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Johnny Tremain

Esther Forbes


Rab Silsbee

Rab is two years older than Johnny, and when they first meet, he is everything that Johnny is not. Rab’s quiet confidence and sense of self makes him a foil for Johnny, who is still uncertain of his role in the world. Rab is quiet where Johnny is talkative, unassuming where Johnny is proud, and patient where Johnny is impetuous. From their very first meeting, Johnny sees Rab as a model and the man that he wants to become. Nonjudgmental and open-minded, Rab is immediately able to see through Johnny’s brash exterior to his sincere and lonely inner self. Rab reaches out to him effectively, providing him with a new life. He does not pity Johnny for his crippled hand and lost job. Instead, he offers Johnny the opportunity to overcome his handicaps.

Although Rab is only sixteen years old, he seems to feel comfortable in the world of high politics. He is trusted by all of the most important Revolutionary War leaders, who rely on him to print the Whig paper called the Boston Observer. Rab appears introverted and unflappable, but he harbors strong passions just below the surface. A devoted patriot and ideologue, Rab is a born fighter. He is fearless and thrives during times of strife because he is passionate and believes deeply in human rights. As soon as militias begin to form to fight against the British government, Rab joins the Minute Men. Forbes suggests that just as Rab makes an ardent fighter, he could also make an ardent lover. One of the only two times that Johnny sees Rab animated is during a party at which Rab dances with every girl present, and Rab’s secret courtship of Cilla hints at deep, passionate feelings. Rab is never given the chance to explore his second passion, though, as he is killed fulfilling his first. He is fatally shot at Lexington, during the opening battle of the Revolutionary War.

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