Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn What's Up With the Ending?

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What's Up With the Ending?

The end of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn ties things up nicely and slaps a pretty bow on top. Seriously—things come together pretty neatly.

Francie is off to college at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. This resolves the main conflict in Francie's life, and her dreams of education are pretty much fulfilled. Now she's just got to pass all her courses, and not blow off assignments to go party or sleep through 8:00AM classes. But, come on—we all know Francie better than that. There's no way she's going to blow it now.

Mama is getting married, which rocks for all involved. This is a win-win-win-win situation that enables Francie to go off to college without worrying about the financial security of her family. McShane's got tuition covered for all three Nolan kids, plus Annie Laurie is going to grow up with a dad and Mama can finally rest her weary hands (though she works right up until they get married… can't say she isn't principled). For his part, McShane gets a family that he seems thrilled to join.

Remember how Francie didn’t like the ending of one of the plays she saw because of its improbable ending? Literary types call endings where the characters are saved in some miraculous way deus ex machina endings, and Francie doesn't like them at all. Is the marriage to McShane an example of deus ex machina? Is it not because the family would have been fine without him?

Shmoop's favorite part of the ending, though, is Francie's goodbye tour of Brooklyn. Have you ever thought, “Oh, you just wait and see!—when I’m older, I’ll show you!” We totally have, which might explain why we love it so much when Francie confronts some of the jerks from her past. She goes to Cheap Charlie’s, slaps her money on the table, and busts him for pulling a fast one on so many kids. She tells him what she thinks about his nasty game, and buys a doll on the condition that some little kid actually wins it someday. From hear she marches to the library, where she demands that the librarian who's ignored her for so many years actually look at her.

These may seem like small acts, but they are very meaningful and show us that Francie is not a woman to be messed with. She is grown now, and taking command.

While a lot of questions are answered in the end, after Francie whispers goodbye to her former self there still might be some stuff that you're wondering about. How does college go? What does Francie do for work when she gets out? Does she marry Ben? Does she get married at all? Does she have kids? Where does she live as an adult?

Like Francie did after the play, do you want to rewrite or add to the ending of this novel? Or is this ending enough for you?

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