A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by

Betty Smith

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Miss Briggs Character Analysis

Francie’s first schoolteacher. Miss Briggs is an arrogant woman who dislikes poor children but favors the children of prosperous shopkeepers. Her voice is “gentle” when she speaks to these “fortune-favored few” and “snarling” when she talks to “the great crowd of unwashed.” She refuses to let Francie use the restroom during class—a habit that she has with all of the poor children she teachers—until Aunt Sissy confronts her, pretending to be Francie’s mother, and lies about Francie having kidney trouble. When this fails to convince Miss Briggs, Aunt Sissy then pretends that a police officer passing in the street below is her husband. She threatens that he will “beat the hell out of” Miss Briggs if she doesn’t treat Francie with more respect.

Miss Briggs Quotes in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The A Tree Grows in Brooklyn quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Briggs or refer to Miss Briggs. 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 2 Quotes

Francie, huddled with other children of her kind, learned more that first day than she realized. She learned of the class system of a great Democracy. She was puzzled and hurt by teacher's attitude. Obviously the teacher hated her and others like her for no other reason than that they were what they were. Teacher acted as though they had no right to be in the school but that she was forced to accept them and was doing so with as little grace as possible. She begrudged them the few crumbs of learning she threw at them. Like the doctor at the health center, she too acted as though they had no right to live. It would seem as if all the unwanted children would stick together and be one against the things that were against them. But not so. They hated each other as much as the teacher hated them. They aped teacher's snarling manner when they spoke to each other.

Related Characters: Francie Nolan, Miss Briggs
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:
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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn PDF

Miss Briggs Character Timeline in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Briggs appears in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 19
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
Education and the American Dream Theme Icon
Class and Snobbery Theme Icon
...one of the daughters of prosperous shopkeepers who sit in the front row. The teacher, Miss Briggs , is “gentle” when she speaks to them and “snarling” when speaking to “the great... (full context)
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
Education and the American Dream Theme Icon
Class and Snobbery Theme Icon
...It would seem that all of the children would stick together to protect themselves against Miss Briggs ’s hatred, but this is not so. Instead, they ape the teacher’s “snarling manner” when... (full context)
Poverty and Perseverance Theme Icon
Class and Snobbery Theme Icon
The next morning, ten minutes before class starts, Sissy is confronting Miss Briggs . She presents herself as Francie’s mother and says that Francie has kidney trouble and... (full context)
Chapter 21
Education and the American Dream Theme Icon
...as when Mr. Morton comes to teach music. The teachers adore him. When he arrives, Miss Briggs wears her best dress and is less mean. Sometimes, she curls her hair and wears... (full context)