Study Guide

Johnny Tremain Mortality (Death)

By Esther Forbes

Mortality (Death)

Any book that deals even tangentially with war will probably include the theme of death and mortality in some way because the one thing all wars have in common is that people die in them. The theme of death doesn't really appear in Johnny Tremain until Johnny throws himself on his mother's grave in Chapter 3, and then it hits a slow incline as the war draws ever nearer, finally culminating in Rab's death after the Battle of Lexington. The death of friends is not the only way mortality is addressed, though: Johnny dwells on those long dead, like his mother, and metaphorical death is also comes up.

Questions About Mortality (Death)

  1. What influence do those long dead, like Johnny's mother, have on the characters and the course of the novel?
  2. How are Pumpkin's and Rab's deaths different? What meaning can we apply to each?
  3. In many books that deal with war, death is often treated as a sacrificial act. Do the narrator or the characters ever glorify death?
  4. How does Johnny respond to the deaths of those he knows? Does grief ever influence his actions?

Chew on This

In Johnny Tremain, death in battle is treated as something to be honored but not glorified.

Rab's death is necessary for Johnny to come into his own.