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'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' Quotes

Betty Smith's Famous Novel - Coming-of-Age Story

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Study Guide A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a coming-of-age story. It's a tragic and triumphant book about Francie Nolan, as her family struggles with poverty, alcoholism, and the brutal realities of life for an Irish-American family in Brooklyn, New York City. Here are a few quotes from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
  • Everyone said it was a pity that a slight pretty woman like Katie Nolan had to go out scrubbing floors. But what else could she do considering the husband she had, they said."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 1

  • "Francie knew that mama was a good woman. She knew. And papa said so. Then why did she like her father better than her mother? Why did she? Papa was no good. He said so himself. But she liked papa better."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 1

  • "Before they went to bed, Francie and Neeley had to read a page of the Bible and a page from Shakespeare. That was a rule. Mama used to read the two pages to them each night until they were old enough to read for themselves. To save time, Neeley read the Bible page and Francie read from Shakespeare."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 6

  • "Maybe that decision was her great mistake. She should have waited until some man came along who felt that way about her. Then her children would not have gone hungry; she would not have had to scrub floors for their living and her memory of him would have remained a tender shining thing. But she wanted Johnny Nolan and no one else and she set out to get him."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 7

  • "Those were the Rommely women: Many, the mother, Evy, Sissy, and Katie, her daughters, and Francie, who would grow up to be a Rommely woman even though her name was Nolan. They were all slender, frail creatures with wondering eyes and soft fluttery voices."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 7

  • "they were made out of thin invisible steel."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 7

  • "Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly. She was Katie's secret, despairing weeping. She was the shame of her father staggering home drunk."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 8

  • "She was all of these things and of something more."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 8

  • "Oh, God, don't send me any more children or I won't be able to look after Johnny and I've got to look after Johnny. He can't look after himself."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 9

  • "I am going to love this boy more than the girl but I mustn't ever let her know. It is wrong to love one child more than the other but this is something that I cannot help."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 10

  • "Francie didn't notice that he said my last home instead of our last home."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 14

  • "Francie sat on a chair and was surprised that it felt the same as it had in Lorimer Street. She felt different. Why didn't the chair feel different?"
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 15

  • "Besides, she said to her conscience, it's a hard and bitter world. They've got to live in it. Let them get hardened young to take care of themselves."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 18

  • "She had become accustomed to being lonely. She was used to walking alone and to being considered 'different.' She did not suffer too much."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 20

  • "From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 22

  • "On the day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 22

  • "In the future, when something comes up, you tell exactly how it happened but write down for yourself the way you think it should have happened. Tell the truth and write the story. Then you won't get mixed up. It was the best advice Francie every got."
    - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 26

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