“It 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.