Johnny Tremain Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Updated: 4/3/2017
Johnny Tremain Themes, Motifs, and Symbols
You can find this storyboard in the following articles and resources:
Johnny Tremain Lesson Plans

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Lesson Plans by Bridget Baudinet

Johnny Tremain has long been a staple in the classroom. Winner of the 1943 Newbery Medal, the novel is an outstanding example of historical fiction. So successful is author Esther Forbes at bringing to life the people, places, and events leading up to the American Revolution, that the novel is often read in conjunction with the study of the American Revolution in history classes. Some students will derive more lasting knowledge from the vivid adventures of the fictional Johnny Tremain than from any history textbook! Published during WWII, Johnny Tremain shows the way young people are caught up in and shaped by war and the forces of change that it brings. The novel invokes patriotism without glamorizing war and gives a balanced portrayal of the humanity of both sides engaged in the conflict.


Johnny Tremain

Storyboard Description

Johnny Tremain Themes, Motifs, and Symbols in book

Storyboard Text

  • FREEDOM IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR
  • For what do we fight? Only that a man can stand up.
  • PRIDE GOES BEFORE A FALL
  • WAR MAKES BOYS INTO MEN
  • Johnny Tremain focuses on the lead-up to the Revolutionary War and the reasons the colonists fought. As James Otis argues, the characters (both historical and fictional) are willing to fight and die for the freedom and equality of future generations.
  • At the beginning of the book, pride is Johnny's greatest flaw. Mr. Lapham warns him against it, but Johnny doesn't listen and "falls" as a result. His desire to prove that he can create the perfect sugar basin leads to his burn and ruins his hopes of being a master silversmith.
  • When Rab leaves for the militia, he seems like a man, leaning down to kiss Aunt Lorne and Rabbit goodbye. Johnny feels like a sulky child left behind. By the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Johnny has grown up enough to accept death and consider joining the army.
  • JOHNNY'S CUP
  • Let there be Lyte
  • JOHNNY TREMAIN THEMES, MOTIFS, AND SYMBOLS
  • THE COLOR RED
  • Johnny's Lyte family cup symbolizes the British aristocracy (upper class). Early on, Johnny is obsessed with the Lytes (especially Lavinia) but he only becomes happy and successful once he loses his cup and moves on. This embodies the Revolutionary belief that success in life should be based on what you do, not what you are born.
  • The color red is symbolic of the British troops that invade Boston. These troops increase the tension between the British government and the colonists. As a result, the color red is usually negative - a reminder of blood, death, and the enemy.