Saturday, August 26, 2006

a tree grows in brooklyn, chapters 27-37

Everything was changing. Francie was in a panic. Her world was slipping away from her and what would take its place? Still, what was different anyhow? She read a page from the Bible and Shakespeare every night the same as always. She practiced the piano every day for an hour. She put pennies in the tin-can bank. The junk shop was still there; the stores were all the same. Nothing was changing. She was the one who was changing.
She told papa about it. He made her stick out her tongue and he felt her wrist. He shook his head sadly and said,
"You have a bad case, a very bad case."
"Of what?"
"Growing up."

She gets one last magical Christmas but in these chapters, Francie is growing up. As all of us do, she's lost the magic that makes childhood what it is. She's dissatified with the theatre because in her life things don't wrap up so neatly. She sees the cruelty of the neighborhood women to Johanna and her baby. Katie doesn't know everything and Johnny is increasingly drunk. And her encounter with the man in the hallway.

But growing up is just that, learning to navigate the disappointments, hurt, and even fear and terror.

Francie isn't the only one dealing with the realities of growing up. Johnny is too. His excursion to the ocean with his children and Little Tilly is a catastrophe on almost every level. "He couldn't figure it out - he couldn't figure it out. The songs of the sea had betrayed him." Maybe Johnny realizes what Francie is starting to see; that people laugh at those things she loves about him. But if part of growing up is overcoming then Johnny succeeds, though his success costs him his life. And it leaves Francie, Neeley and Katie something even bigger to conquer.


  1. Awesome post. I'm so glad you're doing this with me. I hadn't thought of Johnny as growing up with Francie but there are a lot of parallels. Is it just me or are you waiting for Neeley to figure things out as well? He's almost as old as Francie but seems like he's got so much to learn. It's amazing how hard the process is for something so universally experienced.

  2. I love that passage. It so captures the same feelings I had at that age. It makes me sad to think of my own children being there soon, but it is such a necessary part of growing up. I loved seeing the world through Francie's eyes. Even though he has so many faults, you really adore Johnny along with Francie and then through the episode at the sea, you start to see Johnny as not so perfect, just like Francie does. The author does this so well.

  3. It is sad to think of your own kids hitting that point in life. Neeley is sort of a mystery to me. I'm not sure that he feels in the same ways that Francie does. Is it because Katie loves him best? Because he is a boy? Just because the book isn't as much about him? I don't know. But Francie seems to live and die by her discoveries, and Neeley seems to roll with it a little more easily.