The protagonist of the novel. Johnny is the fourteen-year-old
prize apprentice of the Boston silver-smith Ephraim Lapham. Johnny
is a talented craftsman, but he is also arrogant, rash, and slightly cruel;
he gains pleasure tormenting the two other apprentices, Dusty and
Dove, by touting his superiority. When Johnny’s hand is disfigured
in an accident, he can no longer work as a silversmith, and his
sense of self is imperiled. As the rebellious colonists begin to
fight England for their identity, Johnny finds a new life among
the leaders of the Boston Whig party and finds himself transformed
from a selfish youth into a patriotic young man.
best friend. With his quiet, unassuming confidence, Rab becomes
Johnny’s model and guide as Johnny struggles to find a new identity.
Rab introduces Johnny to the world of revolutionary politics.
in-depth analysis of Rab Silsbee.
The third oldest daughter of Mrs. Lapham. Cilla
is loyal, selfless, and caring. Although her primary devotion is
to her younger sister, Isannah, Cilla’s feelings for Johnny help
him to develop into a warm, patient, honest young man.
Boston silversmith. Mr. Lapham is a pious and kind man who acts
as Johnny’s master before the accident that disfigures his hand.
Mr. Lapham attempts to teach Johnny humility by referring to the
Bible and reminding him of the dangers of pride and arrogance, but
Johnny pays little attention to these warnings.
Lavinia Lyte Tremain
Johnny’s mother. Lavinia Tremain defied her wealthy
family’s wishes when she married Charles Tremain, a French prisoner
of war being held in Boston. When her husband died, she raised Johnny
on her own by sewing to make money. She revealed her wealthy origins
to her son only on her deathbed.
Johnny’s father. Charles Tremain, known in Boston
as Charles Latour, was a French soldier taken as a British prisoner
during the French and Indian War. While he was held as a prisoner
in Boston, he met and wooed Johnny’s mother. After they married,
Johnny’s parents traveled to France, where Charles died of cholera.
youngest daughter of Mrs. Lapham. Isannah is selfish and vain, and
beloved by Cilla. Isannah’s golden-haired, ethereal beauty attracts
a great deal of attention, most significantly from Lavinia Lyte.
Lavinia takes Isannah into her care and introduces her to high society,
separating her from her family and their lower-class ways of life.
apprentice at the Lapham house. Dove is lazy, dishonest, and stupid.
He is responsible for Johnny’s hand injury.
Lyte’s beautiful, arrogant, and regal daughter. Enchanted by Isannah’s
ethereal beauty, Lavinia Lyte takes the child away from her family,
and slowly weakens the bond between Isannah and her sister Cilla.
wealthy Boston merchant and Johnny’s great-uncle. Crooked and cruel,
Lyte tries to make a profit by making friends on both sides of the
colonial struggle, but as tensions mount in Boston, Lyte is exposed
as a Tory. On the eve of war, Lyte and his family depart
Lapham’s daughter-in-law. Mrs. Lapham is a dedicated, hardworking
mother and a no-nonsense taskmaster to the apprentices. She works
as the housekeeper in Mr. Lapham’s house.
Lapham’s second daughter. Although Dorcas longs to be elegant and
sophisticated, she ends up falling in love with the poverty-stricken
Frizel, Jr., and elopes to avoid having to marry Mr. Tweedie.
Lapham’s oldest daughter. Like Mrs. Lapham, Madge is tough and capable.
She elopes with Sergeant Gale, a British soldier.
Lapham’s youngest apprentice. Dusty runs away to sea after Johnny
leaves Mr. Lapham’s silver shop.
uncle and master. Mr. Lorne owns the print shop that publishes the Boston
a rebellious Whig newspaper.
Lorne’s wife. Mrs. Lorne sees through Johnny’s scornful and arrogant
exterior to the lonely boy inside. She treats him like a son and
becomes like a second mother to him.
silversmith who becomes Mr. Lapham’s business partner after Johnny’s
accident. When none of her daughters will marry him, Mrs. Lapham
marries Tweedie to ensure that the silver shop stays in the Lapham
leader of the Revolutionary forces in Boston. Samuel Adams was considered
the greatest creator of propaganda for the rebel cause. He wrote
numerous pamphlets inciting and inspiring the revolution.
of the wealthiest men in Boston and a leader of the Revolutionary
forces. Johnny disfigures his hand while making a silver basin for
of the leaders of the Revolutionary forces in Boston. He fixes Johnny’s
disfigured hand at the end of the novel.
master silversmith and one of the leaders of the Revolutionary forces
The governor of Massachusetts. Governor Hutchinson
refuses to send the tea ships back to London, which incites the
Boston Tea Party. After the tea incident, he is called back to England.
founder of the Boston Observers, a secret rebel organization that
meets in Mr. Lorne’s print shop. James Otis’s fellow club members
acknowledge his intellectual brilliance, but his mental instability frightens
and endangers them.
prominent Whig lawyer. Quincy successfully defends Johnny against
Lyte’s charge of theft.
British officer stationed in Boston. Johnny keeps close tabs on
his movements and reports back to the leaders of the Revolution.
A kind and friendly British officer stationed in
Boston. He develops a strained friendship with Johnny.
Lytes’ cook and Cilla’s only friend in the Lyte household. Mrs.
Bessie is an ardent Whig and a confidante of Samuel Adams, but she
nonetheless remains loyal to her Tory employers.
black washerwoman at the Afric Queen, a tavern where many British
officers sleep. Lydia is a rebel sympathizer who, because of her
connection to the British soldiers, gathers information for the
British soldier stationed in Boston. Pumpkin wants to abandon his
duties and buy a farm. Because he is poor, he can only achieve his
dream in America. Johnny helps him desert from the army, but Pumpkin
is captured and executed.
poor relative of the Lytes who works as a clerk in Jonathan Lyte’s
office. Sewall is kind and brave; he runs off to join the Minute
British officer who marries Madge Lapham.
British general placed in charge of the Boston troops once Governor
Hutchinson is recalled to London.