1. Betty Smith has said that she began writing A Tree Grows in Brooklyn after she read Thomas Wolfe’s Of Time and the River. Read this, Wolfe’s second novel, and compare it to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
2. Look up a definition of naturalism in a good dictionary of literary terms. How is naturalism defined? Is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn naturalistic? Why or why not?
3. What are Johnny Nolan’s strengths and weaknesses as a father? What do you like about him, and what do you dislike about him? Is he a good father?
4. Francie loves yet resents her mother, Katie, because Katie seems to love Neeley more. Is Neeley Katie’s favorite child? Is Francie’s response to her mother’s wish for Francie to work and Neeley to go to high school justified? What enables Francie to become independent of her mother?
5. Katie’s reasons for marrying Johnny Nolan differ greatly from her reasons for marrying Michael McShane. Assuming that Katie loved both men, what is the difference in that love?