Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Melissa_W
Posts: 4,124
Topics: 516
Kudos: 966
Blog Posts: 3
Ideas: 15
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54

[ Edited ]

Please use this thread for discussion of Chapters 36 - 54 of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Please clearly mark a SPOILER WARNING if your post contains information from plot points later in the novel.

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54, Ch. 36 & 37 - The Cause

SPOILER FOR CHAPTERS 36 & 37

 

As I began Chapter 36, I wondered what really killed Johnny.  The direct cause was pneumonia.  The doctor thought that “acute alcoholism was a definite contributing factor.”  I think the cause of death was more mental than physical.  I think Johnny essentially committed suicide through his behavior. 

 

According to him and Katie, he did stop drinking at the last.  However, even though he did stop drinking, “no one would believe [him] any more.  No one…”  “They threw [him] out of the Waiters’ Union.” 

 

Johnny sobbed, saying “I’m no good anymore.  I can’t sing any more.  Katie, they laugh at me now when I sing.  The last few jobs I had, they hired me to give the people a laugh.  It’s come to that, now.  I’m finished.”

 

Katie wondered “Was it because he knew of this coming child that he stopped drinking at the last?”

 

We know Johnny “didn’t own an overcoat or gloves.”  “Johnny hadn’t been in any of his accustomed haunts for a week.”  “Johnny had been found early that morning huddled in a doorway.  He was unconscious when a cop found him.  His tuxedo jacket was buttoned up over his undershirt.”

 

He may have stopped drinking, but he felt he couldn’t provide for his family now, let alone for the new baby on the way.  He lost hope.  He withdrew from friends.  He spent time outside without proper outerwear hoping to catch his death, and he succeeded.  If he couldn’t be successful in life anymore, at least he was successful in ending his life.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Inspired Contributor
foxycat
Posts: 1,626
Registered: ‎06-17-2007
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54

I'm way past Ch 54, but busy with the Olympics. Just dropped in to say "Hi."

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

Inspired Contributor
foxycat
Posts: 1,626
Registered: ‎06-17-2007
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54

If you missed what I posted at the Book Nook, this video is on the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. The flower factory where Francie worked would have looked very much like this one.  It's worth the 9-minute viewing time.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vus4b8FRTKM&feature=related

 

And this one on tenement life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzT8EqhuYxA&feature=related

 

Other videos of interest are listed on the right.

 

 

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 38

In Chapter 38, I liked how the author had Mary Rommely rationalize to Katie and Sissy how and why McGarrity helped Katie in a time of dire need.  These three quotes, in order, from different places in the chapter, tie everything together in a beautiful and thought provoking way.

 

In the eight years that Johnny had been patronizing McGarrity’s saloon, he had spoken daily to McGarrity in praise of Katie and the children.  McGarrity played a secret game during those eight years.  He pretended that he was Johnny and that he, McGarrity, was talking so about Mae and his children.

 

So when Johnny died, McGarrity lost his dreams.  He tried to play the game by himself but it didn’t work out.  He needed someone like Johnny to start him off.

 

“I tell you, Mother, if McGarrity hadn’t come along when he did, I don’t know what would have happened.  I was so low, that just a few nights before that, I had prayed to Johnny to help me. That was foolish.  I know.”

“Not foolish,” said Mary.  “He heard you and he helped you.”

“A ghost can’t help anyone, Mother,” said Sissy.

“Ghosts are not always those who pass through closed doors,” said Mary Rommley.  “Katie had told how her husband used to talk to this saloon man.  In all those years of the talking, Yohnny gave away pieces of himself to this man.  When Katie called on her man for help, the pieces of him came together in this man, and it was Yohnny within the saloon man’s soul that heard and came to her help.”

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 42 Tear Jerker Moment

This passage brought tears to my eyes:

 

The writing was in his fine careful hand, in the black ink from the bottle in the cupboard at home.  Then it was all a dream, a long mixed-up dream.  Laurie was a dream, and the working at McGarrity's, and the graduation play, and the bad mark in English.  She was waking up now and everything would be all right.  Papa would be waiting out in the hall.

