Johnny Tremain, a figment of the writer Esther Forbes’s imagination, has become real enough over the years. Created by Forbes to inspire American readers with the need for patriotic service during World War II, he was reincarnated by Walt Disney a decade later to perform that same task for the Cold War generation. Disney kept the basic story line intact, with Boston on the eve of rebellion his backdrop, just as Forbes had depicted it. Forbes emphasized the intangible, as befitted her medium; Disney, not surprisingly, concentrated on the visual, turning Forbes’s introspective rite-of-passage tale into something of an adventurous romp. Although Disney’s film lacked the subtlety and polish of Forbes’s book, both seem to have performed their didactic intent quite well: Johnny became and remains the quintessential young American going to war, ready to fight and die in the just cause.


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pp. 422-447
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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