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Johnny Tremain | Study Guide

Esther Forbes

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Course Hero. "Johnny Tremain Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Sep. 2019. Web. 5 Dec. 2022. <>.

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Course Hero. "Johnny Tremain Study Guide." September 13, 2019. Accessed December 5, 2022.


Course Hero, "Johnny Tremain Study Guide," September 13, 2019, accessed December 5, 2022,

Johnny Tremain | Plot Summary

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Dreams Denied

Johnny Tremain is a teenage boy apprenticed to an elderly silversmith in colonial Boston. He is skillful and arrogant, confident that one day he will take over the business. His brashness, however, does not make him friends. When an accident robs him of the use of one of his hands, he becomes something of a pariah in the silversmith's household. His only hope lies in a silver cup left to him by his mother; the cup proves Johnny's relationship to a wealthy merchant in town.

When Johnny approaches the merchant, however, he is accused of stealing the cup and is thrown in jail. Fortunately Rab Silsbee, a passing acquaintance who works at the local newspaper print shop, helps Johnny find a lawyer. With the help of witnesses, Johnny wins his case.

Johnny begins spending time with Rab at the newspaper office and finds himself in the center of the tumultuous world of Boston politics.

Becoming a Revolutionary

With Rab's help, Johnny gets a job at the newspaper office, delivering newspapers on horseback. The office is a meeting place for the Boston Observers, a secret group of Whigs, or patriots, plotting resistance to British authority. The Boston Observers—a group invented for the novel—includes such real historical figures as silversmith and patriot Paul Revere (1735–1818), statesman Sam Adams (1722–1803), and wealthy merchant John Hancock (1737–93).

Johnny and Rab participate in the 1773 anti-tax protest known as the Boston Tea Party, helping to dump hundreds of crates of tea into Boston Harbor. As the British retaliate against the citizens of Boston, Johnny finds himself becoming more deeply involved in the covert resistance led by Sam Adams and others. His work delivering newspapers brings him in contact with British officials and officers, and Johnny provides valuable intelligence to the revolutionaries.

An Idea Becomes Reality

Things come to a head in April 1775, when the British decide to seize ammunition and guns the colonial militia stored in nearby Lexington and Concord. Rab goes off to join the militia, but Johnny stays in Boston to alert Paul Revere and other revolutionary leaders about British troop activity. When Johnny finally travels to Lexington himself, he finds Rab mortally wounded. Johnny picks up Rab's musket as the militia regroups for the next battle. The American Revolution has begun.

Johnny Tremain Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction


1 Johnny Tremain takes charge at the Lapham silversmith shop.

Rising Action

2 Johnny severely burns his hand.

3 Jonathan Lyte accuses Johnny of stealing his silver cup.

4 Josiah Quincy successfully defends Johnny in court.

5 Johnny starts working for the Boston Observer newspaper.

6 Johnny and Rab Silsbee take part in the Boston Tea Party.

7 The Boston Observers hold their final meeting.

8 Pumpkin, a British soldier, is executed for desertion.


9 Johnny helps Paul Revere signal the British advance.

Falling Action

10 Johnny learns about the battle at Lexington.

11 The Lytes leave Boston for England.


12 Rab dies from a battle wound; Johnny takes up his musket.

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