Tagged: a tree grows in brooklyn

Movie Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

You’ve heard me rave about this book more than once now, having written about it rather extensively on this blog. Well, just this past weekend I watched the 1945 film version that is an adaptation of the book. In comparing the two, I wholeheartedly pick the book over the film, for its depth and variety of detail, Francie’s vast thoughts, and for the background story of Francie’s family.

As is the case with most movies that are based off of books, the movie has been compacted into a 120 minute or so summary of the literary masterpiece, whereas Betty Smith has hundreds of pages for millions of words to perfectly convey Brooklyn through Francie’s eye. Inevitably, lots of events will have to be omitted; sometimes, depending on the book and the plot, a movie company can get away with this glossing-over of details. In this case, however, I found that there was very little depth to the movie, since so many key events were left out. Where is the background of the two families immigrating from Europe? Where is the love story in and of itself between Katie Rommely and Johnny Nolan? I find that element to be crucial in understanding the familial interaction after Francie and Neeley’s births. Additionally, the omitted rape attempt seemed to be an integral part in Francie’s development. If I had simply watched the movie instead of read the book, I don’t think I would have enjoyed half as much as I did the book.

The most important theme of the story was Francie’s potential of receiving a full education to lift the family out of the cycle of poverty, and this was completely ignored in the movie. Francie was never seen actively pursuing an education, and since the movie ended with McShane proposing to Katie, there was not even a focus on this, one of the most essential and gripping themes found dispersed through the story.

One of my favorite aspects of the book itself is the train of thought that Francie follows through her maturation. Betty Smith’s eloquent acknowledgement of the human tendencies to have conflicting and contradictory thoughts as one develops is demonstrated through Francie’s internal struggle to make important decisions. The movie does little through Peggy Ann Garner’s expressive emotions, but does not do justice to Betty Smith’s detailed descriptions.

The film also succeeds in finally putting a face to the intriguing personality of Johnny Nolan, although I was disappointed by his face not living up to the handsomeness that I had imagined. Moreover, I had considered his blond hair and smooth dance moves important characteristics, neither of which were depicted in the movie.

All in all, the movie was a pleasant depiction of the events that took place in Betty Smith’s novel. Because of its lack of coverage of all major events and focus on just one time period in Francie’s life, I do believe that the book itself is better. However, as a standalone movie produced in the 1940s, bravo!

Whatever plot there was proved to be cleverly enhanced with theatrical hints that were not found in the original novel, specifically the metaphor that Francie describes when she speaks about her dream of being a writer as something that shouldn’t be based in impossible imagination, but rather a realistic situation. The realization that is evident on Johnny Nolan’s face demonstrates his understanding of his fruitless claims about an optimistic future for the Nolan family. This realization, combined with Katie’s harsh words, push him to go look for a job at the Union, where he catches pneumonia and eventually dies.

I loved the book, and I enjoyed the movie, which was well-constructed, given the time period, and realistic restraints. I recommend both!

Posts about the book itself:
here and here.

Second Time Around: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

There’s rarely a time when I feel compelled to reread a book. The majority of fiction books that I have read in my recent years have been teen romance novels, as you would expect the stereotypical high school girl to read. Although I don’t often read for pleasure anymore, I try to make time during school breaks. But each time, it will be a new book that someone has recommended to me. In my opinion, there’s not usually a plausible reason to reread a book. I know the plot, it was “nice,” but I didn’t take much away from the book except for perhaps wishful thinking about boy behavior (I found out that I was woefully wrong).

But this book? A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith? I’ve reread it time and time again, discovering something new every time. I’ve written about this before, but not particularly extensively. I think the concept to take away from my previous post can be summed up by the following:

They say that one of the best ways to understand a person as well as their morals and priorities is to read their favorite book. This book touches me because Francie’s character exemplifies how I would like to approach my problems, and the society that I grow up in. Since she first went to school, she’d wanted to be a writer.  Her family was comprised of immigrants, and they had endured many hardships and economic struggles to rise out of the poverty that they had continually been confined to. The story follows her from her childhood to the beginning of her adulthood, and depicts changes in perspectives as she becomes continually more mature, and gets increasingly globalized in perspective. These changes build character. I take her personal revelations in consideration, accepting my ultimately infinitesimal role in society. Francie expressed a strong interest in writing, and the method that Betty Smith utilizes to explain why help spark my interest in literature as well. The lessons that I take from the book guide the way I deal with overarching problems.

I can reread this book over and over because it’s so different from the books that I have previously read. Because Francie grows up around 1900, there’s no phones or computers. All the character interaction is personal. Moreover, there’s very little romantic interaction. And even if it does occur, it does so between Francie’s parents, who, although relatively immature, didn’t have to deal with their young love in high school, where they had to worry about college or parents or something like that.

