Johnny is perhaps the most static character in the book, consistently both weak and romantic. He resorts to drinking to escape a life of hardship. While having two children only makes Katie stronger, Johnny responds by giving up on life. While Johnny's impractical nature makes him worthless as a money-maker, it also makes him an endearing romantic. It is Johnny who brings joy and beauty to Francie and her family. He is handsome and talented; his penchant for singing and music is one of his most cherished legacies. Passionate and loving, Johnny charm captures Francie's heart even if he isn't a model of the conventional good father.

Johnny represents the American dream gone wrong. While Katie survives, Johnny's life of poverty only propels him into a downward spiral. He has a sense of who he could be, what he could have done, and this is his tragedy. He once dreamed of being a real singer on a stage; in reality, Katie cannot even count on his sporadic stints as a singing-waiter. In fact, he often causes the family to lose money; his drinking binge results in their move, for instance. Johnny is also just plain clownish, running into one blunder after another. The moral value system in the novel is in part produced through Johnny's character. Johnny represents a character who no one will reform or moralize. As Sissy says, "we're all something." Johnny's faults do not outweigh his good qualities, and the most admirable characters in the book do not try to save him, but instead, accept him as he is.