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The Struggle

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The Struggle

It’s 1912 and Francie Nolan is 11 years of age living in Brooklyn, New York City. Francie comes from a family of four residing in the impoverished town around the early twentieth century. These times were full of hardship especially for poverty stricken families like the Nolan’s. Woman’s suffrage was also an issue during this time and education was thought to be the only way out with many challenges and few opportunities. Francie, the protagonist in the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, is a true example of a young girl who overcomes the odds through strength and perseverance. The struggles and emotional hardships endured by the Nolan family not only made each induvial a stronger person, but also supplied an enormous amount of motivation to succeed in life and overcome poverty. Although this family is very limited in life they always find a way to enjoy it. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn depicts the struggles produced by poverty and the effects of poverty directly related to class through the characters Francie, Katie, and Johnny.

Every Saturday starts off with a trip to the junk yard to earn pennies for items that Francie and her brother Neeley find. Often on the way back other children who had already cashed in their items would taunt them by hollering “Rag picker! Rag picker!” (Smith 9). Francie often felt ashamed even though the accusers were rag pickers themselves. When Francie was smaller, her mother Katie made a tin-can bank as requested by her mother, to put money aside for savings toward land that they considered their escape from poverty. Half of the money earned from the junk yard went in the bank. This was a way they could contribute to the family. Francie’s escape from the world and poverty is reading. Francie has dreams and understands to achieve them she has to work hard. In Francie’s yard there grew a tree which the reader may see it as a representation of her life. This tree that some call “The Tree of Heaven” (Betty Smith 9) was the only tree that could grow in extreme conditions, even through cement. “It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts” (Smith 9). Francie’s life did mimic this tree by the struggles she endured, from a drunken father that she adored to a near kidnapping and rape. Poverty effected Francie’s opportunity for schooling. Growing up in a poor home with a mother that scrubbed floors and a father who was a singing



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