Study Guide

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Gender

By Betty Smith

Gender

When she is little, Francie knows the girls who get pinched without saying anything will get an extra penny from the junk guy. She witnesses the disgrace that Sissy’s promiscuity causes the family, and she sees the nasty reaction women have to Joanna, the unwed mother. Francie is attacked by a sexual predator, and later she is groped on a crowded train on her way home from work. As we watch her grow up in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it becomes more and more apparent that being a woman comes with its own set of hurdles to jump.

Questions About Gender

  1. There are several examples of physical violence against women that most characters blow off as no big deal. Can you name at least two? How do the women respond?
  2. What is the biggest lesson that Francie learns in the encounter with Joanna? What are Francie’s overall feelings about women after this encounter?
  3. Are there any women who break some gender expectations in this novel? Which characters do this and what are the results?

Chew on This

Women can be just as guilty as men when it comes to perpetuating gender inequalities.

Because of biological differences between men and women, gender equality won’t ever been achieved.

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