Saturday, September 2, 2006

a tree grows in brooklyn, chapters 38-45

Do you remember Graduation Day? It's a turning point, isn't it. All of the sudden you find yourself set a little further out in the world, just by walking across a stage and picking up your diploma. It can be a strange feeling; liberating and frightening at the same time. Francie and Neeley have graduated from school. Not high school, but it feels like the equivalent of the time, because not everyone will get to move on to high school, sort of in the same way that not everyone moves on to college these days. Bless Johnny for coming through one more time when he was needed and having the foresight to take care of his Prima Donna by sending her roses.

Like the montage of conversations that Francie overhears at McGarrity's, these chapters washed over me with several poignant, but mostly simple moments
. But maybe things can be settled down to Francie's realizations about 'beauty and truth'. As with so many things in adolecence, I don't know that the idea has fully crystalized in her mind, but Francie feels inherently which essays need to go. As she chants "I am burning ugliness" Francie takes a step toward greater understanding. And in doing so, she sacrifices her chance at writing the school play, her recognition as the best writer with the best marks in her class. She knows there are hard and ugly things about life, but they don't cancel out the good. Maybe they make the good things even more precious. Maybe Katie loves Neeley more, but she needs Francie. Being the responsible one can be hard, and lonely. If you love someone you spare them from pain, if you can. Sissy is still Sissy underneath. A good cry can do you some good. Everybody may not always understand you or be like you, but there are friends to be made, if only to make work not so mundane.

Christmas again, but this year has been a more prosperous one. Neeley is back in school, Francie is not. Laurie is with them, Johnny is not. Neeley gets spats (I had to look up what those are exactly) and Francie gets a black lace dancing set (!) and a greater feeling towards her God and her religion.

1 comment:

  1. I love the interactions with her teacher and the realizations she comes to about her world and the beauty that can be found in truth. It's a reminder that we write best when we write what we know and it goes back to my original thoughts on this book. Betty Smith is crafting a picture of the human soul as something of value, something to be cherished, never mind how dirty, never mind how small their life may seem. Every single person is worth looking at, worth loving. Francie's ability to see this through her writing and her teacher's inability highlight the idea that we all need to become a little more childlike.