But there was only Sissy in the hall.

"Then papa is dead," she said.

"Yes," said Sissy.  "And it's six months now."

"But he can't be, Aunt Sissy.  He sent me flowers."

"Francie, about a year ago he gave me that card all written out and two dollars.  He said, 'When Francie graduates, send her some flowers for me --- in case I forget.'"

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 47 Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

Sissy is talking to Katie about her husband, Steve, and how she got the baby:

 

"He knew all the while I hadn't given birth to her, but the way I claimed I had, got him mixed up.  He said it didn't matter as long as I didn't have her by another man and that since we had her from birth almost he really feels that she's his baby.  It's funny how the baby looks like him.  She has his dark eyes and the same round chin and the same small ears close to her head like him."

"She got those dark eyes from Lucia and a million people in the world have round chins and small ears.  But if it makes Steve happy to think the baby looks like him, that's fine."  There was a long silence before Katie spoke again.  "Sissy, did you ever get any idea from that Italian family as to who the father was?"

"No."  Sissy too, waited a long time before she continued.  "You know who told me about the girl being in trouble and where she lived and all?"

"Who?"

"Steve."

"Oh, my!"

Both were quiet for a long time.  Then Katie said, "Of course, that was accidental."

 

Hmmm...

Reading this, I assume that Steve is the father of the baby.  Could he possibly have tried to have a baby for Sissy by another woman?!

 

What do you all think?

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Melissa_W
Posts: 4,124
Topics: 516
Kudos: 966
Blog Posts: 3
Ideas: 15
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 47 Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

Hmm, it didn't occur to me that Steve might be the father of the baby...

 

I don't know if he actually tried to get the other girl pregnant but I could see him persuading Sissy to adopt the baby as a way of getting out of the situation with the girl's family.


Fozzie wrote:

Sissy is talking to Katie about her husband, Steve, and how she got the baby:

 

"He knew all the while I hadn't given birth to her, but the way I claimed I had, got him mixed up.  He said it didn't matter as long as I didn't have her by another man and that since we had her from birth almost he really feels that she's his baby.  It's funny how the baby looks like him.  She has his dark eyes and the same round chin and the same small ears close to her head like him."

"She got those dark eyes from Lucia and a million people in the world have round chins and small ears.  But if it makes Steve happy to think the baby looks like him, that's fine."  There was a long silence before Katie spoke again.  "Sissy, did you ever get any idea from that Italian family as to who the father was?"

"No."  Sissy too, waited a long time before she continued.  "You know who told me about the girl being in trouble and where she lived and all?"

"Who?"

"Steve."

"Oh, my!"

Both were quiet for a long time.  Then Katie said, "Of course, that was accidental."

 

Hmmm...

Reading this, I assume that Steve is the father of the baby.  Could he possibly have tried to have a baby for Sissy by another woman?!

 

What do you all think?


 

Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
Frequent Contributor
AJ981979
Posts: 118
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 47 Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

I think it's a given that he's the father, and Sissy is willfully blind to it.  You can spin it as "he wanted to give Sissy a baby" and maybe that's the truth.... given Sissy's history with men, I'd believe he was "having relations" with more than one woman, and when one got pregnant it was fortunate that he happened to know another who desparately wanted a child.  Problem solved.

 

~ Happiness is a good book, a sleeping cat, and a glass of wine. ~
Frequent Contributor
Lmfwhite
Posts: 185
Registered: ‎07-07-2008
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 42 Tear Jerker Moment


Fozzie wrote:

This passage brought tears to my eyes:

 

The writing was in his fine careful hand, in the black ink from the bottle in the cupboard at home.  Then it was all a dream, a long mixed-up dream.  Laurie was a dream, and the working at McGarrity's, and the graduation play, and the bad mark in English.  She was waking up now and everything would be all right.  Papa would be waiting out in the hall.

