Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 24

By Betty Smith

Chapter 24

  • Francie thinks of the year in terms of its holidays, and since the first holiday after school gets out is the Fourth of July, she thinks of that as the start of a new year.
    • The Fourth of July: She keeps firecrackers hidden in a box under her bed. It’s so cool to have them that she even feels kind of sad when it’s time to use them.
    • Halloween: Francie and other girls go out with white chalk and mark a cross on the back of anyone who walks by in a coat. This ritual may have started back in the Middle Ages to mark places where the plague struck, but the kids don’t know this. They just perform the ritual without knowing why. (What? This isn’t how you spent your last Halloween?! Our Halloween traditions have really changed since then, huh?)
    • Election Day: Francie thinks this is the greatest holiday because it belongs to everyone in the whole neighborhood. Aw…
  • Francie loves to listen to Mama and Papa talk politics. Papa is a die-hard Democrat and thinks that the party does a lot of good for the people. Mama, however, looks on it all with a very critical eye. Whatever good they do for people usually has an ulterior motive, namely getting re-elected. Mama believes that once women get the right to vote, they will really change the corrupt nature of things.
  • The Democrats try to influence the women and children by holding a fun carnival to help re-elect Mattie Mahony. The carnival is a real thrill for the children, and Francie is no exception. She can’t wait to get on the boat that will take them to the carnival. A week before the carnival, each child is given a strip of tickets to get a free hotdog and stuff, but Francie loses hers. Luckily for her, a policeman notices her looking longingly at the hot dogs and figures out what happened. He gives her some tickets and tells her that her mama is pretty. Francie hears her mother ask who the policeman is, and she finds out his name is Sergeant Michael McShane from their precinct. The Sergeant is still looking at her. (Uh oh.)
  • Papa tells Mama about Sergeant McShane—who is known as "The Honest Cop"—on the way home. He is an Irish immigrant who ended up married to a woman out of a sense of duty; now he’s a hard worker with a sick wife. They had fourteen children, and all but four died young of consumption, which they caught from their mother. Mama is a bit harsh and wishes this woman would die so that Michael can go on to marry a healthy woman who can give him more children. Francie (just like Shmoop and maybe you, too) senses something is up here, and a fear rises in her.