Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 45

By Betty Smith

Chapter 45

  • It is Christmas, and this year there are presents, lots of food, and plenty of heat.
  • Francie feels better about not going back to high school since life is so much easier due to her income.
  • School isn’t as bad as Neeley expected. In fact, he likes it since so many of his old buddies are there. McGarrity rehires him, and Mama lets him keep $1 a week. This means he has lots more spending money than most of his friends, plus he already knows Julius Caesar very well.
  • They all go Christmas shopping one day with the $10 Francie and Neeley saved in the can.
  • First they take Mama hat shopping and insist that she pick something out that isn’t a mourning hat; then they get Annie Laurie an outfit.
  • Neeley and Francie continue to shop when Mama and Annie Laurie go home. Neely wants spats because he's fancy like that now.
  • Francie wants a dance set, which seems to be code for sexy lace panties and a bra. Neeley makes her buy it herself; there is no way he is going to go buy that.
  • They show Mama the presents they bought for each other, and Francie is disappointed that she doesn’t get mad about her black lace lingerie. Mama thinks it is no big deal—just a phase that she will grow out of.
  • They set off for church as a family Christmas morning. Some boys make fun of Neeley’s spats on the way, and he decides to put them away till he can move away from the low-class neighborhood of Williamsburg. For her part, Francie is freezing without her warm underwear on, and she decides to put away the lace stuff until summer.
  • As mass progresses, Francie thinks about how beautiful and mysterious her religion is. She realizes that she isn’t perfect and struggles with faith sometimes, but through it all, she is pretty happy being a Catholic.
  • She is snapped out of her private thoughts when the priest asks the congregation for prayers for the soul of John Nolan.