The focus returns to Johnny in Chapter Twenty Five. When he drinks heavily he becomes quieter and more distant from his family. After this period, he would feel guilty and believe he should be a better father. Similarly to his mother-in-law, Mary Rommely, he also understands that education brings greater advantages. He takes the children to a more affluent area of Brooklyn and shows them the different carriages.
In Chapter Twenty Six, it is Thanksgiving Day and the children dress up in masks and costumes. This is also the time that Francie tells her first ‘organized lie’ and decides to become a writer. At school, the teacher asks the pupils if anyone wanted the spare pumpkin pie. All the children are hungry, but they are embarrassed to accept charity. Francie puts up her hand and says she knows a very poor family who would like it. She eats it on the way home. On the following Monday, the teacher asks if the family enjoyed it and Francie expands on her lie to the point of being unbelievable. After admitting she has lied, the teacher corrects her and says there is a difference between a lie and a story. She advises Francie to tell the truth in the future and write the story down. Francie believes this is the best piece of advice she has received.
Chapter Twenty Seven continues tracing the year. It is now Christmas and Francie loves looking at the dolls in the shop windows, although her family cannot afford one. The children do have a chance, however, to win a free Christmas tree at midnight on Christmas Eve. Leftover trees are thrown at the ones who want to win one. If the child remains standing, they are given the tree. Francie stands together with Neeley as she chooses the biggest one left as her potential prize. They remain standing after it is hurled at them and they return home with it.
Katie thinks of how the children deserve more than they have when she sees their pleasure at winning the free tree. She sees again that education will pull them out of ‘the grime and dirt’. She wants Francie to go to high school and beyond, even though she knows Francie will become ever more distant from her and will see that she loves Neeley more. Katie wants Neeley to become a doctor, and simultaneously remembers that Johnny is worthless and will not be with them for much longer.
In that same week, Neeley and Francie are given tickets for a Protestant-run party for all faiths. A rich girl called Mary tries to give a doll away to a ‘poor’ girl called Mary, but nobody at the party wants to admit to being poor (although there are many girls there called Mary who would fit this description). Francie swallows her pride and raises her arm and says her name is Mary. She is given the doll, but the other girls whisper that she is a beggar. At home, she tells Katie she won the doll as Katie detests charity. Francie feels guilty later, though, as she believes she lied about her name being Mary. She tells Katie she wants to take this as her middle name for her confirmation, but is told she cannot do this as her christened name is Mary Frances Nolan.
Chapter Twenty Eight begins with the news that Henny Gaddis dies when Francie is 11. Between the ages of 11 and 12 she also starts to realize that she is growing up. She is becoming less satisfied with the plays she watches, for example, as they always tend to offer neat, unrealistic endings. She decides to write her own endings and decides to become a playwright.
In the summer that year Johnny decides to take his children and a neighbor’s child called Little Tilly out to sea. This is described in Chapter Twenty Nine with humorous detail. After a day in a boat, and failing to catch any fish, they return home on the trolley car and all three children are sick.
These chapters continue to explore the pleasures and discomfort of Francie’s childhood. Humour is drawn upon in these and other chapters, in particular in Chapter Twenty Nine when Johnny decides to take the children fishing, but this is always counter-balanced with the weight of social criticism that suffuses this book. Katie’s need to believe in the power of education is her mantra in places and comes to the foreground once more when she sees the children’s pleasure in winning a free Christmas tree. This is a poignant moment as the mother expresses her understanding of how her children suffer through the effects of poverty.