Johnny is the type of guy who goes through spurts of heavy drinking, and spurts of good parenting where he works hard and spends all his spare time with Francie and Neeley.
Just like Mary Rommely and Mama, he believes that education is the key to a better life. He takes his kids places and teaches lessons about whatever he happens to be thinking about. One day they go to Bushwick Avenue, a well-to-do neighborhood, and he shows them a whole new world. Even though cars are starting to come into use, most of these families still have their horses and beautiful carriages; Francie thinks that if she was a man, she would love to drive one of these carriages as her job.
When they see a cab, Johnny comments on the beauty of democracy.
He tells Francie that anyone can take a ride in the cab if he has the money, and that is what being in a free country means.
Francie doesn’t get it. If it costs money, how is it free?
He explains that it is free because in the old countries, even if you have enough money to take a ride, only certain people are allowed. There is no upward mobility in the old countries—if you are born a servant, you stay a servant. In the United States though, there is the hope that you can make a better life.