A Tree Grows In Brooklyn: Novel Summary: Book 4, Chapters 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54

The United States has entered the First World War in Chapter Forty-Eight and Francie weeps. It affects the company where she works and it eventually closes. She gains employment as a teletypist on a night-shift and Katie says that she will be able to attend high school if she is able to carry on working at this job. Francie says it is too late now, and enrols instead at a summer school college.In Chapter Forty-Nine, Francie is struggling with her French course, but is continuing to work hard as usual. She makes friends with Ben Blake, who assists her in her studies. He is planning to be a lawyer and Francie becomes a little infatuated with him. With his help she passes her French course. She also passes her chemistry and drama courses. At the end of the summer, he gives her his contact address and tells her to keep in touch, and adds that he will see her next summer. Francie then attempts to enrol at a college for women that is free to New York residents, but she fails everything except chemistry in the entrance exam.Sissy is expecting a baby in Chapter Fifty and it is due in November. This time she decides to use a (male) doctor and wants to go into hospital for the delivery. This is revolutionary as midwives are usually used in the home in this period. Her child is born in the hospital and although it is not breathing at first, it is perfectly well after it is given oxygen. She has given birth to a boy, whom she names Steven Aaron.Chapter Fifty-One marks Francie passing time by enrolling for two evening classes: dancing and sewing. Other minor events and conversations are also presented. Evy and Willie move to a house close to Queens so that Willie can play his drums.  Francie decides to send Ben a Christmas card.In Chapter Fifty Two, Francie agrees to go on a double date with a friend, but her friend leaves her behind with Lee as she departs with her fiancé. His full name is Lee Rhynor and both admit that they feel a certain chemistry flowing between them.  They both feel lonely, even though Lee is already engaged. They kiss when they say goodbye and he meets Francie after work the next day. Whilst dancing with him that night, she feels the same way Katie did 17 years previously when dancing with Johnny: that she would accept any sacrifice as long as she could be with this man.After telling Francie he might not come back from the war, he asks her to spend the night with him, but she refuses. He then asks her to marry him if he returns from France and she says yes. She also agrees to write to him every day.In Chapter Fifty-Three, Francie, who is waiting for a letter from Lee, receives a letter from Mrs Elizabeth Rhynor. She initially presumes this is Lee’s mother or sister-in-law, but the letter reveals that Elizabeth is Lee’s wife and that she married Lee before he went oversees.  She is heartbroken and tells Katie about this.  Her mother realizes that her little girl has grown up and is experiencing the cruelties of life. She tries to console her and tells her that she did the right thing by not sleeping with him even though this kind of passion for another human being happens only once.  Francie thinks of writing to Ben but decides that there would be no point to it.  Katie then tells Francie her own news.  Mr McShane (Sergeant McShane as he was called) has asked Katie if he can come to see her.Mr McShane visits the family in Chapter Fifty-Four and after preliminary conversations, he asks Katie to marry him. Johnny has been dead for two and a half years; his sickly wife died a year ago. He says he will look after all of them and will put Neeley and Francie through college. Katie agrees to marry him. She also agrees to his desire to adopt baby Laurie. Neeley says that they cannot call him father, but they will call him dad.
These chapters signal Francie’s development into adulthood in more detail as she falls in love and is then broken-hearted. Her feelings for Lee, whilst dancing with him in Chapter Fifty-Two, are compared with Katie’s for Johnny when they first met. It is of interest that a parallel is drawn between Katie and Francie as we are told that both would be willing to sacrifice anything to be with the man they have chosen. This is a brief but damning indictment of romantic love, as we are told these sensible, proud women would forget everything for love (including self-respect one presumes).