Notes on Characters from Johnny Tremain

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Johnny Tremain Major Characters

Mrs. Lapham: A plump, practical woman, Mrs. Lapham is a widow with four daughters: Madge, Dorcas, Cilla, and Isannah. She is the daughter-in-law of Mr. Lapham, the master silversmith and head of the household. Mrs. Lapham's primary interest is to keep the family fed and the house clean, a typical portrait of a working-class woman during the Revolutionary period. After the death of her father-in-law and unsuccessful attempts at matching Mr. Tweedie with her daughters, Mrs. Lapham marries him herself, mainly to keep the silver shop in the family.

Johnny Tremain: The title character of the book, in the beginning, Johnny is a cocky, feisty boy of fourteen who is the top apprentice of Mr. Lapham's silver shop. After a tragic accident that leaves his hand crippled, Johnny starts a new life delivering papers for the Boston Observer, where he encounters an exciting world on the cusp of revolution. In this setting, Johnny comes of age as he interacts with characters and key historical figures of the American Revolutionary era.

Dove: A fat, lazy boy of sixteen in the beginning of the story, Dove is an apprentice in the Lapham household who resents being under the younger Johnny. To teach Johnny a lesson, Dove gives him a cracked crucible for molding silver, which results in an accident that leaves Johnny's hand crippled. Some time after the arrival of Mr. Tweedie, Dove is fired from the Lapham silver shop. He then shows up as a horse boy for Colonel Smith of the British army. Johnny and Rab befriend Dove just so they might someday gain valuable information from him.

Mr. Lapham (Ephraim): A pious, generous silversmith, Mr. Lapham is in charge of the three apprentice boys: Johnny, Dove, and Dusty. At his age, Mr. Lapham cares more about preparing to meet his Maker (God) than about his silver business. Even after Johnny's accident, Mr. Lapham gives him the option to stay. Mr. Lapham is a traditionalist and his household sides with the Tories instead of the Whigs. Mr. Lapham dies before the first battles of the Revolutionary War begin.

Cilla (Priscilla): The third child of Mrs. Lapham, Cilla is the same age as Johnny and is his only friend in the house. Cilla adores her youngest sister Isannah and is always taking care of her. Before Johnny's accident, he was to marry Cilla and inherit the family shop. Even after Johnny moves out of the house, Cilla continues to be a loyal and trusted friend. When Miss Lavinia Lyte takes custody of Isannah, Cilla moves into the Lyte household as a servant. Rab takes an interest in her, which makes Johnny jealous.

Isannah: The youngest child of Mrs. Lapham, Isannah is an extremely pretty, yet sickly child who seeks constant attention, which Cilla provides. Because of her prettiness, Isannah is sassy and self-absorbed. Miss Lavinia Lyte takes an interest in her and eventually adopts her. When the Lyte family flees Boston, Miss Lyte takes her to London to be her protégé.

(Johnny's) mother: Named Lavinia Lyte just like Merchant Lyte's daughter, Johnny's mother dies soon after entrusting her son to be an apprentice under Mr. Lapham. She teaches Johnny how to read, and before her death, gives Johnny a silver cup, telling him to go to Merchant Lyte only if he has no other recourse. Johnny finds out that his mother was disowned because she married a French (Catholic) naval surgeon and prisoner of war, Charles Latour. After his death, her husband's family sent her to a convent so she can convert to Catholicism, but she made her way to America. Johnny's mother was a cousin to Miss Lavinia Lyte; Johnny is Merchant Lyte's grandnephew.

Mr. John Hancock: Said to be the richest man in New England, Mr. Hancock owns Hancock's Wharf as well as many other establishments in the town of Boston. Mr. Hancock is one of the top leaders of the revolutionary movement. He comes to the Lapham shop to request a silver basin for his tea set that Mr. Lapham had made years before. Johnny maims his hand trying to fulfill the order in time.

Mr. Sam Adams: A tough, street-wise politician, Sam Adams is the leading figure in the fight for American independence. During the meetings of the secret group, the Observers, Sam Adams is always seen whispering in Mr. Hancock's ears. Sam Adams is also Boston's delegate at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Sam Adams is famous for letting it be known that the colonists have tried everything and that the only option left is war.

