Mary Francis Nolan is the central character, the protagonist, in this coming-of-age novel. Unlike most of the other children who live in her neighborhood, whose parents are recent immigrants, Francie is a second-generation American. She was named after the fiancée of her father's dead brother, Andy, whose name was Francis. Francie knows that she is not beautiful, but she is a generous and loving child, who grows up to be a generous and loving adult. Francie is a combination of her father's romantic nature and her mother's more pragmatic personality. Like her father, she stands on the roof of the apartment building in which they live and dreams of the world beyond, but like her mother, Francie understands that if she wants her dreams to be real, she has to make them real through hard work. Francie is often alone and often very lonely. She escapes into reading but is very aware of the world around her. She is a careful observer of the people and events that surround her. She has an excellent memory and stores away the smallest details of what she observes in life. Francie has a rich imagination that is sometimes frightening to her, as when she imagines the loneliness of old age or a baby suddenly aging into an old man. However, her imagination also allows her to imagine a better life, as when she sees that attending a school outside her neighborhood will offer better opportunities. Although Francie grows up in terrible poverty, she never feels like she is poor. Instead, she values everything she is given. From the time she is a small child, Francie is a storyteller, making up stories to entertain herself and writing down stories in school. She believes the best of people and continues to love her father deeply, even though she understands that his drinking contributes to the family's poverty. Francie longs for her mother's approval and intuitively understands that her mother loves Neeley more than she loves her daughter. What Francie desires most, however, is to be needed by someone. She is a complex character, who grows and matures throughout the novel. By the end of the novel, it is clear that Francie has inherited the Rommely strength.