Monday, October 25, 2010

TGB ~ second set of DQs

1.  In a particularly revealing chapter of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Francie's teacher dismisses her essays about everyday life among the poor as "sordid," and, indeed, many of the novel's characters seem to harbor a sense of shame about their poverty. But they also display a remarkable self-reliance (Katie, for example, says she would kill herself and her children before accepting charity). How and why have our society's perceptions of poverty changed - for better or worse - during the last one hundred years?
2.  Some critics have argued that many of the characters in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn can be dismissed as stereotypes, exhibiting quaint characteristics or representing pat qualities of either nobility or degeneracy. Is this a fair criticism? Which characters are the most convincing? The least?

3.  Francie observes more than once that women seem to hate other women ("they stuck together for only one thing: to trample on some other woman"), while men, even if they hate each other, stick together against the world. Is this an accurate appraisal of the way things are in the novel?

4. The women in the Nolan/Rommely clan exhibit most of the strength and, whenever humanly possible, control the family's destiny. In what ways does Francie continue this legacy?

5. What might Francie's obsession with order -- from systematically reading the books in the library from A through Z, to trying every flavor ice cream soda -- in turn say about her circumstances and her dreams?

6.  Although it is written in the third person, there can be little argument that the narrative is largely from Francie's point of view. How would the book differ if it was told from Neeley's perspective?

7.  How can modern readers reconcile the frequent anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiments that characters espouse throughout the novel?

8.  Could it be argued that the main character of the book is not Francie but, in fact, Brooklyn itself?

(These questions came from the publisher and can be found at several sites online.)


Bonnie Jacobs said...

Sorry to be so long putting up the final set of discussion questions about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It's already time to start thinking about (or reading) our novel for November: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.

Shirley said...

1. We have expanded the assistance available to people so that there is housing and food through governmental programs and I don't think that there is as much reluctance for people to accept assistance. However, I think that there is still a holier than thou attitude of many that people in poverty are there because of their own fault.
2. Shame on those critics for knocking a good book. However, I realize that the characters tended to be either good or bad with stereotypical characteristics. I thought Cissy's character though was an interesting portrayal of showing that a woman whose reputation seemed tainted was actually a "good" person. I enjoyed all of the characters though so am not going to judge who was the most and least convincing.
3.I am afraid that I, too, often see the negative characteristic that Francie observed of women sticking together only to trample on another woman. Even as children, girls too often tend to have a hateful, spiteful attitude that is used against other girls. Boys tend to be physical in their disputes, but once the battle has ended seem more willing to go on with their friendship. Not always the case, but an often observed stereotype.
4. not sure
5. I hadn't thought of Francie as being obsessed with order, but I guess it could be seen as a need to feel in control of part of her life. However, I think it would be a good trait to have to prefer having things organized. If it is viewed as an obsession, one could also compare it to the need for routine that Jacob in House Rules had as part of the Asperger's syndrome.
6. From Neely's perspective, the book would probably have been much shorter with less description and a presentation primarily of just the facts.
7. I think the author included the anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic viewpoint that was common at the time.
8. Making Brooklyn the main character instead of Francie seems a bit of a stretch to me.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Shirley, that's a great observation, comparing the need for organization of both Francie (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and Jacob (House Rules).