Merchant Lyte (Johnathan) : A rich merchant to whom Johnny goes to see when he reaches the lowest point in his life, Merchant Lyte, instead of welcoming Johnny, accuses him of stealing one of his silver cups. Merchant Lyte even goes to court against Johnny, but due to Cilla's testimony, loses the case. He does, however, trick Johnny into getting the silver cup. Merchant Lyte is one of the despised businessmen who made money by playing both sides of the conflict. Because of this, he is tarred and feathered by the rebels, his house raided, and his family forced out of Boston. Johnny finds out from a book of his family genealogy that he is Merchant Lyte's grandnephew.

Miss Lavinia Lyte: The daughter of Merchant Lyte, Miss Lavinia Lyte is known for her striking beauty and fashionable style. She has many suitors from American Tories as well as British officers. Miss Lyte is extremely loyal to her father. Johnny learns from her that his mother was disowned by the family because of her marriage to his father, a French prisoner of war. Before the Lyte family flees Boston, Miss Lyte takes Isannah to be her protégé.

Paul Revere: A skilled silversmith in Boston, Paul Revere is a leading figure in the American fight for independence. Paul Revere gives Johnny advice on how to mold the sugar basin handle. Paul Revere sets up a spy system to keep track of the movement of British troops. But he is best known for his nighttime ride, warning the Colonists of an impending war.

Rab (Silsbee): A young boy two years older than Johnny, Rab works for his Uncle Lorne at the Boston Observer office. Rab is an ardent Whig who wants to fight for American independence. Johnny has never seen a boy like Rab, so mature, assured, and consistent. Rab is from Lexington where the Silsbee men are known to be tall, stone-faced, and dependable. Johnny develops a friendship with Rab that offers him support and companionship as he comes of age. Rab goes off to fight at the Battle of Lexington and Concord. He gets shot and dies.

Mr. Lorne: The printer of the Boston Observer, Mr. Lorne is Rab's uncle-in-law. He is a quiet, thoughtful, and scholarly man. Although timid by nature, Mr. Lorne has the resolve to keep printing the pro-independence paper even though it can mean imprisonment or possibly death.

Mrs. Lorne: Rab's aunt and Mr. Lorne's wife, Mrs. Lorne is small, warm-hearted woman with red hair, very un-Silsbee. She says she takes after her mother, who is a Wheeler. She tells Johnny that all Silsbee men do not show what hurts them. Mrs. Lorne treats Johnny kindly because she knows he is motherless.

Doctor Warren: A young, competent doctor and one of the leaders of the Independence movement, Doctor Warren is Johnny's contact in reporting important information about the British. Near the end of the story, Doctor Warren surgically repairs Johnny's hand.

James Otis: An old lawyer who was once the most respected senior spokesmen, James Otis is the founder of the Observers, but because he has been speaking as one losing his mind, he is ignored by the younger leaders, especially Sam Adams. At the last meeting of the Observers, however, Otis gives a rousing speech saying that they are fighting for freedom everywhere, so that a man can stand up.

Minor Characters

Dusty (Miller): In the beginning, Dusty is an eleven year-old apprentice in the Lapham household. Before Johnny's accident, Dusty is taken to idolizing him. After Mr. Tweedie takes over the silver shop, Johnny finds out that Dusty ran off to be a cabin boy on a ship.

Madge: Mrs. Lapham's eldest daughter, in the beginning, Madge is a plump eighteen year old with a merry personality. Later on, she refuses to be married to Mr. Tweedie, and instead gets engaged to a tough British soldier, Sergeant Gale.

Dorcas: Mrs. Lapham's second daughter, Dorcas is two years younger than Madge, similarly built, but more into being refined and elegant. Later on, when Mr. Tweedie picks her as his intended bride, Dorcas runs off to marry Frizel, Junior.

Jehu: Mr. John Hancock's horse boy of African descent, Jehu twice gives coins to Johnny--first, when John Hancock leaves the Lapham silver shop and second, when Johnny is denied a job from Hancock's office.

