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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
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Chapter 36

Summary Johnny goes to sleep, but in the middle of the night he wakes and walks out of the house. Three days later, Sergeant McShane calls on Katie and tells her that Johnny is in the hospital in a coma. Sick with pneumonia, he has little chance of surviving.

Johnny dies in the hospital. Katie begs the doctor to write the cause of death as pneumonia only, leaving out the fact that chronic alcoholism was a contributing factor; the doctor reluctantly agrees. A kind undertaker from the neighborhood donates his services for the funeral.

Katie has difficulty telling Francie and Neeley the sad news. She only gains the courage to face them the day after Johnny dies. The children are crushed, particularly Francie. To calm herself, Katie stays busy with the funeral arrangements. On the day Johnny is to be buried, the house is filled with flowers from friends and well wishers.

After the funeral, Katie stops the carriage outside a barber's shop and sends Neeley inside to ask the barber to return Johnny's cup. Katie gives the cup to Francie; to Neeley, she gives Johnny's signet ring.


Although inevitable, Johnny's death is tragic. After losing his last job and being kicked out of the union, Johnny wanders the streets for three days, like a vagabond. In the process, he contracts pneumonia and has to be admitted to the hospital. By the time that Sergeant McShane comes to call on Katie to tell her the bad news, Johnny is in a coma and not expected to live. Of course, it is significant that it is McShane who brings the news, for he has always dreamed of the day that he and Katie might be free to date each other.

Although Katie goes to the hospital, it is too late. Johnny dies without coming out of his coma; therefore, Katie has no opportunity to speak with her husband again. Although she is normally a pillar of strength, she has trouble gaining enough courage to tell the children about their father's death and waits until the following day. She is strong enough, however, to convince the doctor to put that the cause of death was only pneumonia.

In order to calm herself, Katie stays busy making the funeral arrangements. She is pleased with all the flowers sent by family and friends. Although the undertaker at first seems like a kind, sympathetic man, volunteering his services, in the end he extracts money from this impoverished family.

Katie repeatedly shows her concern for the children in the chapter. She finds it difficult to tell Francie and Neeley the sad news of Johnny's death. She also wants them to have something concrete by which to remember their father. She gives Francie his shaving cup and Neeley his signet ring.

The fact that Johnny insisted on having his own shaving cup at the barbershop is very consistent with his personality. He was also fastidious and concerned about his appearance. Katie had been attracted to him because of his handsome appearance and fancy dress.

After the funeral, the finality and fear of it all hits Katie. When she breaks down, Sissy tries to console her, pleading with her to pull herself together for the arrival of the upcoming baby. The chapter ends on a very somber note with the reader wondering how Katie will be able to make it with another mouth to feed and no husband to help

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MonkeyNotes-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith


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