Johnny Tremain Summary and Analysis
The British retaliate for the Tea Party by passing the Fiddler’s Bill. This dictates that no ships can enter or leave Boston Harbor until the citizens pay for the destroyed tea––effectively starving the entire city. This actually works against the monarchy, because it makes everyone, in Boston and in the other colonies, more resentful of the Crown. Martial law is established in Boston, but despite the dangers, Uncle Lorne keeps printing the Observer and other Whig publications.
Rab becomes fascinated with the British officers’ muskets. He dreams of having one for himself. One day, Rab accidentally touches an extra musket while explaining to Johnny how it works. A British lieutenant sees him and hits him hard in the head with the side of his sword. Rab is knocked unconscious, but a sympathetic British medical officer helps Rab. The medical officer tells the boys that the British soldiers would rather be home, and if everyone keeps their temper, the colonists’ problems can be solved without bloodshed.
The British medical officer asks Johnny if he can deliver some mail for him. Johnny agrees, using the job as an opportunity to spy on the British (while also charging them extra for the deliveries). Johnny feels badly when Paul Revere’s daughter sticks her tongue out at him because she thinks he has actually switched sides. However, he is proud when she finds out he is a double agent and apologizes for being rude to him. Johnny uses his new job to find out that Mr. Shurtleif, who claims to be a Whig, is actually a secret Tory leader.
Conditions slowly improve in Boston. The new governor, General Gage, allows some freedom of the press, and neighboring cities send food so the city won’t starve. One day, Johnny returns to the Observer’s office to find Cilla there. She is laughing with Rab and drawing a political cartoon for the newspaper. She impresses Johnny with her beauty and her artistic talent, and he is jealous that she seems to be paying more attention to Rab than to him. Cilla has big news: She and Isannah are working as servants to Lavinia Lyte, and Cilla is engaged to marry Mr. Tweedie when she comes of age. Johnny is horrified by this, and is even more upset when Rab walks Cilla back to the Lytes’ house.
Johnny continues to spend his free time tending Goblin at the stable. One day, Dove shows up at the stable. He is working for a British officer, Colonel Smith. He seems willing to make friends with Johnny and forget their old disagreements, but Johnny refuses. A British officer, Lieutenant Stranger, tries to commandeer Goblin for Colonel Smith, who needs a good horse. Johnny prevents this by waving a sheet, which frightens the timid horse and causes him to throw the lieutenant into a puddle. Although he is embarrassed, Lieutenant Stranger has a good laugh about the incident and agrees not to commandeer the horse. Stranger likes to perform riding tricks as a hobby and asks to rent Goblin to practice jumps. Meanwhile, Dove tries to befriend Johnny since the stable boys all bully him. Johnny dislikes Dove, but Rab says Johnny must tolerate Dove because he could provide valuable information about Colonel Smith.
After a visit to his old home, Johnny’s opinions about the Laphams change again. He realizes that despite her rough exterior, Mrs. Lapham was a hard-working and dedicated mother. He also begins to have feelings for Cilla again, and enjoys visiting her at the Lytes’ house. However, Isannah (who is Lavinia’s special favorite) has grown haughty. Madge Lapham has taken up with a British sergeant, and being in love has made her much more pleasant. Johnny feels he has set things right with the Laphams and, although he enjoyed the visit, knows deep down he won’t come by again.
Johnny goes to visit Cilla at the Lytes’ house. Although he is attracted to Lavinia Lyte, he knows the wealthy girl is somehow unlikeable. He senses that Cilla knows something about Lavinia that he does not. Lavinia is preparing to attend a costume party, and Isannah is going to accompany her. Johnny walks in as they are having their costumes fitted, and notices that Isannah is wearing hardly any clothes. He lectures and slaps the young girl, much to the amusement of Lavinia and the British officers who are visiting her. Johnny notices that although Lavinia treats Isannah kindly, she is very mean to Cilla. This annoys Johnny, and he urges Cilla to quit working for the Lytes. However, Cilla decides to stay. As he is leaving, Johnny speaks to Mrs. Bessie, the Lytes’ housekeeper. She says that the Lytes are going to Milton for the summer, but they will probably leave early because the Sons of Liberty are planning to tar and feather Merchant Lyte. It turns out that Mrs. Bessie is secretly a Whig and has been working with Sam Adams for years.
This chapter showcases Johnny’s increasing maturity. When he goes to visit the Laphams, he has a more grown-up outlook on the people there. He is able to appreciate that although Mrs. Lapham was sometimes a harsh mistress, she did her best for her family. This ability to see things from other people’s point of view is one of the most important skills Johnny learns in the novel.
It is also one of his special strengths. He is arguably better at seeing both sides than anyone in the book. Even Rab isn’t bothered much by seeing Tories beat up, but Johnny recognizes that like the Whigs, the Tories simply want what is best for their country. They just have different ideas about how to achieve peace and prosperity. Forbes emphasizes this point through the British medical officer who helps Rab. Although the officer who caused the injury was cruel and abused his power, Forbes points out that some British officers were good and some were bad, and most were just trying to serve their time in the military and get home to their families.
The theme of pride appears again in this chapter. When Johnny introduces himself to Madge’s lover as “just Johnny” (160) as opposed to Mr. Tremain, he shows a sense of humility and self-deprecation that he did not have earlier in the novel. Even as Johnny begins to lose his excessive pride, Isannah becomes haughtier than ever. She loses interest in Johnny and her sister in favor of the wealthy, beautiful Miss Lavinia––even though Lavinia is rude and mean-spirited.
Johnny Tremain Essays and Related Content
- Johnny Tremain: Major Themes
- Johnny Tremain: Questions
- Johnny Tremain: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Esther Forbes: Biography
- Johnny Tremain Summary
- About Johnny Tremain
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 1
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 2
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 3
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 4
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 5
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 7
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 8
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 9
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 10
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 11
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 12
- Children and Teenagers in the American Revolution
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- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
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