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Johnny Tremain

Esther Forbes

Chapter V: The Boston Observer

Chapters III–IV

Chapter V: The Boston Observer, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary

Johnny is still desperately trying to find a job, so he decides to sell his silver cup for money to tide him over. He believes that he can ask the highest price from Lyte, since Lyte would want the cup to round out his set. When Johnny approaches Lyte, however, the crooked older man tries to have Johnny arrested again by claiming that Johnny has just confessed to him. Lyte’s elderly clerks agree to testify that Johnny privately confessed his crime. Johnny hurls insults at Lyte before frantically fleeing arrest.

Johnny returns to the Observer and asks if there is still a position available. On Rab’s recommendation, Uncle Lorne, the owner of the print shop, hires Johnny on the spot. Rab offers to share his living quarters above the print shop with Johnny. To deliver newspapers, Johnny must learn to ride a horse. Unfortunately, the only horse the newspaper owns is Goblin, who is beautiful but extremely timid, and therefore difficult to ride. Rab gives Johnny one riding lesson and then leaves him to learn on his own. In almost no time, and with no help, Johnny expertly learns to ride the nervous horse. When Lorne praises Johnny for this near-impossible feat, Johnny uncharacteristically hides his pleasure, because he thinks that Rab would behave the same way.

Riding Goblin forces Johnny to use his crippled hand, so he is no longer worried that his right hand will atrophy from lack of use. Johnny learns to write with his left hand, because Rab gives him papers to copy, taking it for granted that Johnny will find a way to copy them. To earn extra money, Johnny begins delivering letters, but Johnny uses most of his free time reading the books in Mr. Lorne’s ample library. Mrs. Lorne, Rab’s aunt, sometimes asks Johnny to watch her baby, and Johnny begins to feel a strong attachment to the child. He attempts to hide his tender feelings, but Mrs. Lorne can see through his scornful exterior to his sweet and lonely true self, and she treats Johnny like a son. As a part of the Lorne household, Johnny quickly becomes an ardent Whig. Not only is the Boston Observer a rabid Whig paper, but the Boston Observers, a powerful secret club dedicated to resolving issues of British tyranny, holds its meetings in Johnny and Rab’s loft, and the two boys are often allowed to sit in on their meetings.

Johnny continues to model his behavior on Rab’s example and explicit advice. When Rab suggests that Johnny try to tame his temper, Johnny vows not to act so rashly. Soon afterward, Samuel Adams’s slave accidentally splashes dishwater on Johnny, and he suppresses his natural instinct to lash out angrily. The slave girl apologizes profusely and dries Johnny’s clothes, while he eats some of her apple pie. As a result, Adams treats Johnny as an equal and hires him to ride for the important Boston Committee of Correspondence, which will later become the Continental Congress.

Johnny runs into Cilla and Isannah at the water pump one day. He is surprised by how little he has missed the girls who were once his two best friends, and he thinks about how much he loves his new life and his new best friend, Rab. Johnny’s one complaint is that Rab is too self-contained and refuses to divulge any personal information or be influenced by others. Johnny promises to meet the girls at the pump every Thursday and Sunday, but then he fails to keep his promise.

On two occasions, Johnny sees Rab veer from his normally taciturn manner. First, at a party, Johnny sees Rab become wildly animated as he dances with all the girls. The next time he sees Rab similarly animated is during a fight. The local butcher’s son bullies Uncle Lorne’s young apprentices, the Webb twins, and Rab and Johnny fight to rescue the twins and their cat. Johnny observes that on certain occasions, such as when he is dancing at a party, people fail to notice his crippled hand. Rab explains that people only notice the hand when Johnny draws attention to it.

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Beggars cannot be choosers

by DanDan0101, January 14, 2014

When you are poor, you do not have the power of choosing.

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