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Johnny Tremain

Esther Forbes

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

Jonathan Tremain -  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.
Rab Silsbee -  Johnny’s 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.

Read an in-depth analysis of Rab Silsbee.

Priscilla Lapham -  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.
Ephraim Lapham -  A 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.
Charles Tremain -  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.
Isannah Lapham -  The 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.
Dove -  An apprentice at the Lapham house. Dove is lazy, dishonest, and stupid. He is responsible for Johnny’s hand injury.
Lavinia Lyte -  Jonathan 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.
Jonathan Lyte -  A 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 for London.
Mrs. Lapham -  Ephraim 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.
Dorcas Lapham -  Mrs. 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.
Madge Lapham -  Mrs. Lapham’s oldest daughter. Like Mrs. Lapham, Madge is tough and capable. She elopes with Sergeant Gale, a British soldier.
Dusty -  Mr. Lapham’s youngest apprentice. Dusty runs away to sea after Johnny leaves Mr. Lapham’s silver shop.
Mr. Lorne  -  Rab’s uncle and master. Mr. Lorne owns the print shop that publishes the Boston Observer, a rebellious Whig newspaper.
Mrs. Lorne -  Mr. 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.
Mr. Tweedie -  A 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 family.
Samuel Adams -  A 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.
John Hancock -  One of the wealthiest men in Boston and a leader of the Revolutionary forces. Johnny disfigures his hand while making a silver basin for him.
Doctor Warren -  One of the leaders of the Revolutionary forces in Boston. He fixes Johnny’s disfigured hand at the end of the novel.
Paul Revere -  A master silversmith and one of the leaders of the Revolutionary forces in Boston.
Governor Hutchinson -  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.
James Otis -  The 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.
Josiah Quincy -  A prominent Whig lawyer. Quincy successfully defends Johnny against Lyte’s charge of theft.
Colonel Smith -  A British officer stationed in Boston. Johnny keeps close tabs on his movements and reports back to the leaders of the Revolution.
Lieutenant Stranger -  A kind and friendly British officer stationed in Boston. He develops a strained friendship with Johnny.
Mrs. Bessie -  The 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.
Lydia -  The 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 rebel forces.
Pumpkin -  A 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.
Sewall -  A 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 Men.
Sergeant Gale -  A British officer who marries Madge Lapham.
General Gage -  The British general placed in charge of the Boston troops once Governor Hutchinson is recalled to London.

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