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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn By Betty Smith Presentation by Abby Sharp HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 1900-1919 The Progressive Era Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) P. William Taft (1909-1913) R. Woodrow Wilson (1913- 1921) D. Controversies of Era Legal: Women’s suffrage was a major issue in the early 1900s (Jennings 26). Controversies of Era Medical: “In 1918, a pandemic of influenza hit the world, causing more deaths than in WWI” (Poindexter). Economics of the Era In the late 1800s and early 1900s, America became a more urban industrialized nation (Issacson 56). Lifestyles of the Era Work: Spring of 1911- A fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory; 146 teenage women (workers) perished (“Tables”). Lifestyles of the Era Family: Many children had to quit school to work in order to help support their families (Jennings 21). Lifestyles of the Era Education: “In 1900, the average American only had five years of schooling” (Jennings 16). Gender Roles of the Era Education: The number of women who were choosing higher education instead of marriage increased (DuBose 79). PLOT BLURB Nolan family: Katie, Johnny, Francie, Neeley and Annie They live in poverty Francie and Neeley Johnny is an must work (finished alcoholic and often 8th grade) shames the family Neeley (mom’s Francie likes favorite) gets to go learning and she is to high school a good student Katie marries a Johnny dies on wealthy man and Christmas, before Francie is finally Annie is born able to go to college CHARACTER LIFE DECISIONS Francie decides to leave her town Katie decides to send Neeley to school and Francie to work Johnny decides to put alcohol ahead of his family’s welfare Francie decides to leave town to start a better life Francie realizes that she has to leave or “suddenly she would be a disgusting old woman without teeth” (Smith 15). Historical Connection The number of women who were choosing higher education instead of marriage increased (DuBose 79). Katie’s decision to send Neeley back to school Katie wants Francie to work because Francie “will find her way back to education, while Neeley does not want to go to school” (Smith 250). Historical Connection Many children had to quit school to work in order to help support their families (Jennings 21). Johnny decides to put alcohol ahead of his family On his twenty- first birthday, “Johnny’s drinking problem brings shame on the family and forces the family to move (Smith 302). Historical Connection “One of the major factors leading to the prohibition of alcohol… was the increase in men spending their salaries on liquor…” (“Tables”). MOTIFS Life and Growth Love Life and Growth Francie sees that “a new tree had grown from the stump and its trunk had grown along the ground until it reached a place where there were no wash lines above it. Then it started to grown toward the sky” (Smith 483). Love With regards to Johnny, “Francie kissed his cheek softly and said that she loved her papa so much” (Smith 34). INTERPRETIVE QUESTION Do you think that American children today are more or less likely to suffer from abuse and poverty than Francie? Children today Nonexistent in are less likely to the early 1900s, suffer from labor laws, poverty and truancy laws, and abuse child protective There are more services now laws in place to lessen the protect children exploitation of children Textual Support #1 One example of Francie’s exploitation is when “Francie needed to go back to work in order for her to help her mother pay the bills” (Smith 249). Textual Support #2 In the case of a potential abduction, Smith writes, “The man came up to Francie and was about to take her away with him until her mother came to her rescue” (Smith 170). Textual Support #3 In addition to Francie working to help support her family, “…kids collected money for the family by trading in old junk” (Smith 15). LITERARY CRITICISM Criticism #1 “A Tree Grows in I disagree Brooklyn is a (somewhat): profoundly moving novel, an Moving honest and true story one. It cuts right Outdated to the heart of issues life” (“Tree”). Criticism #2 “This is the I agree: first novel of Novel well- uncommon written skill and Reader cares almost about uncontrollable characters vitality and Francie = tree zest for life” (strength and (Prescott 423). growth) Transcendence of Themes “The journey of the protagonist is heroic. Francie clearly identifies with the Tree of Heaven in her urge to continue to develop into a young woman that she can be proud of. Smith’s use of the tree as a symbol of Francie’s growth is effective and powerful” (Prescott). This concludes my presentation… THANK YOU!
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