Analysis: Writing Style
Straightforward, Matter-of-Fact, Jumpy
Straight off of winning the Pulitzer Prize in history for her adult nonfiction work Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, Esther Forbes brings a bit of that historian's matter-of-fact style to Johnny Tremain. For the most part, the sentences are neither particularly short nor particularly long, and her limited figurative language is almost all devoted to imagery. She allows the meaning of the story to shine through—and she doesn't force it to fight its way through a lot of metaphor or simile. Instead, her style is as forthright and efficient as Johnny himself. The following description of Goblin demonstrates these elements of Forbes's style:
Rab had gone into one of the many stalls and backed out a tall, slender horse, so pale he was almost white, but flecked all over with tiny brown marks. The mane and tail were a rich, blackish mahogany. His eyes were glassy blue. (5.2.8)
While the style of the sentences themselves is quite straightforward, the organization of the narrative itself often is not. Rather than going from one moment to another with transitions, Forbes divides each of her rather long chapters into smaller parts, but while these parts do follow each other in chronological order, they may be only loosely related to each other. Also, some of these sections describe long periods of time, while others focus on a single day or even a brief moment.
The effect of this, however, is that we get to see how large-scale changes in Johnny's life affect his life in individual moments. For example, Chapter 9, Section 1 is devoted to describing the events of early fall 1774, including Paul Revere organizing a spy ring. Then in Chapter 9, Section 2 we see how Johnny participates in gathering information by befriending Dove.