulthood, she realizes that some of the things that she dreamed of having, such as the prizes in Charlie’s shop, were never attainable. She rectifies that by paying for the real prospect of a child winning a prize. Her gesture is an attempt to provide one moment of brightness in what might otherwise be a child’s bleak existence.
Themes
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
While out with Laurie, Francie passes by the house whose address she used to go to her preferred school. The house looks “little and shabby” to her now, but she still loves it. She also passes McGarrity’s saloon, though Jim McGarrity no longer owns it. Anticipating Prohibition, he and Mae move to a large place out on Long Island and turn it into a speakeasy called The Club Mae-Marie, where his wife wears an evening dress and is a hostess.
Smith uses the little white house as an example of how the things that we idealize or find wonderful in our childhoods become rather ordinary in adulthood. There’s something a bit sad in this, in our reduced capability to see things as beautiful. Also, if nothing else, the McGarritys continue to have a successful business partnership.
Themes
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
Romanticism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
After lunch, Francie goes to the library and asks the librarian, for the last time, if she can recommend a book for an eleven-year-old girl. The librarian brings out If I Were King. Francie announces that she doesn’t want to borrow it and isn’t really eleven years old. The librarian looks at her for the first time. Francie then mentions how important the brown bowl has always been to her. The librarian barely notices what she is talking about and absently mentions that the janitor, or someone, fills it. She impatiently asks Francie if she needs anything else. Francie thinks to turn in her library card but changes her mind when the librarian prepares to tear it up. Francie decides to keep it, though she’ll never go back to the library.
This episode at the library reveals how seemingly simple, mundane objects—the brown bowl and the library card—can bear great significance to some people. The librarian’s indifference contrasts with Francie’s eagerness to share with the librarian what the space and its objects meant to her in her childhood and how it is all key to the woman Francie has become. The librarian isn’t receptive because, to her, Francie is like any other visitor. She regards Francie with an indifference similar to how people regard the tree in Francie’s yard.
Themes
Education and the American Dream Theme Icon
Romanticism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
While Laurie naps, Francie packs some of her things into a box, including her Bible, her edition of Shakespeare’s plays, and her diary. Neeley comes running up the stairs, whistling. Francie thinks of how much he is like their father, even able to sing like Johnny. Neeley tells Francie “goodbye” because this will be their last moment alone. She says that she’ll be home for Christmas, but he says it won’t be the same.
Francie keeps the books that defined her early life. Though she’s moving to Michigan to start anew, she doesn’t wish to forget how her pursuit of learning began. Neeley doesn’t think the next Christmas will be the same because it’ll merely be a visit. They will each have their separate lives
Themes
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
Education and the American Dream Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn PDF
At 4:00 PM, Francie decides to dress first and then prepare supper for her and Ben. He has tickets for them to see a show. It’ll be their last date until Christmas. Ben leaves for college on Sunday. Francie likes Ben very much, but worries over the fact that he doesn’t need her. She looks toward the window and brushes her hair. She remembers how, when she was a girl, she would watch young women preparing for their dates. She wonders if anyone is watching her. Across the yard, she sees a little girl named Florry Wendy with a book in her lap and a bag of candy at hand, sitting on the fire escape. Francie waves and calls: “Hello, Francie.” Florry corrects her. 
Ben’s lack of “need” for Francie makes her feel superfluous in his life. She doesn’t realize that it’s a greater compliment to be wanted rather than needed because her parents’ marriage was based on Johnny’s need for Katie to look after him and the children. Francie has now become the young woman who once made her so curious. She is now performing the rituals in preparation for a date that seemed so mysterious to her in her girlhood.
Themes
Gender, Sexuality, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Romanticism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Francie looks down into the yard and sees that the tree of her youth, which has since been cut down to make room for wash lines, is growing a new tree from the stump. It grew along the ground until it reached a place with no wash lines. Then, it grew toward the sky again. Their old fir tree, Annie, died, but this tree that men chopped down lived! Once more, Francie looks at Florry Wendy reading on the fire escape. “Good-bye, Francie,” she whispers, and closes the window.
When Francie first moved to the tenement, the tree was only a couple of feet tall, mirroring Francie’s own diminutive state of childhood. Despite being cut down, it has endured, just as Francie has endured the loss of her father. Recognizing the ability of things to survive and to find new spaces in which to thrive, Francie prepares for her next phase of life.
Themes
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
Related Quotes