A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Historicity in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn College

In the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith sets the scene historically for what is to unfold through place, time references, events, and people. The book covers the time period 1912 – 1919, seven crucial years which completes the bridge or development from pre-teen to adulthood. History is linear; hence chronological. However, in this novel, Betty Smith starts in the middle retraces her steps to the beginning when Frances Nolan’s parents meet around 1900, and then proceeds from there until the end. History is not only factually based; it is an individual experience. Smith gives us history in the point of view of the protagonist, Frances Nolan who grows from a girl to a woman, living bitter and sweet experiences in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. Smith employs politics, entertainment, places, inventions, and businesses to establish location in a historical context, in specific Williamsburg is the prime location from which the story issues; therefore, the central plot is based in this area in a crucial interval of history in the early 1900’s where America undergoes rapid changes.

The climactic historical event in the entire novel is World War I (1914-1919) where presidents, politics, and war policies prevail. During...

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