A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Characters

Betty Smith

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Francie Nolan

Francie Nolan, a sensitive and intelligent Brooklyn girl, growing up in grinding poverty. Because of her high values and her strength of spirit, she is able to make the most of her environment. She acquires self-reliance and is never crippled by a sense of defeat and deprivation. As the novel ends, she is making preparations to go to college.

Neeley Nolan

Neeley Nolan, Francie’s younger brother, a sympathetic but less intelligent and less interesting figure. His importance in the story is secondary to hers.

Johnnie Nolan

Johnnie Nolan, their father, a Saturday-night singing waiter. He is charming, sensitive to his children’s needs, and an affectionate father but also is an alcoholic and a bad provider. He dies of pneumonia just after Francie’s fourteenth birthday.

Katie Rommely Nolan

Katie Rommely Nolan, Johnnie’s wife. Married early, she knew by the time Neeley was born that she could not count on Johnnie for support. She works as a janitor in their tenement. As the novel ends, her life is to be easier: She is married again, this time to a retired policeman.

Mr. McGarrity

Mr. McGarrity, at whose saloon Johnnie did most of his drinking. After Johnnie’s death, he helps out by giving the children part-time jobs.

Ben Blake

Ben Blake, Francie’s fellow student, with whose help she prepares for her college examinations.

Lee Rhynor

Lee Rhynor, a soldier who is Francie’s first real date. Believing his offer of marriage sincere, she promises to write every day. Although she is not seriously in love, she does feel wounded on receiving a letter from the girl he married during his trip home.

Officer McShane

Officer McShane, a retired policeman who has long been fond of Katie. He at last persuades her to marry him, with the full agreement of the children.

Laurie Nolan

Laurie Nolan, Katie’s youngest child, born a few months after Johnnie’s death.

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The most significant character in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is Francie Nolan. A lonely child, Francie avoids close companionship with...

(The entire section is 765 words.)