Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 50

By Betty Smith

Chapter 50

  • In shocking Aunt Sissy news, she announces that she is having her baby at a hospital and will have a doctor deliver the baby. This is unheard of. Women have their children at home with a midwife; the only time you go to the hospital is to die.
  • Sissy tells everyone to get with it, and that the times are changing.
  • She shocks them again by telling them that she will have a Jewish doctor because they are more sympathetic and smarter than Christian doctors. Minds = blown.
  • When the time to have the baby arrives, Sissy goes to the hospital and the baby is born looking like all the others—blue and lifeless. Sissy despairs.
  • But then the doctor says oxygen—a word Sissy has never heard before, and right before her very eyes the child changes color and starts to cry.
  • The doctor is sure he is fine and will live. Sissy is overcome with happiness.
  • She names him Stephen Aaron, and he is all the family talks about until Uncle Willie Flittman changes the subject with his odd behavior.
  • Willy enlists in the army but is rejected, which depresses him so much that he quits his job and goes to bed. In grand dramatic flourish, he proclaims himself a big failure and plans on staying in bed until he dies.
  • They call Sissy in since she is so good with people in these situations. Sissy convinces him that working in a munitions factory would be a meaningful way to help the war effort, and in no time at all he is pumped and ready to take on the world.
  • Steve works at a factory and is able to get Willie a good job there. With his overtime pay, he buys himself musical instruments, though under it all he still feels like a failure.