Smith, Betty: Tomorrow Will Be Better
(researched by Megan McArdle)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Smith, Betty. Tomorrow Will Be Better. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1948. Copyright: Harper and Brothers
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first American edition is published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
144 leaves pp.[8] 1-274 [6]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
N/A
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The first edition has no illustrations with the exception of a 2 cm x 1.75 cm black and white vignette bearing two hands, a torch, and Greek lettering. This small design represents the Harper and Brothers Publisherís symbol.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The text is presented in clear and legible format, with large margins on the bottom and outside edges of the pages. Chapters are numbered without titles. First words in chapters are upper case with the first letter bold. Page numbers appear on the bottom of the pages. Measurement of page: 8î x 5 1/8î Measurement of margins: 1/2î (Top) 1 1/2î (Bottom) 1î (Side) Measurement of Book 8îx 5 1/4î Measurement of Spine 8î x 1î Type Size : 82R Type Style: Linotype Granjon, Format by A.W. Rushmore, as noted in back of book; Serif
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
This book is on wove paper with an even granulated texture which has yellowed considerably due to time. This paper type is consistent throughout entire book. Wear is especially prominent in beginning of book.
11 Description of binding(s)
Medium olive greenish calico textured cloth, not embossed. No dust jacket. The cover is blank. The spine has the authorís name in gold leaf stamp, above a 1î x 1 1/2î gold leaf stamp bearing the title in black lettering. The stamp is approximately 2î from the top of the spine. Under the stamp, the publisherís name, Harper, appears in gold leaf lettering. Transcription of spine: Betty Smith | To- | morrow | Will Be | Better | Harper |
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: TOMORROW | WILL BE BETTER |A Novel by BETTY SMITH | HARPER & BROTHERS Publishers | NEW YORK | Verso: TOMORROW WILL BE BETTER | COPYRIGHT, 1948, BY BETTY SMITH | PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA | ALL RIGHTS IN THESE BOOK ARE RESERVED. IT MAY NOT BE USED FOR DRAMATIC, | MOTION- OR TALKING-PICTURE PURPOSES WITHOUT WRITTEN AUTHORIZATION FROM | THE HOLDER OF THESE RIGHTS. NOR MAY THE BOOK OR PART THEREOF BE REPRO- | DUCED IN ANY MANNER WHATSOEVER WITHOUT PERMISSION IN WRITING EXCEPT | IN THE CASE OF BRIEF QUOTATIONS EMBODIED IN CRITICAL ARTICLES AND REVIEWS. | FOR INFORMATION ADDRESS HARPER & BROTHERS, 49 EAST 33RD STREET, NEW | YORK 16, N. Y.|
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
The papers of Betty Smith are held at the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The page previous to the title page of this book lists the books written by Betty Smith at the time of publication : A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Tomorrow Will Be Better. The page following the title page is transcribed as follows: Spes fovet, et fore cras semper ait melius | Hope ever urges us on, and tells us tomorrow | will be better. | TIBULLUS. Carmina. II. 6, 20. | This book belongs to the University of Virginia Library and can be found in the Alderman Stacks bearing the call number PX 000 442 364 on the bottom of the back cover.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Harper and Row did not issue any other editions of this book.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
Harper and Row, 1965, New York. 247 pages, 18 cm. 1971, New York. 247 pages, 18 cm.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Dell, New York, 1952. 320 pages, 17 cm. Paperback Collection. G.K. Hall, Boston, Mass., 1982. 454 pages, 25 cm. Large Print Edition
6 Last date in print?
No longer in print. The last printing in the United States appears to be the G.K. Hall Large Print Edition in 1982.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
This book was sold for $3.00 and was fifth on the yearly bestseller list in 1948. It failed to sell one million total copies to be included in the overall bestseller list.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Publisher's Weekly lists the book in the top three during the months of September, October, and November. Harper is noted to have printed 110,000 copies as of 10/30/48, just over two months since its publication. The New York Times and Publisher's Weekly lists result in a combined total of 33 weeks on the bestseller list in 1948.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Advertisement found in the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW has Smith's own picture in the right hand corner, next to a shining sun with the words, "Betty Smith author of A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN has done it again!" Underneath the two illustrations, a poster reads, "Don't miss her new smash hit TOMORROW WILL BE BETTER. In Margy Shannon you will meet a heroine as memorable as Francie Nolan, who made A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN unforgettable." "She is delighful, not in the sense of being winsome or charming, but in the sense of being authentic and being entirely unaware of the reader's presence in the room." - Time "Both books exhibit the same fine warmth, the same intense, almost brooding tenderness for people. In both there is a quick feeling for pathos and for absurdity, a a talent for discovering, through fervent insight, the quality of simple, true drama in ordinary lives." -Richard Sullivan, New York Times Book Review Below review excerpts reads "At all bookstores $3.00" and at the very bottom, "HARPER AND BROTHERS".
