Study Guide

Dove in Johnny Tremain

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There's a Reason it's not Eagle or War Hawk

Oh, Dove. Dove, Dove, Dove.

Like Johnny, we feel Dove isn't worth the energy it takes to hate him. First, he's the apprentice Johnny loves to bully because he's none too bright, so can we blame Dove for playing what he thinks is going to be a relatively harmless prank? It really isn't Dove's fault that Johnny's hand is burned—he only meant to damage the sugar basin. Throughout the book, though, Dove remains totally clueless about the possible consequences of his actions. For example, he hangs out with Johnny and Rab and lets them get him drunk, knowing all the while that they're Whigs, and then he doesn't see the significance of all the information he gives Johnny about British troop movements on April 18, 1775.

Johnny's treatment of Dove really lets us see developments in Johnny's character. First, Johnny bullies Dove, then he swears revenge, but by the time he encounters Dove again Johnny has moved so far away from his old life that he's able to feel protective toward Dove—though that doesn't stop him from taking advantage of Dove's cluelessness.

In a novel that leads up to a war, it's significant that Dove is nicknamed for a bird that is a symbol of peace. Sadly, Dove's not all about peace in the legitimate pacifist way—it's more that Dove just isn't the fighting type. Take a look at his wartime plan: "Dig a hole. Get in hole. Pull hole in after me. Keep safe till war's over" (9.2.30).

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