Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 2

By Betty Smith

Chapter 2

  • Francie loves the library even though it is not the nicest looking place. She loves the smell of old books (so do we).
  • Her plan is to read all of the books in the world in alphabetical order. Whoa. She won’t even allow herself to skip over the boring books, though on Saturdays she takes a break and reads a book that is not in alphabetical order. (Way to live on the edge, Francie…) As Francie enters the library, she thinks about how she totally loves everything about the place and daydreams about decorating her house just like a library when she is older.
  • There is a beautiful brown bowl that is filled with flowers, leaves, berries and other lovely seasonal things sitting on the librarian’s desk. Francie loves this bowl and always admires what is in it.
  • The librarian is pretty cold to her, which is a bummer because Francie would really love it if she was even a little nice to her. Francie comes in to check out a new book every day (that’s right, she reads at least one book per day), and the librarian doesn’t realize this because she never even looks up at her. Kind of a jerk, yes?
  • She goes home with her books and arranges a sweet little reading spot on the fire escape. She gets her pillow, a drink, and puts the little candies she bought earlier in her favorite bowl and steps out on to the fire escape.
  • The fire escape is surrounded by the tree's branches, so it is a really private place. No one can see Francie, but she can peek through the leaves and see everything going on around her. Good times.
  • She is very happy that the boy whose father rents the shop downstairs is not there today. This kid likes to play a pretty twisted funeral game that consists of digging little graves, putting live caterpillars into match boxes, burying the matchboxes, putting little pebble headstones up, and sobbing and crying the entire time. Shmoop hopes this kid gets therapy soon.
  • Anyway, this weirdo is not there, so Francie is pumped.
  • Around 4:00PM, she notices that the flats (apartments) start to come to life. Kids run in and out; women come home with their husbands’s suits that they picked up from the pawn shop. If you look in the windows, you can see young women wash up and get ready for dates at their kitchen sinks. Why in the kitchen and not the bathroom you wonder? Well, they don’t have private bathrooms in the tenement housing; instead, they have bathrooms that many families share.
  • She stops reading when Fraber’s horse and wagon go into the yard next door. The stable that this horse is kept in next door is the best looking thing in all of Williamsburg.
  • Frank is the guy who drives the wagon around advertising for a dentist every day. He’s a nice guy and all the girls flirt with him.
  • This isn’t the only horse that Francie knows. Her aunt Evy’s husband, Uncle Willie Flittman, also drives a horse.
  • Her uncle’s horse is named Drummer, and he pulls a milk wagon.
  • Uncle Willie and Drummer have a very antagonistic relationship; Willie doesn’t like the horse, and the horse does not like him.
  • Flossie Gladdis, the woman who lives in the apartment beneath the Nolans, sticks her head out the window and flirts with Frank. Like usual, Frank turns her down.
  • Francie feels sorry for Flossie. She says that “Flossie was always running after men and they were always running away from her” (2.67). This makes her think about her Aunt Sissy who runs after men too, but the men always “meet her halfway.” She thinks the difference is that Aunt Sissy isn’t as desperate about wanting a man as Flossie is. Francie puts it this way, “Flossie Gaddis was starved about men and Sissy was healthily hungry about them. And what a difference that made” (2.68).