Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 48

By Betty Smith

Chapter 48

  • On April 6, 1917, a newspaper with ink still wet is delivered to Francie's desk. The newspaper headline is just one, giant word: WAR
  • Immediately, she thinks about how she will be talking about this moment one day to her grandchildren. She wants to keep this historical moment alive by collecting as many details about the moment as possible, so she collects bits and pieces and puts them into an envelope that will be like a time capsule. In fifty years, she will open this envelope and not just remember, but relive the moment.
  • Something strange happens at work: their biggest client turns out to be a German spy, and is caught by officers right in their office. The company ends up losing lots of money and has trouble attracting new clients at this uncertain time; soon after, the boss gives up and closes.
  • Francie finds work at a communications corporation that will teach her how to use a teletype machine.
  • She will start at $12.50 a week, so she won’t be making as much as she did at the clippings bureau; plus the hours are a bit strange. She starts work at 5:00PM and ends at 1:00AM, but this may help her since she is pretty lonely in the evenings.
  • Francie is worried that she will never be able to return to high school, and her family depends too much on her income to do so at this time.
  • Just like at her old job, she does great at this job, too. Her pay is increased to $15 a week, and she doesn’t think it’s a bad job.
  • Mama has an idea: Maybe Francie can start high school in the morning while also working at night. It will be tough, but it is do-able.
  • Nope—Francie says she has learned so much by reading all day at work for the past year that going back to high school would be a step backward. It is all too babyish for her now, and she has her eyes on college classes.
  • The plan is to register for summer school classes at the best college in Brooklyn. Since it is open to high school students who want to take advanced classes, Francie hopes they will consider letting her take classes if she doesn’t want credit or a diploma. She just wants to learn. She asks Mama if she can have sixty-five dollars to attend college, and Mama is so pumped that she jumps up right away to go to the bank.
  • Francie breathes a big sigh of relief when the college doesn't question her about her qualifications. At the college bookshop to buy her books, a nice guy helps her by telling her that she should buy second hand books for some of her classes and just read the others in the library.
  • She is very grateful to him and notices that he is good looking. This place looks better and better.
  • With her books in hand, Francie gets on the el train and heads off to work. Suddenly, she feels very sick and has to get off even though it will make her late for work. She concludes that she is overwhelmed because she, the grandchild of illiterate immigrants, is officially taking college classes.
  • It is all very amazing.