Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapter 54

By Betty Smith

Chapter 54

  • McShane comes over to have coffee and cake with the whole family. Francie notices that he is sitting at Papa’s place at the table, and this hurts her heart a bit.
  • Although he is not nearly as handsome as Papa was, he is good looking in his own way. He is fifty, though, and fifteen years older than Mama.
  • They discuss Francie and Neeley’s achievements, and then they go get Laurie out of her crib to introduce her to Mr. McShane.
  • Mr. McShane tells Mama that he has come to ask her a personal question. The children get up to leave, but he says it concerns them too, so they should stay.
  • Just as Katie expected, he asks if he may spend time with her with the intention of getting married in the fall.
  • He is in a financial position to be able to take care of them all and wants to put all the children through college.
  • Katie asks if he has really thought it over. She reminds him that she is just a scrubwoman, and he is a political figure. Doesn’t he want someone more refined? Someone who can help him with his political ambitions?
  • He says no, he wants her. Does she want time to think it over? No, she wants to marry him. Not for his money or his position, but because he is a good man.
  • Katie’s feelings for McShane are not as wildly passionate as they were for Johnny, but she knows she will be a good wife to him.
  • McShane asks the children if they approve. Neeley nods, and Francie says that they would be happy to have him as a… she struggles to say the word. He tells her not to worry; he doesn’t expect them to call him father or to take his last name. He would like it if he could adopt Laurie since she never knew her father.
  • They all agree.
  • Neeley and Francie decide this is a very good break for Mama. Now Laurie will never know hard times like they did, though neither will she know the kind of fun that they had.