Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 34

By Betty Smith

Chapter 34

  • Francie notices that Sissy tells Mama that she is going to get a baby. The word get makes Francie very curious. Why doesn’t she say have? Hm…
  • Poor Sissy has buried ten children at this point and is desperate to have a living child. She is thirty-five, which was kind of old to have children back then.
  • She tries to convince her husband John (the third John) to let her adopt a child, but he refuses.
  • As luck would have it, she hears about a beautiful sixteen year old who is pregnant with a married man’s baby.
  • This girl’s horrified father, a recent Sicilian immigrant, has locked her up in a room and is trying to starve her and the unborn child to death.
  • Sissy decides she must adopt this child and goes to their place to chat.
  • After struggling for a while to communicate due to language barriers, the mother and pregnant daughter finally understand that Sissy wants to adopt the child. The shamed family is incredibly thrilled about this. Sissy takes care of Lucia, the daughter, bringing wonderful food over after the father leaves for work and taking her out to the park on nice days.
  • As soon as everything is settled about the pending adoption, Sissy starts telling people that she is pregnant again.
  • Johnny doesn’t understand what is going on, since to him it is clear that she isn’t pregnant, but Sissy is very convincing with her symptoms and behavior.
  • When Lucia goes into labor, Sissy also pretends to go into labor. John is very confused, and he goes off to work.
  • While he is at work, Sissy goes over to see Lucia and the beautiful healthy newborn baby girl. They decide that they should wait ten days for Sissy to take the baby home.
  • When John returns home from work, Sissy tells him that their premature baby is at the hospital for ten days since she is so small. He doesn’t believe her at all and starts getting really frustrated with all of this nonsense.
  • Ten days later, she brings her baby home and convinces John that it is their baby.
  • She names the baby Sarah, but people end up calling her Little Sissy.
  • Katie knows the truth, and because she eavesdropped on the convo, so does Francie.
  • Katie tells Johnny about it, and he thinks that they should tell John that Sissy is deceiving him, but Katie convinces him not to interfere. Sissy and John are happy, and because of the baby, Sissy will be a better wife now. This gets Johnny nervous that maybe Katie tricked him, too. They go and look at the children together, and he sees that they are unquestionably his.
  • At this point, Katie whispers something into Johnny’s ear and he says “No!”
  • We don’t know what was said. (Hmm.)
  • Johnny goes out that night, and when he comes home Francie hears him singing the final verse of the Molly Malone ballad.
  • He never sings that last verse, so this freaks her out. She greets him at the door, and they chat for a few minutes. He isn’t drunk.
  • Francie goes to bed and cries, but she doesn’t really know why.