But there was only Sissy in the hall.

"Then papa is dead," she said.

"Yes," said Sissy.  "And it's six months now."

"But he can't be, Aunt Sissy.  He sent me flowers."

"Francie, about a year ago he gave me that card all written out and two dollars.  He said, 'When Francie graduates, send her some flowers for me --- in case I forget.'"


This made me think that perhaps Johnny had an inkling that down the road, he may not be alive.  He had gotten Francie into the school, I find it doubtful that he would miss the graduation.  I think that he said "in case I forget" but he actually meant "in case I'm not alive."

Frequent Contributor
Lmfwhite
Posts: 185
Registered: ‎07-07-2008
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 47 Things That Make You Go Hmmm....


AJ981979 wrote:

I think it's a given that he's the father, and Sissy is willfully blind to it.  You can spin it as "he wanted to give Sissy a baby" and maybe that's the truth.... given Sissy's history with men, I'd believe he was "having relations" with more than one woman, and when one got pregnant it was fortunate that he happened to know another who desparately wanted a child.  Problem solved.

 


 

I didn't think that he was with other women to give Sissy a baby.  I think he was just with other women (period!) and he happened to get one pregnant.

 

I also think that if Sissy had had the opportunity to have most of her children in a hospital, many of her own babies would have survived.

Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 42 Tear Jerker Moment


Lmfwhite wrote:
This made me think that perhaps Johnny had an inkling that down the road, he may not be alive.  He had gotten Francie into the school, I find it doubtful that he would miss the graduation.  I think that he said "in case I forget" but he actually meant "in case I'm not alive."

Yes, I agree.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Inspired Contributor
foxycat
Posts: 1,626
Registered: ‎06-17-2007
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Hmmm...

While you were all wondering if he was the father, I also found that scene incredibly funny, almost surrealistic. Imagine trying to convince someone that you've actually been pregnant for 9 months, and the listener either accepts it or pretends to.  A real shaggy dog story.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 42 Tear Jerker Moment

I personally suspect that Sissy is the generous donor of "flowers" to Francie. It's would be in character.

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 42 Tear Jerker Moment


IBIS wrote:

I personally suspect that Sissy is the generous donor of "flowers" to Francie. It's would be in character.


 

Then how would you explain that the card was in Johnny's writing?  Sissy planned to buy the flowers and had Johnny make out the card ahead of time?

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 42 Tear Jerker Moment

 


Fozzie wrote:

IBIS wrote:

I personally suspect that Sissy is the generous donor of "flowers" to Francie. It's would be in character.


Then how would you explain that the card was in Johnny's writing?  Sissy planned to buy the flowers and had Johnny make out the card ahead of time?

 

I took it as simpler -- Johnny left the card, but Sissy bought the flowers to carry out his wishes.

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: ATGIB: Week 3, Chapters 36 - 54 - Chapter 42 Tear Jerker Moment

I finally finished the book tonight.

 

As I realized the dire financial straits, I did wonder if Johnny might have left enough money with Sissy for the flowers in one of his generous streaks when he happened to have gotten some extra tips.  Two dollars began to seem like a lot for Sissy to have managed out of her own resources at that point.  But, the text doesn't make it definitive, and I agree that it  would have been in character for Sissy to come up with the money somehow.  Katie certainly thinks she did.  But I think Sissy would have felt that Katie would have been hurt to have known if Johnny had brought Sissy money.

 

 


Peppermill wrote:

 


Fozzie wrote:

IBIS wrote:

I personally suspect that Sissy is the generous donor of "flowers" to Francie. It's would be in character.


Then how would you explain that the card was in Johnny's writing?  Sissy planned to buy the flowers and had Johnny make out the card ahead of time?

 

I took it as simpler -- Johnny left the card, but Sissy bought the flowers to carry out his wishes.

 


 

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy