Johnny Dixon

Johnny Dixon

John Michael Dixon is thirteen, pale, blond, and freckled, wears glasses and is rather shy. He has a bad habit of avoiding kids his own age, and he reads a lot, often serious adult nonfiction works on archaeology and similar subjects. He is good at science, Latin, and literature, though he does have trouble with square roots in arithmetic. Johnny once got all A's at school, with the exception of a D in penmanship. He is Catholic, and attends St. Michael's School, and is an altar boy for St. Michael's church. He can just barely play softball, which he likes, but is terrible at other sports and does not please the tough kids who run St. Michael's. His best friend is Professor Childermass, whom he often confides in when troubles arise. Johnny is proud to be the professor's friend and is willing to forgive his little lapses of temper. His only other friends are Fergie (who often kids him about his being shy around girls) and Sarah Channing (a new-in-the-neighborhood, tomboyish girl Johnny's age). By the time of The Chessmen of Doom, he plays tetherball, Ping-Pong, and softball with Fergie, as well as flies and grounders. Fergie frequently calls him "John baby" and similar names; the professor occasionally calls him "John Michael". Johnny likes to play chess and backgammon with the professor and Fergie, and does so, usually when the professor is baking something scrumptious. He is afraid of spiders, claustrophobic, and terrified of tetanus; Fergie also kids him about this phobia. He is somewhat superstitious, carrying items such as a lucky matchbox given to him by the professor. Another favorite possession is a prayer book give to him by his father. Since his father serves in the Air Force and his mother had passed away from cancer, Johnny lives with his grandmother and grandfather.

Naming

As is the case for many of the names of John’s characters, this one also appears to also be inspired by his ancestors. John’s maternal great-grandfather was John Dixon (1843-91), a native of Ireland. Some fans speculated the name was a nod to novelist John Dickson Carr (1906-77).

There is some confusion as to Johnny’s middle name over the course of the novels. When we are first introduced to the character we find him imagining himself as a world-famous archeologist named John Wellesley Dixon [The Curse of the Blue Figurine, 7]. Brad Strickland notes Wellesley is possibly a Christening, or Baptism, name, since Professor Childermass regularly refers to his young friend as “John Michael.” Granted, Wellesley could have just been a fictional name Johnny dreamt up for himself. Also plausible is that this could be a flub on Bellairs’ part.