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
The success of this book rested largely on its predecessor, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It was published five years to the day after the "Tree", on August 18, 1948. A party was held at the Abraham and Straus department store in New York in celebration. The book subsequently appeared on the front page of both The New York Times Book Review and The Saturday Review of Literature, on August 22 and 21, respectively. The book was chosen by the Publisher's Weekly Book of the Month Club as the book for September. In addition, Smith began an autographing tour that month which included stops in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Richmond, Newark, Chicago, Cleveland, Toledo, Ann Arbor, St. Louis, and Detroit. She was the speaker at Book and Author luncheons in both Philadelphia and Washington DC.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Smith is quoted as expressing a desire to create a theater production of this novel. However, there is no record of any dramatic performance ever actually accomplished.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Det Blir Battre I Morgon. Stockholm: Walstron and Widstrand, 1948. I Morgen Bliír Alting Bedre. Kobenhavn: Povl Branners Forlag, 1948. I Morgen Gar Det Bedre. Oslo: Fredhois Forlag, 1948. Manana Todo Ira Mejor. Barcelona: Luis De Caralt,1954. Morgen Wirdís Besser. Zurich: Buchergild Gutenberg, 1950. Vusi Pa i va Koitta. Helsinki: Weiner So Derstrom Osakeyntio, 1949. Tout Ira Mieux Demain. Paris: Hachette, 1950. Domani Andra Meglio. Milano, A. Mondadori, 1952. Ma har Yihehey tov Yoter. Telaviv, Or-íam, 1989. Oneira :Mythistor em. Greece: Ekdoseis Gkobost, 1991.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
For a biographical overview of Betty Smith, please see the entry on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn The amazing success of Betty Smith's 1943 novel A Tree Grows In Brooklyn would have profound implications on her second best selling novel, Tomorrow Will Be Better , published five years to the day after the Tree . Smith found herself dealing the chaos of newfound celebrity status in the years following 1943. In addition, she used a similar recipe for her second novel as for her first, combining autobiographical elements and a colorful Brooklyn setting. Indeed, many elements of Smith's own life found their way into the novel. Like the heroine, Margy Shannon, Smith was born to parents of German descent. Her mother remarried an Irishman, which might account for the vivid portrayal of the character Frankie Malone's Irish family and background. Like Smith, Margy begins to work early, in an office job much like one Smith held as a teenager. Margy also shares Smith's love for children and reading. Smith is noted in Current Biography to take "delight in the library" (705); as a newlywed, the highlight of Margy's day is her trip to the library. The Brooklyn setting, painted with painful accuracy, can be attributed to Smith's own upbringing in Brooklyn (DLB Yearbook 366-372). Smith's heroine had the same appealing qualities as Francie Nolan, the heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. "She wrote about people who are capable, or incapable of love, people whose survival is determined by caring relationships with those around them" ( DLB Yearbook 367). Like Francie, Margy is a dreamer and an optimist in the midst of hardship and repeated setbacks. Margy's troubled relationship with her husband is possibly reflective of the breakup of her first marriage almost ten years earlier, or the impending dissolution of her second marriage, which followed three years after the novel's publication (American National Biography 142). Tomorrow Will Be Better is decidedly darker, shorter, and less in-depth than her first novel. This may in large part be due to the lifestyle changes that Smith underwent following the 1943 success of the Tree. Although Smith eventually made a sum total of $500,000 from the book (Newsweek 108), she wrote in an article for Life magazine, "I suppose I'm expected to say it's ?like a beautiful dream come true' . . . it's more like a nightmare" (5). Despite giving up her $45 a month rental house and moving to a more solitary, two-acre home, Smith was forced to totally relinquish her private life. She writes about traveling to hotel rooms in New York, unannounced, only to find her phone ringing before the porter even put down the bags. Her newfound wealth also meant a new delegation of her authority, as she was forced to hire a groundskeeper and a housekeeper for her home, as well as an accountant, an attorney, and an agent. Her life became filled with appointments and busy schedules, yet she was still adamant about typing her own manuscript. As it was, many of her fans were starved for a taste of her next endeavor. Smith dealt with a daily plethora of fan letters, dutifully answering the majority that were filled with praise. In fact, one fifth of her letters started out "Dear Francie", and later, "Dear Margy". People even sent gifts to some characters. But along with her compliments came mail-order proposals, demands for