Summary and Analysis
Book 3: Chapters 24–26
Chapter 24: Johnny is a Democrat, so the family attends a celebration staged by the Mattie Mahoney Association, a Democratic organization, which includes a boat ride and picnic. The boat ride and picnic are designed to entice women, who will soon get the vote, and children, who will eventually be old enough to vote, into becoming Democrats. Sergeant McShane notices Katie and admires her beauty. Katie also notices him and asks about him.
Chapter 25: Johnny has begun to drink even more, but on those occasions when he is sober, he tries to be a better father to his children. On one of the days that he is sober, he takes Francie and Neeley to Bushwick Avenue to show them what they can achieve from living in a Democracy. Anything is possible in the United States.
Chapter 26: At Thanksgiving, all the children dress in costumes and go into the neighborhood stores to beg for treats. Because certain stores depend on the children to buy candy the rest of the year, several of the shopkeepers provide treats on this day. This Thanksgiving begging is a long-standing tradition that is over by noon.
At school, one of the girls brings a small five-cent piece from home. Francie's teacher asks the children if someone wants to take home a small donated pumpkin pie. Francie says she will take it and give it to a poor family. Francie eats the pie, as she had intended to do all along. The next day when the teacher asks about the pie, Francie makes up an elaborate story about the poor family to whom she gave the pie, which does not fool the teacher.
Johnny is a Democrat because he needs to believe in the promises of politicians, who offer hope for a better future. The more pragmatic Katie already distrusts politicians and says that when she can vote, she will vote to throw them all out of office. Katie is too much of a pragmatist to ever believe in the promises of politicians. She is practical enough, however, to take advantage of the free boat ride and picnic offered to prospective Democrats in hopes of recruiting more votes. Johnny's comment that she will vote as he tells her was a common response by men during the suffrage movement. Francie notices that Katie smiles when Johnny tells her that she will vote as he instructs her to vote. Francie compares her mother's smile to the Mona Lisa, whose enigmatic smile has always suggested some sort of mystery. Francie's comment implies that Katie is keeping her own secrets from Johnny. It is further evidence that Katie will not be controlled by Johnny.
When Francie loses her tickets, McShane tells her that it is rare for a girl to lose tickets. The boys more often lose tickets, which further enforces the model that Katie and Johnny present. In losing her tickets, Francie is more like her father, willing to take chances that are risky. Katie, of course, scolds Francie for not being more careful. Katie's attraction to McShane is disturbing to Johnny and Francie. Both of them observe Katie's interest in the sergeant and her comment that he is a good man. Johnny's response indicates that he thinks Katie does not consider him a good man. Johnny's efforts to educate his children about democracy and the possibilities that living in America offer are his attempt to be a good father to his children. Johnny may not be a good provider, but his efforts on behalf of his children are a reminder that he is more than just an unreliable husband.
Thus far, the narrator has related several holidays, including the fourth of July, Halloween, and Election Day. In this chapter, readers learn about Thanksgiving, which involves customs that modern-day readers would recognize as more indicative of Halloween. The episode with the pie is a reminder that food is an important focus in the lives of a poor, often-hungry family. The pie is not good and Francie does not enjoy eating it, but she knows that her mother is proud and would not appreciate Francie bringing home a charity pie. Readers also learn that Francie has a habit of lying or exaggerating the truth. Writing provides a way for her to tell the story the way she wishes it to be, which will also help her to tell the story the way it really happened. Francie's teacher provides a first important step toward turning Francie into a writer.