In Johnny Tremain, our pal Johnny is an orphan whose father died before he was born and whose mother died when he was eleven, so he's making up his family as he goes along. At the outset, he seems to be solidly a part of the Lapham family, as he is already their primary breadwinner and is scheduled to marry Cilla once they're old enough. But then he loses that family when he loses his value to them. He becomes obsessed with his relationship to the wealthy Lytes, who are in fact his close biological relatives, but finally he rejects that relationship. When he starts working for the Boston Observer, Rab and the Lornes become the closest thing he has to a family. A strong undercurrent of the novel is Johnny's attempt to figure out where he belongs, and family relationships are part of this.
Questions About Family
- If you were building a family for Johnny from the characters in the novel, who would you include? Who would you leave out? Why?
- What are some "family values" of each of the three families (Laphams, Lytes, and Lornes) that Johnny is a part of?
- Lavinia Lyte tells Johnny he should be able to use his relationship to the Lytes to claim their property after the war. Do you think Johnny will do that? Why or why not?
- In what ways do we see characters allying with or rebelling against their families throughout the novel?
Chew on This
Johnny's relationship with the Lyte family is an extended metaphor for Boston's relationship with Great Britain.
The Lorne family and the Lapham family are foils for each other.