Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 23

By Betty Smith

Chapter 23

  • Francie goes for a walk and stumbles upon a nice neighborhood that is much different than hers. Instead of tenements, it has little old houses with shabby picket fences surrounding them. It is run-down, but really peaceful. This is a magical place to her.
  • Next she sees the neighborhood school, which is even more magical than the rest of the neighborhood. There is no fence surrounding the school, and there is grass in the yard instead of cement. There are flower-filled open fields across the street from the school, and Francie falls in love with the place. She simply must go there.
  • She and Papa walk there the next day. As they walk, a prostitute approaches Johnny, and when he turns her away, Francie asks if she is a bad lady. Johnny replies, “There are very few bad people. There are just a lot of people who are unlucky” (23.36).
  • When they arrive at the school, Johnny sings a little song in front of it. Francie picks flowers from the fields, and Papa tells about how he used to look for arrowheads in the same field when he was a boy. They look for some, but don’t find any, and Johnny says he never found any when he was little either, which makes Francie laugh.
  • Francie’s eyes start to tear-up as they head for home, but Johnny tells her not to worry—he has a plan.
  • He is going to write a note to the school that says she is going to move in with relatives at one of the houses in the good school district.
  • He explains to Francie that what they are doing is wrong; they are lying, but it is a lie that will really help someone, so it is not too bad.
  • Francie is happy at her nice new school, and she is very careful to always be good. When she walks by the house where she supposedly lives, she picks up any trash that might be in front of the yard in appreciation.
  • The only problem with attending the school is that it requires that Francie walk forty-eight blocks every day. Francie, however, doesn’t see this as a problem—she doesn’t care, so long as she can go to the school.
  • This opportunity makes Francie aware that there is a world outside of Williamsburg, a world that just might be attainable for her. There is hope for a better future for Francie.