Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Education

By Betty Smith

Education

How the heck does Francie do it? She starts A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as one of so many poor kids who have little hope for ever leaving Williamsburg, yet ends the novel as a young lady about to head off to college. This must be in large part due to how important education is in the Nolan household. From early on, “education is the only way out” is a quiet and constant refrain in Francie's home. This alone wouldn’t have been enough, though, if it only came from the people around Francie; it has to come from within her, too, and that it does. She goes above and beyond the minimum requirements in school, reads at least one book a day, and stays the course to get herself into college no matter how many obstacles leap into her path.

Questions About Education

  1. What did Francie expect to learn on the first day of school? What does she learn instead?
  2. Sometimes some important lessons are learned outside of the classroom. What are the most important lessons Francie learns outside of school?
  3. Besides Mama and Francie, who else values education in this novel?
  4. Why does Mama choose to send Neeley to high school and make Francie wait a year to start?
  5. How does Francie get into college without ever going to high school?

Chew on This

Many believe that if you have enough money, you don’t really need an education.

In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Education is the way to move up in the world.