Notes on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Themes

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Topic Tracking: Growing Up

Book 1, Chapters 1-6

Growing Up 1: Francie and Neeley learn about the rules of the street as they grow up in the poor section of Brooklyn, lugging their junk in exchange for pennies. They also learn about small facts of life, such as the fact that Jesus, their Catholic savoir, was a Jew.

Growing Up 2: Francie encounters the idea of death and disease when her friend's brother, Henny Gaddis, is dying of consumption.

Book 2, Chapters 7-14

Growing Up 3: Johnny and Katie learn the hardships of growing up as they marry young. Katie loses her best friend and Johnny loses his girlfriend. They get married and try to make a life together, despite their young ages.

Growing Up 4: Katie is worried about raising a child and looking after Johnny. She doesn't know how Francie will grow up normally under the poor circumstances. She still has her mother give her advice and help her grow into a mother. Katie is still growing up as she helps Francie grow up. They enter the whirlwind experience together.

Growing Up 5: Johnny officially grows up as he celebrates his 21st birthday. He is already married and a father and still has no idea how to support them. He gets drunk and loud. He grows up into a drunk, despite his large heart and his strong love for his family.

Book 3, Chapters 15-42

Growing Up 6: Francie starts to notice changes in her surroundings and herself. She sees herself changing and growing and first notices these changes with the furniture of the house. She wonders why those things don't seem any different even though she does.

Growing Up 7: The immunizations necessary to attend school are a stepping-stone into the next stage of growth. Francie and Neeley attend school and begin the road of education and development. They do so together in order to support one another.

Growing Up 8: Francie discovers her future as a writer. She not only learns about education, but she realizes what she wants to do when she grows up. This realization helps her through the rest of her development, for she writes down most things that happen to her in journals or stories. Instead of growing up to become a liar, she will grow up to become a writer.

Growing Up 9: Francie is upset with her growth. She sees how much of the world is now spoiled because she sees it for what it really is, instead of through innocent, young eyes. Old friends of hers are blossoming into young women and she discovers men at the theater. She also decides how she would end plays and does not accept the simple conclusions that she sees. She wants to map out her own future.

Growing Up 10: Francie learns about love and the dangers it can pose when a girl grows up into a woman. Francie begins her period and now is grown up enough to get into trouble. She also vows never to become friends with women when she grows up.

Growing Up 11: Francie begins to keep a diary in order to document her growth. She enters adolescence, becomes a woman, and becomes interested in sex.

Growing Up 12: Francie, Neeley, and Katie are all forced to grow quickly and bypass many stages of childhood and parenthood when Johnny dies. They must learn to take care of themselves and Katie must learn how to become both a mother and a father. Francie and Neeley are confronted early on with death and grow quickly on the ways of the world after their father's death.

Growing Up 13: Francie is sick of grown-ups telling her that she will thank them for the advice they give her...when she grows up. She is constantly hearing about truths of the world meant for when she grows up. She feels like she is growing up and she doesn't want to spend her adulthood thanking everyone who once gave her advice. Francie also shows great maturity when she talks with her mother about her decision to have only Neeley attend high school.

Book 4, Chapters 43-54

Growing Up 14: Francie gets a taste of the grown-up world in the factory. She finds it a mundane and unpleasant way of life. She has greater aspirations than working in the factory. Nonetheless, she puts all of her attention into her work, and excels.

Growing Up 15: Francie attends college. She knows that she is the first of her family to do so and cannot believe that she has grown into a woman who can pursue higher education. Not only is she older and more educated, but she is also entering womanhood. She knows she is in this new "grown" world and welcomes it grandly.

Growing Up 16: Francie experiences heartbreak for the first time as a grown-up. She falls for Lee and he leaves her stranded and broken. As when she was forced to grow up quickly with her father's death, she is forced to grow up quickly with love. She will be wary of trust with other men in the future because her experience with Lee.

Growing Up 17: McShane proposes to Katie (and her family). Francie and Neeley remember their upbringing and all of its harsh circumstances and troubles. Nonetheless, they treasure their times and have bittersweet feelings for Laurie. They know that she will grow up without the worry of economic strain, yet she will also miss the important lessons learned by growing up poor in Brooklyn.

Book 5, Chapters 55-56

Growing Up 18: Francie sees herself in Florry Wendy, a young Brooklyn girl who looks through the windows at girls getting ready for dates. She has grown up now and knows that this young girl will also grow up and experience similar things. The novel is about growing up and all of the little experiences, both troublesome and joyous, that a young girl or boy may encounter. Although Francie has now grown into a young, educated woman, she still has a ways to go...and welcomes the future open-heartedly.

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