Study Guide

Johnny Tremain Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

An Earth of Brass

  • In late September, Johnny finally goes job hunting. Unfortunately, job hunting can be severely inhibited when you spend your days sulking about how you're too good for soap-making and butchery and just want your old job back. Also, Johnny has developed a dramatic flair for pulling his injured hand out of his pocket and waiting for everyone to scream.
  • Mrs. Lapham is done with Johnny's attitude and is also done with him not pulling his weight. In response, Johnny tries to eat as little as possible, but he often finds snacks Cilla tucks in his jacket pockets. Because Dove and Dusty are no good on their own, Mrs. Lapham is trying to bring a new master silversmith, Mr. Tweedie, into the business.
  • One day, Johnny steps into the offices of the Boston Observer. He meets and eats lunch with the printer's boy, Rab, who is the first person who has had anything sensible to say about his hand in two months. Rab tells him to come back if he can't find work: they can offer him a newspaper delivery route, which isn't a skilled trade, but it's something.
  • One morning at the Laphams's, Johnny meets and immediately gets in an argument with Mr. Tweedie. Mrs. Lapham has had enough and kicks him out… not permanently, but still.
  • Johnny wanders around Boston—if wandering around Boston were a skilled trade, he would be a master at this point—and notices the merchants going into their counting houses on the wharf. While there, he also sees Miss Lavinia Lyte, Merchant Lyte's daughter, disembark on her return from London. Every man in Boston, including Johnny, is a little in love with Lavinia Lyte. She's that girl.
  • Johnny ends up in Mr. Hancock's counting house, where his skill at reading and arithmetic impress both Mr. Hancock and the clerk. However, when they ask Johnny to write, he can hold the pen only well enough to scrawl. Mr. Hancock gets angry with Johnny for wasting his time, but sends a slave after him—yep, slavery was still legal in Boston in 1773—with a purse of silver.
  • Now that he has money—and Hancock gave him a lot of money—Johnny can't decide what to do with it. He walks around all the taverns, thinking about what he wants to eat. Finally, he gorges on rich foods and buys himself a new pair of shoes (all that wandering has worn his out).
  • With the last of his money, he buys a bunch of limes for Isannah, and he buys Cilla a book he thinks she'll be able to read and some pastel crayons.
  • Johnny's thoughtfulness is not appreciated by Mrs. Lapham, who assumes he stole the presents and storms out, leaving Johnny to enjoy his time with Cilla and Isannah.
  • Johnny is happy until Isannah screams at him not to touch her with his burned hand. Cilla actually slaps her beloved Isannah for this, but Johnny leaves anyway.
  • Johnny has reached the lowest point in his life, and he truly feels that even God has turned away from him. Avoiding the Watch, who will arrest an apprentice for being out past curfew, he cries himself to sleep on his mother's unmarked grave. This scene hurts our hearts to read almost as much as the hand-burning scene hurts our hands.
  • At last, Johnny knows what he must do: he plans to go to Merchant Lyte.

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