The Importance Of Perseverance In Betty Smith A Tree Grows In Brooklyn?

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a novel about perseverance through hardship, as Francie Nolan grows up in the impoverished immigrant neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, during the 1910s. Her mother Katie works tirelessly as a janitor all day and must support her family because Francie’s father Johnny is an alcoholic. The Nolan family lives each day uncertain if there will be enough money for the bare necessities, such as food or wood for a fire. Throughout the novel, Francie exemplifies perseverance in order to escape the situations in which she is placed. The community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the early nineteenth century was incredibly diverse. One of the most prominent ethnic groups in this community was the Irish. Most …show more content…
Katie’s parents emigrate from Austria, and Johnny’s family emigrate from Ireland to escape the devastation of the potato famine. As a result, Francie is born into a world where her family does not have enough money to even buy essential goods. When they have no food in the house, Katie plays a game called “North Pole” with Francie and Neeley, pretending they are trying to reach the North Pole and are awaiting provisions (Smith 246). Francie lives in a household where simple things like coffee or fresh bread are considered luxuries. The destitute situation of the Nolan family is amplified by Johnny’s alcohol addiction because he is unable to work regularly and provide a reliable source of income. In order to compensate for Johnny’s inability to work much, Katie must clean three tenement houses per day. Francie explains, “Even though her hands were red and cracked from the sodaed water, they were beautifully shaped with lovely, curled, oval nails. Everyone said it was a pity that a slight pretty woman like Katie Nolan had to go out scrubbing floors. But what else could she do considering the husband she had, they said” …show more content…
Once Neeley and Francie graduate from eighth grade, Neeley continues to high school while Francie is sent to work. This is because Katie finds Neeley’s education more important than Francie’s because he is the man of the family. Katie is also starting to work less because she is pregnant and her body cannot bear all the physical labor from her job as a janitor. Francie is devastated and exclaims to her mother, “Why do you make him go when he doesn’t want to and keep me out of school when I want to go so much?” (384). Francie, though, finds education in her job as a reader at the Model Press Clipping Bureau. Her love of reading makes her a perfect candidate for the job, and eventually she is promoted to a city reader, a highly coveted position which also includes a emolument of twenty dollars a week. Francie also enrolls in a college summer school and eventually takes a college entrance exam because she does not have a high school diploma. She passes the exam and is accepted by the University of Michigan. Through her tenacity and hard work, education becomes the means by which Francie is finally able to escape the poverty of her parents '

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