A Tree Grows In Brooklyn: Novel Summary: Book 4, Chapters 43, 44, 45, 46, 47
Chapter Forty-Three begins with Francie working in the summer. She is making stems for artificial flowers and is becoming frightened that she will have to keep doing this kind of work, as she has had little education. She feels the same fear she experienced when she saw the old man whilst waiting for stale bread when younger (she panics that she will never escape this kind of harsh existence).
Her fellow female colleagues are at first quite harsh in their treatment of Francie, but accept her when she laughs at a joke. Both she and Neeley have found work and both are earning five dollars a week. They are proud to take it home to Katie. Francie wants to start her own tin-can bank in order to buy Christmas presents.
Francie and her colleagues are laid off after two weeks in Chapter Forty-Four. She decides to apply for a position with a press-clipping bureau and has to pretend to be 16. She is hired and, after training as a reader, she becomes the fastest one there. Because she does not talk to the other women, she does not discover that she is also the lowest paid at 10 dollars a week. When Miss Armstrong, the head reader, leaves, the boss offers her job at 15 dollars a week (and does not tell Francie that Miss Armstrong was earning 30). Francie refuses the work as she wants to return to school in the fall, so he raises the wage to 20 dollars a week.
At home, Francie decides to ask about the possibility of returning to school before telling of the position she has been offered. Katie says she can only afford for one of them to carry on studying and says she wants this to be Neeley (even though he wants to continue working and become a broker). Francie then informs her of her promotion and pay rise and also complains that Katie always favors Neeley. After the argument, Francie sees that both she and her mother are very similar, and both know their relationship will never entirely recover from this argument.
It is Christmas again in Chapter Forty-Five and the children are now able to buy Katie a good present and take her to choose a new hat. At mass on Christmas morning, prayers are said for Johnny.
In Chapter Forty-Six, it is New Year’s Eve and almost 1917. The building they live in is due to be wired for electricity and the United States’ entry into the First World War is imminent. Whilst celebrating the end of the year, Francie thinks of how she would like to fall in love.
After the Christmas holidays, in Chapter Forty Seven, life reverts to how it was after Johnny’s death. They no longer have piano lessons and do not read the Bible and works of Shakespeare either. Francie is lonely in the evenings and in March 1917 everyone is worrying about the war, but Sissy creates a sensation that overshadows these events.
Sissy’s first husband, whom she called John too, is killed in a fire and the story is reported in the newspaper. He is described as the heroic fireman and Sissy’s photograph appears as the grieving widow. It comes out that she has been married bigamously and her present husband now insists on being called Steve (his real name). He also demands that she divorces her second husband so that they can marry legally. It transpires that her second husband had already divorced her. Sissy falls madly in love with Steve after being with him for five years.
Francie’s maturation into adulthood develops as she gains employment and helps to support the family. Their relatively increased prosperity is reflected in the children’s ability to buy Katie a Christmas present.
However, it is emphasized that Francie’s pay as a reader for the clipping bureau is lower than she deserves because she is not aware of what wages the others receive. Earlier, through Johnny’s praise of unionization, the narrative demonstrated an allegiance to equal pay and fair treatment for employees. Francie’s low wage reflects once more how a lack of solidarity between workers ensures more power for the bosses.