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is all another way of saying—God’s way of saying—that pride goeth
before a fall.”
Johnny speaks these words in the first
chapter to reiterate the lesson that Mr. Lapham has just tried to
teach him about the sin of pride. Johnny can paraphrase the words
of the Bible, but he is not yet prepared to truly believe the words
in his heart. At this point in the novel, Johnny’s arrogance and
pride guide his behavior toward others. He constantly bullies the
two other apprentices in the Lapham household, and he is unable
to empathize with others. Johnny is unwilling to struggle against
his pride and instead prefers to indulge it. This quote describes
the notion of pride preceding a fall, which foreshadows Johnny’s
coming accident, an accident that is the direct result of his pride.
Ironically, if Johnny had responded positively to Mr. Lapham’s lesson
rather than ignoring it entirely, he might have developed into an
arrogant, proud man. If Johnny had listened to Mr. Lapham and tried
to rein in his pride, then Dove would not have played his practical
joke, and Johnny’s hand would not have been injured. It is Johnny’s
injury, however, that forces him to examine himself and struggle
toward a new, less arrogant identity. Without this traumatic accident,
Johnny might not have met Rab and the Lornes or become involved
in the Whig rebellion. Therefore, he might never have developed
into an empathetic, patient, self-assured young man.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Johnny Tremain!