money, accusations, and even lawsuits from people she had never met, claiming she had portrayed them in her book (Life 5). With these unprecedented elements in her life and the pressure of matching her earlier success, perhaps it is no wonder her second book failed to meet critic's expectations. Later in life, she would wryly remark that she wished she had written her four books in reverse order (Dictionary of American Biography 756). In essence, however, the message of Tomorrow Will Be Better contains the same deeply personal and skeptically hopeful revelations of Smith's life and personal philosophy. She wrote, "The anguish of today was tomorrow's reminisces, the cruelty of today was next year's shame. But the days went on. . . One tried to tear out the pieces of gold and scarlet to hold and to finger for loveliness apart from the ugliness. But it couldn't be done. Each piece was a part of a whole. And the whole achieved a kind of glory" (DLB Yearbook 368). Sources: Life, June 6, 1949 Newsweek, February 24, 1958 Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook Dictionary Of American Biography Current Biography 1943 American National Biography
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Tomorrow Will Be Better was generally not as well received as Smith's first book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. However, critics were not altogether without praise for the book. The obvious tendency for comparison with the overwhelming success of Smith's first book cannot be overlooked, however, it is unfortunate that the book was never truly judged without being under the shadow of the Tree. The review on the front page of The New York Times begins "It is never fair to judge one novel in terms of another. . .A particularly grievous injustice may be done when an author's second book is considered a mere continuation of the first. Yet the human mind does range naturally into comparison. . ." Reactions seemed to fall across the board- the very same thing that was admired by one critic was often disdained by another. Her authentic characterization and intense depiction of Brooklyn tenement life, the life of the working class, is such a case. While The New York Times praised her "fine warmth and brooding tenderness" for people, and her ability to "discover simple, true drama in ordinary lives", The Saturday Review of Literature found that "because she is so typical, she rarely stirs the imagination" , stating that despite her careful tracing of relationships, "all her persons merge easily into generalized conceptions", resulting in an overall depiction of Brooklyn as a city, not individual people (9). Time Magazine may have best summed up this paradoxical criticism. "The book is so flatly written and so free of melodrama ( or even exciting incident) that its interest is surprising- without plot and without particular distinction in prose, and with characters who seem merely to have wandered onto the scene, it is nevertheless absorbing."(Book Review Digest 784). While her style was categorized as deliberately unpretentious by some, others, like Time pronounced the book "flatly written", or, like Commonweal attacked her "monotonous burlesque dialogue"(CLC 424). Concerning her dialogue, there were other accusations. The New York Herald Tribune capitalized on her extensive dramatic writing, calling her a "primarily a dramatist" and consequently categorized her dialogue as "magic" and her prose as "awkward"(Book Review Digest 783). By far, the most negative review appeared in Commonweal, which stated boldly, "The deficiencies of Tomorrow Will Be Better are great enough to exclude it from even the most summery of summer reading"(CLC 424). Critics picked up on the somber and dark tone throughout the book. Yet, this too, was by measure of comparison to A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Critics noted that Smith retained her acute ability to depict reality at its most disheartening moment with poignancy and charm; yet, "as in most repeat performances, the original impact is lacking."(Book Review Digest 783) Despite the title, the book is, ironically, far less hopeful than its predecessor. For this difference, it received praise and criticism alike. While the book failed to meet many expectations of critics, criticism was still kind to Smith. "The book makes no suggestions, answers no questions, proposes no solutions. Its intention is direct and difficult- to project, honestly and immediately, a moving image of experience. And in that purpose it memorably succeeds." (NYT Book Review, Front Page) Sources: Havighurst, Walter. "City of Failure and Loneliness" Saturday Review of Literature. August 21, 1948. Sullivan, Richard. "Brooklyn, Where the Tree Grew" New York Times Book Review. August 22, 1948. Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol.19 Book Review Digest, 1948
