Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Perseverance

By Betty Smith

Perseverance

After each futile birth, her love of children grew stronger. (7.61)

Phew. After suffering so many heartbreaks, is amazes Shmoop that Sissy still tries and tries to have a child.

Thus I lost the second savings. But I am saving again. Maybe sometime… (9.102)

Even though her hard-earned savings are stolen from her twice before, Grandma Rommelly is not going to let that stop her from trying to save for land again.

“[…] Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.” (10.35)

When she is a baby, Francie looks too weak to survive her first year, and everyone likes to tell Mama about it. This is her way of telling them to go jump off a cliff. Francie will overcome her problems and grow strong like the tree. Are people stronger if they have to fight for something?

Katie had the same hardships as Johnny and she was nineteen, two years younger. It might be said that she, too, was doomed. Her life, too, was over before it began. But there the similarity ended. Johnny knew he was doomed and accepted it. Katie wouldn’t accept it. She started a new life where her old one left off […] Katie had a fierce desire for survival which made her a fighter. (10.49-51)

When it comes to Johnny and Katie’s perseverance, there is clearly a winner and a loser.

She wanted the Nolans to be better and not as good as anybody. Too there was the question of money. Although it was no question because they had very little and now had two children […] She found a house where she would get rent free in return for keeping it clean (12.1-2).

Papa’s embarrassing alcoholic rantings will not hold Mama back. Even with no money, she will find a way to start over someplace else. That’s one tough and creative lady.

People looking up at her—at her smooth pretty vivacious face—had no way of knowing about the painfully articulated resolves formulating in her mind (27.39).

Few people know just how difficult your personal journey is, especially if you do not tell people about it. Be kind to everyone; we all fight our own battles.

“But Mama, how’ll we get along till summer?”

“We’ll manage.” (38.7-8)

Where there is a will, there is a way, and it’s all about mind over matter, folks.

“With that money, our troubles would be over,” thought Francie. “We could pay rent on a three-room flat somewhere, Mama wouldn’t have to go out to work and Laurie wouldn’t be left alone so much. I guess I’d be pretty important if I could manage something like that."

“But I want to go back to school!” She recalled the constant harping on education in the family (44.79-81).

Sometimes we stand in the way of reaching our goals ourselves.

“Because if I don’t make him, he’ll never go back,” said Mama, “where you, Francie, will fight and manage to get back somehow.” “Why are you so sure all the time?” protested Francie (44.101-102).

Mama must push Neeley—he doesn’t have the same drive that Francie has, which is a pretty big bummer for Francie. Her brother is just one more thing standing in her way.

Francie took the examinations and flunked everything but chemistry. “Oh, well! I should have known,” she told her mother. “If people could get into college that easy, no one would ever bother with high school. But don’t you worry, Mama. I know what the entrance examinations are now, and I’ll pass next year. It can be done and I’ll do it. You’ll see” (49.46-47).

Failing a test is no biggie. She’ll pass it next time.