Describe Johnny’s position and his behavior in the Lapham household at the beginning of the novel. What does his behavior reveal about his character?

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schulzie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the story opens, Johnny is an apprentice to Mr. Lapham, a silversmith with a shop in Boston.   Historically, an apprentice was a person who was legally bound to a master craftsman for seven years in order to learn a trade. Although he did not receive wages or money, he did receive food, clothing, and shelter while under the Lapham’s roof . Besides his training, Johnny’s job  would include helping  with the chores around the house.  Johnny was apprenticed to learn the silversmith trade, as were Dove and Dusty.  But from the beginning it is said that Johnny, who was  two years younger than Dove and had two years less experience, was the “boss” of the attic and almost the whole house.  He told the boys when to go to bed and when to get up.  He criticized their workmanship, and they knew he could beat them up anytime he wanted. He preferred the bully the boys rather then make friends with them. The first chapter says, "He knew his power and he reveled in it" (pg 12) Johnny was so talented at his job, he was excused from the chores of the household.  He was given a key to the workshop because he was so reliable.  He barked out commands to the other apprentices, wrote down notes concerning the orders, and made sure that the orders were filled. He was the only one of the three who could read and write well. He was proud of his work and Mr. Lapham , a very religious man, took him to task for that.  Overall you could say that Johnny was intelligent, reliable, responsible, proud, determined, likable, a leader, a bit of a bully, and eager to learn.  He has a strong character.