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Tomorrow Will Be Better was generally not as well received as Smith's first book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. However, critics were not altogether without praise for the book. The obvious tendency for comparison with the overwhelming success of Smith's first book cannot be overlooked, however, it is unfortunate that the book was never truly judged without being under the shadow of the Tree. The review on the front page of The New York Times begins "It is never fair to judge one novel in terms of another. . .A particularly grievous injustice may be done when an author's second book is considered a mere continuation of the first. Yet the human mind does range naturally into comparison. . ." Reactions seemed to fall across the board- the very same thing that was admired by one critic was often disdained by another. Her authentic characterization and intense depiction of Brooklyn tenement life, the life of the working class, is such a case. While The New York Times praised her "fine warmth and brooding tenderness" for people, and her ability to "discover simple, true drama in ordinary lives", The Saturday Review of Literature found that "because she is so typical, she rarely stirs the imagination" , stating that despite her careful tracing of relationships, "all her persons merge easily into generalized conceptions", resulting in an overall depiction of Brooklyn as a city, not individual people (9). Time Magazine may have best summed up this paradoxical criticism. "The book is so flatly written and so free of melodrama ( or even exciting incident) that its interest is surprising- without plot and without particular distinction in prose, and with characters who seem merely to have wandered onto the scene, it is nevertheless absorbing."(Book Review Digest 784). While her style was categorized as deliberately unpretentious by some, others, like Time pronounced the book "flatly written", or, like Commonweal attacked her "monotonous burlesque dialogue"(CLC 424). Concerning her dialogue, there were other accusations. The New York Herald Tribune capitalized on her extensive dramatic writing, calling her a "primarily a dramatist" and consequently categorized her dialogue as "magic" and her prose as "awkward"(Book Review Digest 783). By far, the most negative review appeared in Commonweal, which stated boldly, "The deficiencies of Tomorrow Will Be Better are great enough to exclude it from even the most summery of summer reading"(CLC 424). Critics picked up on the somber and dark tone throughout the book. Yet, this too, was by measure of comparison to A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Critics noted that Smith retained her acute ability to depict reality at its most disheartening moment with poignancy and charm; yet, "as in most repeat performances, the original impact is lacking."(Book Review Digest 783) Despite the title, the book is, ironically, far less hopeful than its predecessor. For this difference, it received praise and criticism alike. While the book failed to meet many expectations of critics, criticism was still kind to Smith. "The book makes no suggestions, answers no questions, proposes no solutions. Its intention is direct and difficult- to project, honestly and immediately, a moving image of experience. And in that purpose it memorably succeeds." (NYT Book Review, Front Page) Sources: Havighurst, Walter. "City of Failure and Loneliness" Saturday Review of Literature. August 21, 1948. Sullivan, Richard. "Brooklyn, Where the Tree Grew" New York Times Book Review. August 22, 1948. Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol.19 Book Review Digest, 1948
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
It is no coincidence that Betty Smith's second novel, Tomorrow Will Be Better was published five years to the day after her first novel, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. The phenomenal accomplishments of her first book made this association extremely desirable for her publishers. Truly, Tomorrow Will Be Better owes much of its success to its predecessor, falling into a distinct category of "second bestsellers" that rely on the author's name and the achievements of his or her first bestseller. Yet it is not solely through the connection with Smith and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn that Tomorrow Will Be Better climbed its way to the top of the bestseller lists in 1948. The novel capitalizes on a mixture of general public emotions and sentiments during the postwar period to attract its readers. Tomorrow Will Be Better is a classic example of a book that becomes a bestseller in part because of the success of the author's earlier book or books. Tomorrow Will Be Better was eagerly anticipated by Smith's fans, who plagued her with hundreds of letters daily. In 1943, as a first time author, the success of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn had been both phenomenal and astounding, selling a whopping 2 million copies by the end of 1944 (Weidman, Assignment 2). It is no surprise, then, that her second novel reached the bestseller lists, despite the slightly less favorable reviews that it received. Smith herself had been propelled into the limelight, as she described in her column for the June 6 1949 issue of Life magazine, "I suppose I'm expected to say it's ?like a beautiful dream come true' . . . it's more like a nightmare" (5). Smith was, of course, referring to her