Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 15

By Betty Smith

Chapter 15

  • The new apartment has a total of four rooms that lead one into the other; a style called railroad rooms.
  • The kitchen faces the yard, which has a sidewalk path surrounding a barren patch of ground. Even though it looks like nothing could possibly grow out of this, there is a tree there. (The tree we discussed in earlier chapters. It is smaller now, of course, because it is a few years earlier now.)
  • Also in the backyard is a pole that six clotheslines are attached to. Francie thinks it looks pretty when they are full and all the clothes are blowing in the breeze.
  • Four feet of the schoolyard borders their yard, and on the few occasions where Francie is allowed to play in the yard (it belongs to the downstairs neighbors), she watches the children through the fence.
  • She notices that even though it is recess, it really doesn’t look like too much fun since it is so crowded and loud.
  • One day a little girl is in the schoolyard clapping the erasers for her teacher. Francie is fascinated by this task and really hopes she gets to do this when she goes to school. The girl notices Francie watching her, so she shows off a little and then walks over to Francie and asks if she would like to see the erasers close up. Francie is just about to touch one, when the girl snatches it away and spits in Francie’s face.
  • The mean girl wants Francie to cry, but she doesn’t. Instead, Francie turns around and goes inside to sit in the cellar in the dark for a while. .
  • She gives a pretty thorough description of her new apartment, including the dreadful airshaft.
  • An airshaft is a really narrow opening between buildings. The reason they put them in is so that builders could say they follow the code that every room has a window in it.
  • While it does give a little light, it is really a nasty little invention: it makes noises carry, so everyone hears and knows everyone’s business, in addition to being a huge fire hazard. If someone throws a match down there, it can easily start a devastating fire on both sides. Plus, people also throw their nastiest crap down there since the bottom of it can’t be reached by anyone—we're talking the grossest of the gross stuff, like bloody clothes and rusty razors.
  • One day Francie looks down the airshaft and it makes her think of purgatory, a place kind of like hell that she learns about at church.
  • The airshaft totally creeps Francie out and she closes her eyes as she passes by the bedrooms.
  • After the bedroom is the parlor or “The Room,” as she calls it.
  • It is a dignified place with tall windows that face the street. There is a pretty fireplace there, but the best part of the room is the piano.
  • By some miracle, the woman who lived there previously couldn’t afford to move her piano, so she asks them to keep it until she can afford to move it.
  • Johnny, who can’t really play the piano but understands music well enough to fake it, plays some chords and sings along and Francie, who loves both her father and the piano so much, is touched by this and starts to cry a little for reasons she cannot quite put into words.