Betty Smith

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

  • 58-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 56 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a college professor with a PhD in English
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A Tree Grows In Brooklyn Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 58-page guide for “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” by Betty Smith includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 56 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Correlation of Class and Shame and [The Limitations of Being a Woman in Turn-of-the-20th-Century America.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a 1943 semi-autobiographical novel by American author Betty Smith. It tells the story of a girl coming of age in an impoverished family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, during the early 20th century. The book was a success upon publication and has become a classic of American literature. It was adapted into a 1945 film that won Academy Awards for its child star, Peggy Ann Carson, and for actor James Dunn. It was also adapted into a Broadway musical that opened in 1951.

Plot Summary

At a crowded dance in early-20th-century Brooklyn, beautiful Katie Rommely dances with her best friend’s boyfriend, Johnny Nolan. Immediately enamored by his curly golden locks and charm, Katie sets out to steal Johnny from her best friend. Kate is successful in this pursuit, and she and Johnny quickly get married.

The next member of the Nolan family, Francie, is born shortly after. From Francie’s perspective, life is grand. Her father is entertaining, her mother is steadfast, and the next Nolan, her little brother, Neeley, is a beautiful addition to their happy family. From Johnny’s perspective, however, life has become a three-pronged trap, with each member of his family digging equally into his quickly dying dreams. He turns to alcohol, a vice that quickly takes over his body and mind, eventually dying from alcohol-induced pneumonia.

Burdened with her husband’s growing indifference and alcoholism, Katie steels herself for a life of hard work with little reward. Katie works multiple jobs, determined to give her children the education she never had. Despite the setbacks of growing up in poverty, Francie finds small pleasures in her difficult life and dreams of many things, such as becoming a writer and falling in love. Through hard work and cleverness, Francie excels at school, begins writing, works several jobs, and finds love. As the novel ends, Neeley is a musician who possesses the best traits of their father, Katie has remarried to a kind man, and Francie is preparing to go to college, suggesting a hopeful future for the family.

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