plethora of fan mail and the impossibility of anonymity wherever she traveled. It seems the failure of a second book would have been impossible. Starting from the purposeful publication date on the anniversary of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn's own publication, everything about the advertising campaign for Tomorrow Will Be Better associated the second novel with Smith's first. The dust jacket proudly proclaims, "By the Author of ?A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'" not only on the front, but also on the spine and on the back. The inside flaps on the dust jacket both talk about her first book. The back flap has its own box detailing the success of her first book, from the number of languages that it has been translated into to the new publication of an illustrated collector's edition. The review excerpts that can be found on the dust jacket also make comparisons to the first book, saying, "Even better than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (Dorothy Cansfield Fisher). The majority of reviews that appeared in periodicals following publication compared the book with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The association of the two books in The New York Times Book Review was blatantly obvious- the article was entitled, "Brooklyn, Where the Tree Grew". The advertisements found in periodicals also stressed association of the two books. The top reads boldly, "Betty Smith, Author of A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, has done it again!" Farther down, the ad reads, "In Margy Shannon you will meet a heroine as memorable as Francie Nolan, who made A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN unforgettable." This story is not anomalous to the world of bestsellers. In fact, there is a long tradition of best-selling books by the same author. The book that directly follows the first bestseller is obviously the most anticipated. This theory is what drives the writing of sequels and their subsequent success. Consider Eleanor Porter's Pollyanna; with the success of this book, could the subsequent Pollyanna Grows Up really have failed? After Garrison Keilor's 1985 Lake Wobegon Days sold 1,108,016 copies that year, could Leaving Home: A Collection of Lake Wobegon Stories really remained unknown?(Barret Assignment 2 and Tankovick Assignment 5) This pattern repeats itself in multiple ways throughout the twentieth century. Sinclair Lewis' Main Street reached best-selling status in 1920, selling 295,000 copies that year (Brower Assignment 2). Babbitt, published in 1922, would also reach the top of the lists (Choi Assignment 2). It can be easily argued, that, had Margaret Mitchell not died in a car accident, any book following her 1936 Gone With The Wind would have achieved immediate fame (Dodd Assignment 3). Gone With The Wind, selling one million copies only six months after its publication, would become so celebrated that a sequel by Alexandra Ripley, written nearly six decades later, also found its way to the bestseller list (Dodd Assignment 2 and Smiley Assignment 1). Other examples of second books from best-selling authors reaching the charts can be easily found. Le Carre's 1965 The Spy Who Came In From the Cold had sold 2 million copies by 1965, when his second book, The Looking Glass Wars, became a bestseller (Martin Assignment 1 and Hornig Assignment 2). Had Tom Clancy not achieved intense publicity when The Hunt For Red October became a bestseller in 1984, it is doubtful that his 1986 Red Storm Rising would have become a best-selling success with such ease (Dixon Assignment 5) . Tomorrow Will Be Better and other "second bestsellers" like it demonstrate an interesting public trend towards the familiar and the known. While books are, at times, judged by their covers, it is also apparent that they are judged by their authors. People read Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and loved it; it seems only logical that her next book would be equally rewarding for readers. Readers associate certain traits with authors. If the consumer is going to pay to read the book, they want to spend money on something that is guaranteed to bring enjoyment, not something that might possibly bring pleasure. Just like audiences craved spy fiction from Le Carre, horror from Stephen King, and passion from Danielle Steel, they craved the simple, emotional, and wholesome drama of Smith. Tomorrow Will Be Better was a combination of the right factors at the right time. As a second book from a beloved author, it was a sure bet for many consumers. Tomorrow Will Be Better belongs to a class of bestsellers which accurately reflect prevailing societal opinions and emotions of the time. Bestsellers often succeed because they tell the public what it wants to hear, capitalizing on a need for the comfort of the familiar or a reinforcement of beliefs. This is true of books like Pearl Buck's 1931 The Good Earth, which depicted the struggles of agrarian farmers in China against natural disaster and famine. At that time, America was in the midst of the economic collapse of the Great Depression. It is easy to see how many American people could identify