A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by

Betty Smith

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Mary Rommely Character Analysis

The mother of Katie, Evy, Eliza, and Sissy, the wife of Thomas Rommely, and the maternal grandmother of Francie and Neeley. She is an immigrant from Austria who arrived with Thomas. Her family describes her as “a saint.” She never got an education and cannot read or write her own name. She saves enough money to buy a house in the United States, but she is swindled out of it and receives no property, due to being unable to read contracts. Despite her lack of education, she has memorized “over a thousand stories and legends” and speaks in “a low, soft” and “warmly, melodious voice” that soothes her listeners. Her daughters and granddaughters inherit her voice. An “intensely” devout Catholic, Mary knows the story of every saint and also believes in the supernatural, including ghosts and fairies. In Austria, she was admired by her community for her wisdom and people frequently sought her advice. Mary insists that her daughters speak only English at home and at school, as a way to protect them from their father’s cruelty. When her daughters marry, Mary is sad to see them with “no-account men” and she weeps when they give birth to girls, knowing that a woman’s life is always harder. When Francie says her “Hail Mary” prayer, she always sees her grandmother’s face in her mind’s eye. Mary Rommely dies at the age of eighty-five.

Mary Rommely Quotes in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The A Tree Grows in Brooklyn quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Rommely or refer to Mary Rommely. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn published in 1943.
Chapter 56 Quotes

He buttoned up his coat jauntily and Francie saw that he wore their father's signet ring. It was true then—what Granma had said: that the Rommely women had the gift of seeing the ghosts of their beloved dead. Francie saw her

father.

Page Number: 490
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mary Rommely Character Timeline in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Rommely appears in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
Education and the American Dream Theme Icon
After Johnny takes Mary Rommely to see Katie, he goes out to look for another job. Katie confesses that... (full context)
Education and the American Dream Theme Icon
Katie insists that she doesn’t want Francie to work as hard as Katie does. Mary says that the secret lies in reading and writing. She encourages Katie to teach her... (full context)
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
Mary’s next bit of advice is that Katie must own land. Ironically, Katie finds this most... (full context)
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
Gender, Sexuality, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Mary then saved again, though it was harder with all of the children. Then, when the... (full context)
Chapter 12
Education and the American Dream Theme Icon
Romanticism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
...is nail down the bank in the closet. While she puts up the lace curtains, Mary Rommely comes over and sprinkles the rooms with holy water to drive out devils. By... (full context)
Chapter 14
Gender, Sexuality, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
...Sissy has to stay away because she is “bad.” They also agree not to tell Mary because Sissy is “her eye-apple.” When Johnny comes home, Katie tells him that Sissy is... (full context)
Chapter 19
Gender, Sexuality, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
...bygones” and to permit her to go to the house and see the children sometime. Mary Rommely tries to intercede between her daughters, but Katie will not elaborate on the problem.... (full context)
Chapter 32
Gender, Sexuality, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Romanticism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
...will bring. In January, she talks about the pretty carved box from Austria that Grandma Mary Rommely shows her and the family’s ensuing discussion about whether it’s better to be cremated... (full context)
Chapter 36
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
...bank. She borrows the remainder from Sissy. Katie reads the deed carefully, remembering the story Mary Rommely once told her of how she had been cheated out of land. When the... (full context)
Chapter 51
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
When it gets cold, Francie enrolls in sewing and ballroom dancing classes. Meanwhile, Mary Rommely, who is eighty-five, prepares for her death. As Christmas approaches, Katie has the idea... (full context)