You love us on Instagram and Twitter, now check us out on TikTok! You love us on Instagram and Twitter, now check us out on TikTok!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

  • Study Guide
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

author Betty Smith

type of work Novel

genre Bildungsroman (novel about the moral development of the main character); a coming of age novel

language English

time and place written Chapel Hill, North Carolina, early 1940's

date of first publication 1943

publisher Harper & Brothers

narrator Omniscient

climax Sergeant McShane asks Katie Nolan to marry him.

protagonist Francie Nolan

antagonist Poverty

setting (time) Between 1900 and 1918

setting (place) Williamsburg, Brooklyn

point of view Omniscient

falling action The Nolans move out of their home and get ready for the wedding. Francie says good-bye to Brooklyn before she leaves for college.

tense Past

foreshadowing There are more instances than can be listed. Henny's death foreshadows Johnny's. Katie's ability to read and write, unlike her mother, foreshadows that Francie will gain a higher level of education than Katie. The scene at the Mattie Mahoney picnic foreshadows the marriage of Katie and McShane.

tone Mostly sympathetic toward the characters, sometimes childlike or contemplative

themes Poverty and class issues; education; gender and sex; perseverance through hardship; ethnic and religious identity

motifs Fall from innocence; American dream; Songs and singing

symbols The Tree of Heaven