Study Guide

Johnny Tremain Patriotism

By Esther Forbes

Patriotism

We've got to give Forbes props: for a book written in the middle of World War II's patriotic fervor, the patriotism in Johnny Tremain is refreshingly nuanced. Johnny's feelings of patriotic pride for "America" (remember there's no such thing as the United States yet) and for Britain flow naturally from the events of the story rather than coming across as heavy-handed moralizing. Characters are presented in shades of gray: there are no noble patriots and despicable redcoats here. Not many, anyway. Look for the theme of patriotism to appear in the second half of the book, after Johnny meets and becomes involved with the Boston Observers.

Questions About Patriotism

  1. What are some points in the novel when Johnny's patriotism toward Britain and toward America seem to be in conflict? How are these conflicts resolved?
  2. How are the depictions of the Founding Fathers similar to or different from other interpretations you've read or viewed?
  3. Think of various characters in the novel and how they might define patriotism differently. For example, how would Sam Adams's definition differ from James Otis's or Joseph Warren's? Are women ever depicted as patriotic? Does women's patriotism look similar to or different from men's patriotism?

Chew on This

Many characters feel conflicted or divided loyalties to the American colonies and Great Britain.

Patriotism is often defined as love of people and places rather than loyalty to a particular ideology.