Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 37

By Betty Smith

Chapter 37

  • Katie urges the kids to go out for a walk the day after the funeral.
  • The streets are pretty empty since it is just a couple days after Christmas, and most kids are home playing with their new toys.
  • Francie and Neeley have grown out of childhood in the past few days.
  • As they wander the streets, they happen upon a sign advertising a performance by a “sweet singer of songs” (37.5). This makes them think of their own sweet singer of songs, Papa. Trying hard to fight back tears, they head to a dark side street where they sit on the curb and have a good cry. They weep for a long time, and when they finish, Francie questions Neeley about God. She is angry and wants answers. Neeley believes that maybe God punished Papa, but Francie doesn’t believe it.
  • Neeley is really uncomfortable with this kind of questioning, but Francie continues. She believes in Jesus Christ, because he is someone she can relate to. For example, he was poor and, just like them, he didn’t wear shoes all the time. God, however, she no longer believes in.
  • They go home, and it is clear from the look in her eyes that Mama had a good cry, too. No one mentions it, though.
  • Mama surprises them with a wonderful treat of hot chocolate with marshmallows. She explains that Neeley is going to move into the room that was Mama and Papa’s. Mama says that Neeley is too big to be sharing a room with his sister now.
  • He is pumped to get his own room, but hhis excitement is also tinged with sadness considering the reason why.
  • Mama and Francie will share the other room now. This disappoints Francie, of course, but she doesn’t say anything. Mama reads Francie feelings and tries to make her feel better by telling her that in the summer; she will be able to set up a bed in the front room and sleep there.
  • The three of them do their nightly reading, and in the middle, Mama sighs.
  • Francie looks questioningly at her, and Mama says it is nothing.
  • The truth is that she is thinking about her pregnancy. She wonders if finding out about the pregnancy and trying to straighten himself up for the new child is what killed Papa.
  • In a move that is pretty out of her character, Katie hugs and kisses both of her children before they go to sleep.