A Tree Grows In Broklyn Essay Research

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A Tree Grows In Broklyn Essay, Research Paper Betty Wehner Smith s unique ability to capture the reality of American society in the early nineteen hundreds is seen in the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The setting of the novel stems very much from the author s own childhood. Society can truly relate to this story, as it has a place in every American family s roots. The time-defying novel evokes sympathy by telling the story of a young impoverished family, comparing their rough lives to a relentless tree native to Brooklyn, New York. Betty Smith was born on December 15, 1904 in Brooklyn, New York and was raised in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Her name was originally Elisabeth Keogh. Smith attended public schools until the age of fourteen when, having completed eighth

grade, she began working at a series of factory and clerical jobs. An avid reader as a young girl, she also wrote poems and acted in amateur productions at the Williamsburg YMCA. Moving to the Midwest, she met and married George Smith, a law student at the University of Michigan. There her two daughters were born. She audited literature and writing classes at the university and, although not a regular student, had two plays published in a collection of undergraduate work and won an Avery Hopwood prize (Collins 23-25). From 1930 to 1934 Smith studied with George Pierce Baker and others at the Yale Drama School. Smith s first two marriages ended in divorce. After the first divorce, Smith accepted a Rockefeller fellowship in playwriting at the University of North Carolina. She

remained in Chapel Hill, writing and occasionally lecturing at the university, also playing small roles in local productions. Her third husband, Robert Finch, a writer with whom she had collaborated on several plays, died about a year and a half after their marriage (Collins 25-28). A dramatist by inclination, Smith wrote over seventy plays and edited several collections and texts for drama classes. Most of her plays were not published and none received critical acclaim or even major professional performances. Typical of her plays meant for youth groups or schools are The Boy, Abe and First Sorrows, both about the young Abe Lincoln and the death of his mother. Other one-act plays range in tone from burlesque to sentimentality and in setting from a mid-nineteenth-century rural

political rally to the sidewalk in front of an illegal abortionist s office on a late depression era Christmas Eve (Martin 3). Though she preferred drama, Smith won her fame through fiction. Drawing upon her own memories and those of her mother, she expanded an earlier work, Francie Nolan, into A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, her most successful novel. It sold millions of copies and was made into a movie and a Broadway musical. Whereas the plot and much of the writing can be criticized for excessive sentimentality, the strength of this highly autobiographical novel lies in the richness of detail with which Smith recreates a young girl s childhood and adolescence in the slums of early-twentieth-century Brooklyn, including both the pains of a poverty-stricken childhood and the good

times. The characters are vivid and three-dimensional and even the minor characters come alive as recognizable types. Smith obviously drew heavily upon her own experiences for the material of her novels. Her accurate ear for dialogue is the strength in all of them (Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith: curriculum unit 15-16). The backbone of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is Francie s life. We follow her, day by day throughout her dreams, hardships, disappointments and victories. It is a wonderful story of a young girl who never loses faith in the outcome of her life. Her mother, Katie Rommely Nolan, is portrayed as a remarkable woman whose methods of survival are beyond admirable. Her father, Johnny Nolan, is a drunk faced with the daily choice between obligation and freedom,