with the struggles of the novel's characters (Rogers Assignment 5). To some extent, this is also true of Margaret Mitchell's 1936 Gone With the Wind (Rogers Assignment 5). Clearly, the events of the time period shape what the public craves to read. The success Le Carre's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold in 1964 was in great part due to the rising publicity of the Cold War espionage culture (Martin Assignment 5). Likewise, Crichton's The Andromeda Strain profited from the high exposure of the Apollo 11 moon landing (Van Reet Assignment 5). When Tom Clancy wrote about a World War III in his 1986 Red Storm Rising, the threat of communist China, the rise of terrorism, and the constant danger of nuclear war made the possibility of a third world war not just a fictional creation (Dixon Assignment 5). It is easy to see how many bestsellers reflect anxieties, interests, or problems of that time. In the case of Tomorrow Will Be Better, the public was war-weary; barely three years has passed since the end of World War II. A novel like Pollyanna is just not possible after society had seen the graphic reality of world war. People were tentatively hopeful for the future, yet the suffering of the past was fresh. With any idealism shattered by two bloody wars and a grave economic depression, the world around them was fragile and tenuous. This general feeling is largely evidenced by the nonfiction bestsellers in 1948. With Dwight D. Eisenhower' s Crusade in Europe and Winston Churchill's The Gathering Storm both holding places, the raw experience of World War II was clearly still a matter of interest ("1940s Bestsellers"). Anxiety is also present, not only with the historical beginnings of the Cold War taking place, but in the books people were reading. In 1948, Carnegie's How To Stop Worrying and Start Living, Liebman's Peace of Mind and Peale's A Guide to Confident Living all appeared on the nonfiction bestseller lists ("1940s Bestsellers"). It does not seem strange, then, that an optimistic title like Tomorrow Will Be Better also appealed to the public. Smith capitalized on these sentiments of the time when she wrote her second novel. The title itself is innately hopeful, yet the book does not leap to the happy ending without serious pause and reflection. It is the story of the courtship and breakup of a marriage; it is a coming of age and a loss of innocence. It is about the loss of a child. These things were unconsciously familiar to many Americans, whose own naiveté was shattered as they waited in vain for the return of husbands, sons, and friends from the war. The war revisited many Americans daily in 1948, in the same way Margy's reoccurring nightmares repeat throughout the book. "It was an old recurrent dream. . .She knew the dream was coming and she knew the terror it held"(5). Smith seems to be aware of the dangers of attachment too, when viewed in light of the pain of a loss. This same aversion to affection is apparent in the way Flo regards her own family, as she believes any affection will ultimately result in pain. The same is true of the character Frankie in the book. Smith knew well how to appropriately categorize the mixture of optimism and disillusionment that pervaded throughout society during this time. She describes Margy's hopefulness poignantly, "She had the optimism of the young to whom all of life shines endlessly ahead; the young who are sure they can make their own destiny in spite of the tritely spoken wisdom of older people who have had their chance at licking life and have come out of the unequal fight with bloody and bowed souls"(136). While the future did remain wide open, America could not easily forget the tragedy of the past decades. With the sickening soldier death tolls, horror of the concentration camps, and introduction of atomic warfare, World War II had ripped apart humans in a way that could not be merely smoothed over, or fixed. Like the Shannons' semi-broken victrola, the mistakes of the past could not be overlooked with ease. The machine had stood silent for years, a symbol of the futility of their days. The lost handle was proof to Henny that he was constantly being pushed around and it was another strike against him as far as his wife was concerned. . . A queer thing was that a lost handle could become so much a part of the stuff that formed a family's life. Margy put the "Missouri Waltz" on the turntable. She knew it couldn't play without being wound yet she had an unreasonable hope that some miracle would make the music come. In a small frenzy of desperation she stuck her little finger in the handle hole and tried to turn over the machinery with her fingernail. Then she began turning the record with her hand. A phrase of music came grudgingly. She twirled the record faster. The music came limpingly and incomplete. She hummed along with it, trying to make it a whole thing. Suddenly she stopped (101). Throughout the book, there is a sense of loss that cannot quite be compensated for, a break that cannot ever really be made whole again. Whether it is a broken Victrola, the death of a child, or a falling out of love, the despair of loss seeps from the book. And