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Johnny Tremain

Esther Forbes

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full title  ·  Johnny Tremain

author  ·  Esther Forbes

type of work  ·  Novel

genre  ·  Coming-of-age story; historical fiction; war fiction

language  ·  English

time and place written  ·  Esther Forbes began to write Johnny Tremain on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed. She worked on the novel at her home in Massachusetts, completing it in 1943.

date of first publication  ·  1943

publisher  ·  Houghton Mifflin

narrator  ·  The novel is narrated by an anonymous voice.

point of view  ·  The narrator speaks in the third person, focusing on Johnny’s actions and experiences. The narrator primarily describes events subjectively, as Johnny experiences them, but occasionally reveals pieces of information that Johnny does not know.

tone  ·  The narrator does not participate in the story, but shows sympathy and hope for nearly all the characters in the novel.

tense  ·  Present

setting (time)  ·  The book takes place during the years immediately preceding the Revolutionary War. The story begins in the summer of 1773 and ends during April of 1775.

setting (place)  ·  Colonial Boston

protagonist  ·  Johnny Tremain

major conflict  ·  Johnny struggles to overcome his arrogance and selfishness and to develop into an independent, humble, generous, and patient young man. Similarly, the colonists struggle to gain independence from the oppressive British government.

rising action  ·  Johnny’s hand is disfigured and disabled because of Dove’s careless prank; Johnny must find a new trade; Johnny meets Rab, moves into the Lorne house, and delivers newspapers; Johnny befriends Whig leaders and becomes a spy for the rebellion; Johnny participates in the Boston Tea Party; the British soldiers descend on Lexington.

climax  ·  The war begins between the colonists and the British; Johnny learns of Rab’s death during the battle of Lexington and completes his break from his past arrogant self.

falling action  ·  Doctor Warren tells Johnny that he can fix his disfigured hand; Johnny is proud of his country.

themes  ·  War’s transformation of boys into men; revolution as a coming-of-age; the influence of personal relationships on character

motifs  ·  Pride; forgiveness; class

symbols  ·  Johnny’s crippled hand; the silver Lyte cup; Johnny’s infatuation with Lavinia Lyte

foreshadowing  ·  Mr. Lapham’s repeated warnings that “pride goeth before a fall,” which foreshadows Johnny’s accident; Johnny’s struggles with Lyte and Stranger foreshadows the unequal struggle between the colonies and Britain; Johnny’s obsession with the eyes of muskets foreshadows Rab’s death

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