Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 5

By Betty Smith

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Chapter 5

  • Francie loves Aunt Sissy, and thinks that she has led a really interesting life. She is thirty-five and has been married three times and had ten children (all of whom died in childbirth).
  • Sissy is very wild as far as men are concerned—don't forget that wild with men probably had different connotations over a hundred years ago than it does today, though.
  • Sissy brings Francie a little toy that was made in the rubber factory where she works. Her factory makes a few little rubber toys as a “blind.” What they make their real money on is from “other rubber articles which were bought in whispers” (5)… a.k.a. condoms. The secrecy around this gives us a clue about how society views condoms and other birth control options at this time.
  • When Sissy leaves, Francie tells her Mama about the old man with the nasty feet at the bakery. Mama kind of blows her off and tells her to stop worrying about old age, that Francie should try to just accept the fact that everyone gets old.
  • Mama changes the subject to meal planning for the week. The Nolan family does a lot with the stale bread, and most of their meals involve it in some way. Other than the bread, they also eat condensed milk, coffee, onions, and potatoes very frequently.
  • Francie really loves the tangerines that she only gets at Christmastime. She also tells us about how every once in a while when she is really sick and tired of eating the same thing over and over and over (and she happens to have an extra penny), she goes down to get a Jewish pickle from the store on Moore Street.

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