Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 4

By Betty Smith

Chapter 4

  • After watching Papa leave for work, Francie goes over to Floss Gaddis’s house. You remember Floss—she is the one who is hungry for men from a couple chapters back.
  • Floss supports her mother and her brother, Henny, by working in a glove factory.
  • Her brother can’t work because he has consumption. Consumption is what we call tuberculosis today, and it is a nasty disease that attacks the lungs. It also causes weight loss, which is why it was called consumption long ago. It is a serious disease that often leads to death, especially back in the early 1900s when this novel is set.
  • Francie knows that Henny is dying, but she doesn’t really believe it because he looks good.
  • They are all happy to see Francie when she arrives.
  • She tells Henny that he is looking good, but he refuses to believe it. Both Francie and Mrs. Gaddis try to raise his spirits, but Henny gets upset about it all, and this causes him to go into some coughing and sobbing. They leave him alone at his insistence.
  • Flossie does three things each week: (1) She works at the glove factory. The gloves are sewn inside out, and her job is to turn them right-side-out. (2) She works on sewing costumes for a masquerade ball that she goes to every Saturday night. (3) She works on getting Frank, as we witnessed a couple chapters ago.
  • Flossie has several different pieces of fabric that she rearranges in different ways each week to create a new costume for the ball. All of her dresses are made to flatter her figure and to help take attention away from scars on her right arm from when she was burned by boiling water as a child.