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					                   Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes
Summary of the Plot

The story takes place in Revolutionary-era Boston. 14 year old Johnny Tremain in an apprentice
of a silversmith, Ephraim Lapham. Johnny has a place of power within the Lapham household.
Mr. Lapham isn’t interested in his business, only the saving of his own soul. So, the talented
Johnny runs everything, even the other two apprentices, Dove and Dusty.

A wealthy merchant, John Hancock, puts in an order for an ornate silver basin. Mr. Lapham
isn’t sure he wants to take on such a project but Johnny is arrogant and accepts the job. Johnny
that night tells Lapham’s daughter, Cilla, his family secret. Johnny is related to Jonathan Lyte, a
rich Boston merchant. His mother had revealed this information before she died. She also had
said to stay clear of him.

While trying to complete the silver basin Johnny’s hand gets burned badly. Dove had meant
only to humble Johnny by playing a joke on him, but it backfires. Johnny’s hand is disfigured
and he can no longer work as a silversmith. He has to leave his apprenticeship and tries to find
a new master and new work. He meets an apprentice, Rab, in a print shop. The boy said that
Johnny could deliver newspapers if he couldn’t find work.

Depressed and desperate to find a new career, Johnny decides to go see Lyte. When he meets
Lyte he shows him a silver cup his mother had said would prove his kinship. Jonathan Lyte
accuses Johnny of stealing it and has Johnny arrested. With Rab’s help Cilla gets a lawyer and
Johnny is cleared of the charges. Lyte steals the cup and then Johnny goes to Mr. Lorne’s
newspaper. He asks for work delivering Whig newspapers. Johnny ultimately becomes a Whig
spy and errand boy because of his ability to make discreet political observations while
delivering the papers. The time is right before the Revolutionary War. Johnny changes from a
selfish, hot tempered boy into a caring and idealistic young man. The climate in which he lives
and the people in his life help him to mature and grow.

Johnny eventually finds out he is related to the Lyte family. The Revolutionary War begins and
his friend, Rab, is killed. Johnny vows to continue to fight for human rights. A doctor examines
Johnny’s hand the tells him he can fix it. The Americans defeat the British in Boston and Johnny
kisses Cilla.

Character List

Jonathan Tremain is the protagonist in the story. He is 14 years old, arrogant, a bit cruel, and
self-centered. His negative traits may have come from the lack of a family yet he is very gifted

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                                                                                    Paula Mahoney
                   Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes
as the most talented young silversmith in Boston. Although he is an apprentice he is bossy and
acts as a master in the master’s household. His behavior leads to his disfigurement of his hand.
This event leads him to the Boston Globe where he gets a new job, a new friend, and a more
honest path.

Rab Silsbee is Johnny’s best friend. He introduces Johnny to revolutionary politics and helps
him discover his new identity as Johnny’s role model. Quiet and unassuming Rab sees through
Johnny’s exterior. He strongly believes in human rights and helps his friend overcome his
physical and mental handicaps.

Priscilla Lapham is one of Johnny’s master’s daughters. She is caring and unselfish and helps
Johnny to become more mature, warm and honest

Ephraim Lapham is Johnny’s silversmith master. He is very good to Johnny and tries hard to
help him even after his hand is disfigured and Johnny can no longer work for him.

Jonathan Lyte is a rich Boston Merchant and Johnny’s great uncle. He tries to profit from
having friends on both sides of the struggle but ends up leaving for London as the war began.



Themes

War Turns Boy into Men

In the span of the novel’s two years Johnny goes from a 14 year old selfish child to a mature
and passionate man with a cause at 16. His maturation is a byproduct of the political climate of
the time which threw him into life and death situations.

This same theme is applied to Rab’s life. At 16 he is already a man, ready to die for his beliefs.
He has been involved in war efforts for years and really didn’t enjoy much childhood whims.

The Revolution as a Coming of Age

Johnny Tremain can be viewed as a double coming of age story. Johnny grows, changes and
matures as does the American colonies. The colonist grow and mature in their understanding
of what they need to do in order to be independent from the control of Great Britain. Once
they realized what it really meant they were willing to die for it.



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                                                                                     Paula Mahoney
                     Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes
The Influence of Personal Relationships on Character

Rab helps the transformation of Johnny from selfish, mean child to a man. Johnny is attracted
to Rab’s character as Rab is to Johnny’s. Johnny begins to want to be like Rab so the new
Johnny would probably never appear had it not been for their relationship.

Symbols

Johnny’s Crippled Hand- Symbolic of Johnny’s crippled mental obstacles. His arrogance and
selfishness are replaced with patience and kindness and love for his country only after his hand
is messed up.

The Silver Lyte Cup- Represents Johnny’s desire for money, status and to be known. The cup is
his connection to a rich family who he believes he is related to.

The cup also symbolizes a world that encourages the things that Johnny wants, money and
class. These were all associated with the British mind-set.

Key Facts

Historical fiction, written in 1943, and a Newbery Award winning novel

Important Quotes

“We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skill...we fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man
can stand up.”
― Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain

“How old are you Johnny" she asked.
Sixteen."
And what's that-a boy or a man?"
He laughed. "A boy in time of peace and a man in time of war.”
― Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain

“If you can't do, you'd best shut up about it.”
― Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain




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                                                                                              Paula Mahoney
                   Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes
Author Information

Esther Forbes, born in 1891was a well know historical fiction writer for adults. Ms Forbes grew
up in a progressive environment as the daughter of a lawyer and an historian. Education for
both men and women was valued.

 She was considered an expert on Paul Revere. The research she did inspired her to write the
children’s story, Johnny Tremain. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1942 for Paul Revere and the
World He Lived In. Her book, Johnny Tremain, won the Newbery Medal in1943.

She lived in Worcester, MA until she died in 1967. Her family still resides there.

http://www.gradesaver.com/author/esther-forbes/

http://rantery.awardspace.com/johnny-tremain.html

SparkNotes Editors. (2002). SparkNote on Johnny Tremain. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from
http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/johnnytremain/

http://www.freebooknotes.com/wikipedia/johnny-tremain/

http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2683165-johnny-tremain




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                                                                                     Paula Mahoney

				
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posted:9/23/2012
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