Mr. Tweedie: A journeyman silversmith from Baltimore, Mr. Percival Tweedie is nearly forty years old and a bachelor. After Johnny's injury, Mrs. Lapham takes in Mr. Tweedie as a partner in the silver shop, with a promise to give him one of her daughters for marriage. Mr. Tweedie picks Dorcas over Madge, but after Dorcas runs off with Frizel, Junior, he wants to wait for Cilla to become of age. Not happy with that arrangement, Mrs. Lapham ends up marrying Mr. Tweedie herself. Johnny thinks that Mr. Tweedie is cowardly.

Webb twins: Young boys who work for Mr. Lorne at the Boston Observer office, the Webb twins are timid, and usually keep to themselves. One day at the butcher shop, the butcher's son picks on them. This causes Rab and Johnny to come to their rescue, ensuing in a big brawl. Johnny is surprised that Rab can fight so well.

Frizel, Junior: A young leather-dresser, Frizel, Junior is an accepted suitor for Mrs. Lapham's two eldest girls, Madge and Dorcas. Refusing to marry Mr. Tweedie, Dorcas runs off to get engaged with Frizel, Junior.

Sewall: A clerk in Merchant Lyte's office and also his nephew, Sewall is always taking orders from his uncle. He seems to have a peculiar interest in his cousin, Miss Lavinia Lyte.

Governor Hutchinson: The conservative governor of Massachusetts, Governor Hutchinson is a Tory who is afraid of disobeying the King's orders by sending the tea ships back to England, and is afraid of confronting the colonists. His relaxed rule over the colonists leads to his removal.

Josiah Quincy: Considered the best young lawyer in Boston, Josiah Quincy represents Johnny in court. Josiah Quincy offers his services for free because he is a member of the Sons of Liberty. They take delight in humbling notorious Tories like Merchant Lyte.

Lorne baby: Mr. and Mrs. Lorne's infant child, the baby boy is a regular Silsbee--long, strong, and does not complain. Johnny takes a liking to the baby and calls him Rabbit (probably because he is so much like Rab).

Major Silsbee: Rab's grandfather, Major Silsbee, or Grandshire, raised young Rab. Major Silsbee is an old war veteran of the French and Indian War and is mostly resigned to a chair because of his war wound. Later, he leads a group of Minute Men to battle.

General Gage: A general that replaces Governor Hutchinson as the person in charge of Boston, General Gage, to the surprise of the townspeople, is not as strict as they expected him to be.

King George III: King George III of England is considered by the Whigs to be a tyrant. The King orders the colonists to pay taxes to the British Crown, and sends troops to enforce his laws.

Colonel Smith: An unimpressive commander, Colonel Smith stations his troops near the Afric Queen. Dove is his horse boy and Lieutenant Stranger is his orderly. Colonel Smith goes on one of the first raids against the Minute Men.

Lieutenant Stranger: A young, impressive soldier under Colonel Smith, Lieutenant Stranger befriends Johnny after riding Goblin. He teaches Johnny how to jump horses. Lieutenant Stranger writes letters of affection to Miss Lavinia Lyte, which tips off Johnny about when the troops will march.

Lydia: A handsome, black washerwoman at the Afric Queen, Lydia helps Johnny flap a sheet that scares Goblin into throwing Lieutenant Stranger. Later, Lydia finds the contents of Lieutenant Stranger's letters in a wastebasket and shows them to Johnny.

Sergeant Gale: A small, but tough British soldier, Sergeant Gale is engaged to Madge. Johnny thinks about Sergeant Gale when he sees the first battle-wounded soldiers come back.

Miss Bessie: A cook at the Lyte's mansion, Miss Bessie is a long time Whig who is known to have helped Sam Adams gain valuable information about Merchant Lyte.

Charles Latour: Johnny's father who was a French naval surgeon and prisoner of war, Charles Latour, or Charles Tremain, died of cholera before Johnny was born.

Mr. Pumpkin: A British foot soldier that works part time at the Lyte mansion, Mr. Pumkin is a secret Whig whose dream is to be a farmer in America. He makes a deal with Johnny to get some farmer's clothes and a way out to the countryside in exchange for his musket. Later, Johnny sees a firing squad, and realizes that it is Mr. Pumpkin whom they are executing.

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