yet, there is hope, against all odds. After Margy loses her baby, the doctors tell her they hope to see her back again next year. After Margy realizes her marriage to Frankie is virtually over, she thinks of the distant possibility of Mr. Prentiss as a husband and father. America, believing in the possibility of a world without war, could clearly sympathize with such hope. Margy says expressively, "I must get over this feeling of hating everybody and thinking nothing at all in the world is any good. If I ever got to really believing that things would never be any better than they are right now, I guess I'd just as soon lay down and die"(254). Tomorrow Will Be Better also capitalizes on post-war patriotic feeling. Primarily, the book is a vivid portrait of the local color of Brooklyn, from the working class distinctly Brooklyn accent, to the day to day accounts of bartering at the marketplace and riding home on the tram. Smith writes in animated dialect, " I shoulda done better than Henny and a cold-water flat on Maujer Street. Being as I always had big ideas when I was a girl. You won't ketch me in no flat like yours, . . ."(17). The characters in Tomorrow Will Be Better are strikingly familiar. Smith paints an extraordinary picture of ordinary subjects, showing with realism and charm the struggle of many Americans. Patriotism is also categorized by a prominent belief in the American dream. It is what makes both Frankie and Margy's parents demand a better life for their children. It is what propels Sal's shoeshine business, Patsy Malone's study of undertaking, Henny's night school, and Margy's careful scrimping and calculating of ways to save. "That's the American Way, thought Sal, who had been born in America of Italian born parents. Do something a little better than the next guy and you're in. The American Way"(193). It is a distinctly American hope, that by hard work and smart sense, one can rise above present economic afflictions to a life of greater comfort and security. It is categorized by Horatio Alger's From Rags to Riches, and present in society still today. Henny reflects, Yes, the great American dream had betrayed Henny. Sometimes he wondered whether it had ever existed in the first place. But it must have existed sometime in America. There were records, there was history to prove it. The Dream was this: The important ingredients of wealth, fame and success were backgrounds of poverty, hard work, ambition, rigid honesty and systematic saving. Henny had had the correct ingredients. And he had become neither successful, famous, or wealthy. But he still believed Frankie would make good and his daughter would have a comfortable life. He had to believe in something, otherwise he would have found the going hard (147-148). Smith attracts her readers by reinforcing a very patriotic hope. Yet she also captures patriotism by clearly defining the otherness of things that are un-American. When Margy goes to the Chinese laundry, she is afraid to go in the back with the Chinese owner to pick up her shirt. She mistakenly assumes that the Chinese man cannot speak English. When Margy goes out looking for a job, she takes a letter from her parish priest, "It proved definitely that she was a Gentile. It eliminated her from having to clear the hurdle of intolerance"(38). Ethnicity in the novel is carefully depicted- the reader is constantly aware that Margy and Frankie are of Irish descent. While their match is permitted, Reenie and Sal's is not. Reenie's mother claims, ". . .only he's not good enough for you. . .Well, he's Eye-talian." Reenie responds, "So what? Everybody's something. We're half German and Margy's Irish." Her mother retorts, "But your parents was born here, so was Margy's. His come from Italy"(82-83). In the novel, things that are not American clearly stand out from the normal Brooklyn scene. Thus, Smith's novel is patriotic in its local coloring of a part of America, its repeated obsession with fulfillment of the American dream, and its categorization of people and things as not specifically and distinctly not American. But the threads of optimism, disillusionment, and patriotism that run throughout the novel are not the only postwar feelings depicted. The novel propels feminism and the working woman to the very front of the book's consciousness. The heroine, Margy, drops out of school and works to help support her family. The book opens with Margy out pacing the cold streets of Brooklyn. "She was out walking the cold wintry streets because she was seventeen and had a job. She was independent now. She didn't have to be in the house by nine o'clock. She felt she had to use her hard-bought freedom even if it froze her to death"(1). Her search for a job is carefully detailed, especially when she meets opposition because she is not pretty enough. The storeowner who refuses to hire her thinks to himself, "In short, he wanted a girl who would flood the small cubicle with tremulous yielding femininity- someone with a curl to her hair and bows on her dress and slow-swinging legs with high-heeled, rosetted slippers at the ends of them. Certainly this plainly dressed, neatly combed girl wasn't the type"(42). Margy's