I feel as though rereading this book teaches me a new lesson every time. It seems as though if people made a conscious effort to take something away from a book’s plot besides the plot, which is quite shallow without much analysis, they would feel very enlightened reading a book like this.

The fact that this story takes place 100 years before the time period in which I currently live makes me feel nostalgic for a time that I’ve never encountered. I won’t claim that I regret technological developments that have occurred since then, but I abhor the social situation that technology has put us in. I long for a time where the social interactions were much more personal, where everyone was comfortable looking each other in the eye without feeling the need to grope for a phone.

Again, as previously mentioned, I enjoy rereading this book because of Francie’s personality. Following it evolve as she grows up, watching the temptation appear to her, observing her decisions and emotions, these all teach me how to it is possible for people to be humble, to accept who they are and to find a balance between being practical but passionate about something that inspires them.

The story itself is wonderful in itself; the book has five separate parts that follow different time periods not only in the life of Francie, but also her parents Katie and Johnny when they were young. No matter how outdated the book is, it will still be much more realistic than anything else that I’ve ever read.

I’ll come back to this book when I’m feeling lost in character and motivation. It will provide a comforting story with astoundingly profound underlying themes, guiding me on my way to college – and beyond.

– Daily Prompt

A Book Grows on Me

Betty Smith is actually one of the most strikingly beautiful women I’ve ever seen. 

 

Daily Prompt: What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?

So, I suppose that you could say that I’m still a child. Does 16 constitute being a child? Is being a teenager mutually exclusive with being a child? Who knows.

When I was in middle school, I read a book series called, “The Wedding Planner’s Daughter.” It takes place in the twenty first century, and follows the adolescent life of a girl who loves reading. The greatest part about the series was not that actual story, but the fact that the author provided a list of suggested reads at the end of the book. After I finished the book, I skimmed the reading list for a title that caught my eye.

 

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith 

 

Isn’t the title at least a little bit intriguing? Not many people agree with me, but I personally became very interested with title. What kind of tree, and what’s so special about Brooklyn? Perhaps that wasn’t my train of thought. Maybe I just asked a friend or did a quick Google search for a summary.

Either way, I ended up reading the book in seventh grade or so. At the time I just really liked the book simply because it had a wonderful story. And that was it, for the time being.

But then as the years went by and my English teachers taught me year-after-year about literature analysis, symbolism, and motifs, I realized that there was no doubt more to the story.

I checked it out again sometime in high school. Ninth grade, perhaps? Eventually I had checked it out enough times for me to decide that I needed an actual copy.

And you know how people operate. You go to new events and they need icebreaker games to introduce themselves, and one of the most commonly asked questions is: “What’s your favorite book?”

In those days, I’d probably say something like the Harry Potter series or some book that I had recently read. While HP and plenty of other books were fantastic, the one that kept coming back to me and calling to me personally was “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

So now, I don’t even hesitate when people ask me for my favorite book. I recall childhood memories of hiding under the covers with a flashlight trying to finish this book. Yes, these things actually do happen!

Since learning about literary analysis and the once-alien concept of “annotation,” my favorite book has become all the more personal, filled with markings indicating my favorite passages, with arrows and lines, with explanations of why a certain passage is important.

I also just learned about World War One in my AP Euro class. Although I knew generally what had happened, I hadn’t known the exact position of the United States, but now all of that has been much more contextualized for me. And it helps! I am able to more easily relate with the sentiments of the families who had to send their men to war.

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A quick summary: The book plays out in many flashbacks, covering the background story of Frances Nolan’s parents, following Francie through her childhood, all the way to her first year at college. She is born right around the turn of the twentieth century, and as a young lady she sees the indirect effects of World War One on the people that live in her city.

^That summary does not even suffice; I heavily recommend that any girl under 21 who has the ability to read, read this book.

They say that one of the best ways to understand a person as well as their morals and priorities is to read their favorite book. This book touches me because Francie’s character exemplifies how I would like to approach my problems, and the society that I grow up in. Since she first went to school, she’d wanted to be a writer.  Her family was comprised of immigrants, and they had endured many hardships and economic struggles to rise out of the poverty that they had continually been confined to. The story follows her from her childhood to the beginning of her adulthood, and depicts changes in perspectives as she becomes continually more mature, and gets increasingly globalized in perspective. These changes build character. I take her personal revelations in consideration, accepting my ultimately infinitesimal role in society. Francie expressed a strong interest in writing, and the method that Betty Smith utilizes to explain why help spark my interest in literature as well. The lessons that I take from the book guide the way I deal with overarching problems.