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Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain

by Esther Forbes

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Exposition

Please Come to Boston

In July 1773, Johnny Tremain is a bright young apprentice with a promising future as a Boston silversmith.

Rising Action

Total Eclipse of the Career

Johnny loses that bright and silvery future when he burns his hand on real molten silver. Now he has to find a new career. Or does he? Turns out hanging with the Sons of Liberty and the Founding Fathers as they lead the American Colonies toward war with Great Britain is a great distraction from worrying about your life's work. Or is working for liberty, in fact, Johnny's life's work? Is it even more important than making gorgeous tea sets?

Climax

The Shot Heard 'Round the World

The whole novel has been building toward the coming of war with Great Britain and what that means for Johnny. On April 19, 1775, the war starts with the Battle of Lexington. Johnny isn't in it—he can't be because he can't fire a musket with his injured hand—so instead he's sleeping, exhausted from days of running messages around Boston. It might seem strange that the protagonist actually sleeps through the climax, but hear us out. When Johnny wakes up the next day, he really starts to become a man, to grow up. One might say that he almost grows up overnight—and that's kind of a big deal.

Falling Action

Searching for Answers

In the aftermath of the Battle of Lexington, Johnny looks for a lot of things. Most of these things are pieces of information about British troop movements, but a few of them are even more important, like family, love, and friendship—you know, the kinds of things you need to grow up. He has a real conversation with Lavinia Lyte and hears the story of his parents and his own birth for the first time; he finally kisses Cilla; and he searches for Rab.

Resolution

The End of One Story or the Beginning of Another?

After he says goodbye to a dying Rab, who gives Johnny his musket, Johnny asks Doctor Warren to operate on his hand so he will also be able to fight. Johnny realizes that the cause of liberty is bigger than one person, and just as the injury to his hand led him to a different sort of life than he'd been working toward, the healing of that injury will enable him to contribute to the cause of liberty.

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