life when she works is starkly contrasted with her life when she is married and not permitted to work . She is happy when working, bored at home. Smith describes a typical day in Margy and Frankie's married life where Margy has nothing to do with herself after nine am. She briefly contemplates washing the floor again, but realizes that she did that just yesterday. The working woman reigns supreme, however, by the end of the novel. After Margy loses her baby, she asks Frankie if she can go back to work to help them get back on their feet. Even though Frankie says it will end their marriage and he will not stand it, the book ends with Margy writing a letter to her old boss. In the post-war ear, this sort of feminism is obviously appealing. While a generation of men were shipped to fight in Europe and the Pacific, women took their places in offices, factories, and businesses. Naturally, they resented being pushed out of their positions of importance and independence when the war ended. The working woman was born and here to stay. In 1942, Katherine Hepburn won an Emmy for the film, "Woman of the Year" in which she played a career woman who has trouble finding anything in common with her husband- a story not unlike Tomorrow Will Be Better ("Woman of the Year,1942"). Smith's novel primarily depicts a woman's struggle for a career through Margy, but also in more subtle ways. Men are not the only people who have the American dream come true for them. When Margy goes to a store to buy wool, the proprietress confides how she got started in business. The woman had invented four new crochet stitches and had won a hundred dollar prize for it. "With that money, she had rented the little store and got stock on credit and, before you knew it, she said, she was in business for herself. Margy thought that was utterly wonderful"(202). Smith uses stories like this, as well as hinting at Margy's boredom as a housewife repeatedly, to champion the working woman. For her predominantly female audience, this sentiment would have been quite appealing in 1948. It is easy to see why Tomorrow Will Be Better became an instant bestseller. Like many other bestsellers, the book incorporated the sentiments, interests, and emotions of the contemporary public in its fictional drama. In this postwar period, the prevailing undertones of optimism and disillusionment, patriotism and ethnic separation, as well as feminism, found in Smith's novel would have been of great interest and ardent importance to her readers. As if this was not enough, the book had another extremely important selling point- its author. The incredible success of Betty Smith's previous A Tree Grows in Brooklyn made her second novel a hot commodity before it hit the shelves. Because of these two distinct categories, Tomorrow Will Be Better was irreversibly destined for the bestseller list. Barrett, Allison. "Keillor, Garrison: Lake Wobegon Days Assignment 2". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=Lake+Wobegon+ Days. 4/30/00. Brower, Brooke. "Lewis, Sinclair: Main Street Assignment 2". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=Main+Street. 4/30/00. Choi, Hae-Jin. "Lewis, Sinclair: Babbitt. Assignment 1". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=Babbitt. 4/30/00. Dixon, Chris. "Clancy, Tom: Red Storm Rising Assignment 5". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=Red+Storm+Risin g. 4/30/00. Dodd, Katie. "Mitchell, Margaret: Gone with the Wind Assignment 2, 3, 5". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=Gone+with+the+ Wind. 4/30/00. Hornig, Skiles. "Le Carre, John: The Looking Glass War Assignment 1". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=The+Looking+Gla ss+War. 4/30/00. Martin, Edward. "Le Carre, John: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Assignment 2, 5". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=The+Spy+Who+C ame+in+from+the+Cold. 4/30/00. Nguyen, My-Van. "Porter, Eleanor H.: Pollyanna Grows Up Assignment 1,2". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=Pollyanna+Grows +Up. 4/30/00. Rogers, Gwen. "Buck, Pearl S.: The Good Earth Assignment 5". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=The+Good+Earth. 4/30/00. Smiley, Megan. "Ripley, Alexandra: Scarlett Assignment 1". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=Scarlett. 4/30/00. Tankovich, Catherine. "Keillor, Garrison: Leaving Home: A Collection of Lake Wobegon Stories Assigment 1". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=Leaving+Home:++ A+Collection+of+Lake+Wobegon+Stories. 4/30/00. Van Reet, Brian. "Crichton, Michael: The Andromeda Strain Assignment 5". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=The+Andromeda+ Strain. 4/30/00. Weidman, Katherine. "Smith, Betty: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Assignment 1, 2, 5". http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/search.cgi?title=A+Tree+Grows+i n+Brooklyn. 4/30/00. "Woman of the Year, 1942". http://www-scf.usc.edu/~kristena/#17. 4/26/00. "1940s Bestsellers". http://www.engl.virginia.edu/courses/bestsellers/best40.html last modified 9/01/99. 4/30/00.
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