Which word best describes Mrs. Lapham? Generous, kind, practical, or religious?  

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hmassman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the book Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, Mrs. Lapham acts as a practical character throughout the story.  This is seen in numerous examples; however, it is especially seen in her treatment and communication with Johnny Tremain.

Throughout the beginning of the book, Mrs. Lapham relies on Johnny to work diligently in the silversmith shop. Although he has only been there for two years, she encourages him to work hard, even on Sunday (which was not socially or religiously acceptable at the time).

After Johnny’s accident, Mrs. Lapham encourages Johnny to leave and find different work because it is not practical for him to stay. Regardless of his past work, Mrs. Lapham believes:

“it is an extravagance for a poor household to keep a boy [Johnny] just for chores.”

Furthermore, she states:

“no business can be run with just a feeble old man and three of the most worthless boys in Boston, eating their heads off.”

As a result, she pushes Johnny to find new work, leave the people he knows, and even suffer from malnourishment because of her emphasis on practicality. Although Johnny is initially very practical and advantageous to the shop, he quickly becomes a burden due to his injured hand. As a result, Mrs. Lapham quickly treats Johnny as worthless and as a burden.