Woman Troubles — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapters 27-37

(My latest is up at Parenting.com)

This section of the book was painful for me to read.  It sets in motion Francie’s adolescence, a time full of pain, heartbreak and harsh realizations about the cruel world.  No longer can she look upon the family’s frequent bouts of starvation as a game.  Gone is her unquestioning faith in God.  She finds herself doubting that any woman can truly be good or kind.

After witnessing the women on her block stone Joanna and her baby, she comes to fear and hate women.

She feared them for their devious ways, she mistrusted their instincts.  She began to hate them for this disloyalty and their cruelty to each other.  Of all the stone-throwers, not one had dared to speak a word for the girl for fear that she would be tarred with Joanna’s brush.  The passing man had been the only one who spoke with kindness in his voice.

Most women had the one thing in common; they had great pain when they gave birth to their children.  This should make a bond that held them all together; it should make them love and protect each other against the man-world.  But it was not so.  It seemed like their great birth pains shrank their hearts and their souls.  They stuck together for only one thing; to trample some other woman… whether it was by throwing stones or by mean gossip.  It was the only kind of loyalty they seemed to have (p. 237).

What possible effect can this knew attitude towards womanhood have on Francie?  Will she ever be able to see herself as part of this group?  Will she be afraid to have children?  Will the loathing of her own gender turn to feelings of self-loathing as she experiences some of the same feelings they exhibit or will it act as a motivating force to change her for the better?  This book is full of examples of people who internalize negative stereotypes and become the person they have feared or hated.  Will it be this way with Francie?

Why is it that women so often feel such a need for competition, gossip, cattiness and intolerance towards each other?  As women, as potential mothers, our natural instincts should tend towards nurturing and kindness.  Like the women in the story, I think our negative instincts are born of fear.

When we are afraid for our own status, when we doubt our own worth, do we find it easier to tear someone else down, rather than to work at improving ourselves?

As we see so vividly with Francie, the road to self-improvement is painful and harsh.  The rewards are great but the journey is long and hard.  These chapters open with the throwing of a Christmas trees, a horrible tradition that sets the stage well for Francie’s adolescent turmoil — What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Lauren writes
from a New Yorker’s perspective about the ways our world has changed and how it remains the same.
Allysha says “[…]Often times it’s heartbreaking as Francie has to negotiate the world she has created in her mind with the reality she lives in.[…]”  In her usual thoughtful way, Allysha discusses this week’s section about growing up.


Pease let me know if you’ve blogged about the book and I’ll add a link here. And remember, you don’t have to stick to the schedule. If you have something great to say about the first page, let us know.

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