A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Introduction

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a semi-autobiographical 1943 novel written by Betty Smith. The story focuses on an impoverished but aspirational adolescent girl and her family living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, during the first two decades of the 20th century.

The book was an immense success. It was also released in an Armed Services Edition, the size of a mass-market paperback, to fit in a uniform pocket. One Marine wrote to Smith, "I can't explain the emotional reaction that took place in this dead heart of mine...A surge of confidence has swept through me, and I feel that maybe a fellow has a fighting chance in this world after all."[1]

The main metaphor of the book is the hardy Tree of Heaven, whose persistent ability to grow and flourish even in the inner city mirrors the protagonist's desire to better herself.


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