Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Brooklyn. Borough of New York City that in the early twentieth century was filled with immigrant and second-generation Irish, Poles, Jews, and Italians. In this story, Brooklyn comprises neighborhoods of more than one social level, though poor, working people predominate. There are shabby tenements with residents whose lives are spent in sweatshops and other low-paying jobs. There are old houses owned by artisans, craftsmen, and storekeepers, many of whom are second-and third-generation Americans. Most of the schools are overcrowded and dismal, although Francie finds one that is not. There are stores of all kinds—bakeries, groceries, pawnshops, Chinese laundries, spice shops—places where an imaginative child can experience some of the wonders of a world different from her own. The daily life of the inhabitants of this diverse district offers a panorama of the likely, the improbable, and the possible, an education for the receptive heart and mind of a curious child like Francie.

Nolan flat

Nolan flat. Four so-called railroad rooms (one leading into the next) on the third floor of a tenement in Williamsburg. The family must share a bath down the hallway with two other families. This is the third home Katie and Johnny Nolan have had in their seven-year marriage, and it includes a tree growing near the fire escape. The tree provides a leafy bower for Francie during the summer Saturdays as she sits with her books and peppermint candies, reading and watching the tenants in the nearby buildings go...

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Setting

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is set in Brooklyn's immigrant neighborhoods. The novel opens in the summer of 1912 with eleven-year-old...

(The entire section is 102 words.)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Literary Qualities

Smith uses a third-person omniscient narrator to relate her story. Thus, although Francie is the book's central character, Smith develops...

(The entire section is 355 words.)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Social Sensitivity

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn remains popular because of its optimism, its feminism, and its philosophical ties to more recent novels for...

(The entire section is 289 words.)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Topics for Discussion

1. What is the meaning of the novel's title? How does the tree function as a symbol throughout the novel?

2. Who seems stronger...

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Betty Smith has said that she began writing A Tree Grows in Brooklyn after she read Thomas Wolfe's Of Time and the River....

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Related Titles / Adaptations

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn began as a play entitled Francie Nolan and a short story, "Death of a Singing Waiter." Smith eventually...

(The entire section is 199 words.)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn For Further Reference

Brockmann, Charles B. "In the Shadow of the Tree." Carolina Quarterly 2 (1950): 41-46. Brockmann elaborates on the symbol of the tree...

(The entire section is 163 words.)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Gelfant, Blanche H. “Sister to Faust: The City’s ‘Hungry’ Woman as Heroine.” In Women Writers and the City: Essays in Feminist Literary Criticism, edited by Susan Merrill Squier. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984. Examines the common attributes of female protagonists such as Francie Nolan, whose physical hunger parallels her longing for knowledge and self awareness.

Ginsberg, Elaine K. “Betty Wehner Smith.” In American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. Edited by Lina Mainiero. 4 vols. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1982. Gives facts about Smith’s professional...

(The entire section is 226 words.)