How did Johnny know there was something unlikable about Lavinia in "Johnny Tremain"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Johnny has a sense that there is something unlikable about Lavinia Lyte long before he can put the reasons for his feelings into words.  Although her beauty is such that it sends an enjoyable "chill..up his spine...in his heart he (knows) there (is) something unlikable about (her)".  For one thing, she seems to have an inexplicable, negative effect upon Isannah.  Isannah, an especially lovely young child, appears to be adopting Lavinia's cold, superior attitude; when Johnny had seen her last Thursday, she had not even greeted him, but "had glanced at him - and then looked away".  Mrs. Bessie, who has known and cared for Lavinia since infancy, shows no loyalty towards the young woman.  Johnny knows Cilla is aware of Lavinia's ingenuousness as well, but she will not speak to him about it.

Johnny begins to understand what he dislikes about Lavinia when he sees her readying for her masquerade ball.  Again, he is stunned by her beauty, but he notices that she treats Isannah like "a monkey", dressing her provocatively in a skimpy costume totally inappropriate for her age.  It is only when Lavinia speaks to Cilla, however, rudely treating her like the lowliest of servants, that Johnny gets a real sense of Lavinia's character.  Lavinia thinks she is better than everyone, and that everyone else is there to cater to her every whim.  Incensed, Johnny challenges her, at which point she orders him to leave, calling him a "street boy, horse boy, riffraff" (Chapter 7, Part 4).