Study Guide

Johnny Tremain Society and Class

By Esther Forbes

Society and Class

Whenever we hear about the Revolutionary War, the idea that Americans fought to free themselves from the constraints of a class-based society comes up, so it's natural that Johnny Tremain would deal with issues of class. And it does, almost throughout, mostly through the contrast of working families like the Lornes and Laphams with the wealthy Lytes. However, when the British army arrives on the scene, we also get to see the differences in how privates like Pumpkin are treated versus officers like Lieutenant Stranger. Many wealthy or privileged characters (like Lavinia Lyte) are portrayed to a disadvantage beside those who might be considered their social inferiors (like Cilla), and the book judges especially harshly those who use the class system for their own gain (like Isannah).

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Is Johnny himself class conscious? Does he ever believe himself to be anyone's social inferior or superior? What moments in the novel show this?
  2. Think of the different social classes represented among the Boston Observers based on what we learn about them from the novel. Are these men overlooking class distinctions as they work toward a common goal? Or are they all relative social equals?
  3. Does Johnny show loyalty to a particular social class? If so, is this loyalty ever in conflict with loyalty to another social class?
  4. To what extent is the British class system presented as a reason for the rebellion?

Chew on This

Johnny's shifting social status allows the reader to view a cross-section of Boston society.

While Johnny is a member of the working class, it is clear from the beginning that he was born to wealthy parents.