Audiences can find several comparisons between characters in the novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and trees themselves. (Ashlynn Roberts / The Talon News)

Growth in Spirit

December 5, 2019

Betty Smith wrote A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and planted a piece of her heart and soul into the beloved classic. Since her novel was published, many readers have been touched by the heart-rending story and the unique world of its own. Betty Smith reimagined her childhood in Brooklyn and poured her heart into the story’s main character, Francie Nolan.

Francie had an alcoholic father, and while her father had his heart in the right place, he had trouble keeping a job and sometimes her family went without food. They had to save every penny they could and pick up odd jobs to make ends meet. Francie and her brother, Neeley, sold scraps at the local junkyard as children in order to have spending money.

Although most contemporary readers will find this surprising, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn includes snippets of the real world and the scary realities that affected the poor and poverty-afflicted in Boston in the early 1900s. Poverty still affects the people around us today. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is similar in theme to The Glass Castle and brings to mind the adversity that Jeannette Walls and Betty Smith had to overcome.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has many heartrending and endearing moments, and its characters show that there is hope is the darkest of moments and the scariest of times. An example of one of those times is whenever Francie’s Father came home drunk and dejected, which caused strain on her family. While her father had a lot of love for them, he couldn’t ever seem to grow up and be cured of his depression and insecurities. This may be hard to read for some people, but reading stories about pain and loss is one of the ways in which people are inspired to have more empathy and understanding.

Smith explores the unique human experience and brings light out of the darkness with her characters and Francie’s journey of self-discovery. Francie comes to terms with the person she has grown to become and even with the heartbreak she endured throughout the course of her life she has determination and vision.

Francie is a character that readers can identify with, even with 100 years between Francie’s childhood and today’s society. She is imperfect, intelligent, audacious, and seeks knowledge and wisdom in everything around her.

Francie’s story is uplifting and inspires others to be grateful for their blessings in life and to make the most out of their education.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn captures the essence of life and the joys and sorrows of being human. Its readers can discover themselves as they see Francie on her journey to understanding herself and growing up.


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