John Johnson is a practical man of the world who, like George Bernard Shaw's Bluntschli in Arms and the Man, has neither ideals nor illusions and who makes his living as a mercenary soldier. He believes that it is better to run away or surrender than to fight to the death. He is no martyr nor is he a coward. He will fight as long as he has a chance of winning. If he runs away or surrenders, he will return to fight again when the opportunity offers.
He takes life as it comes and believes in making the most of the present moment. When Juan suggests that he and Johnson overpower Baba and make their escape, Johnson recommends that they eat first and then weigh their chances of escaping. When Baba tries to persuade Johnson and Juan to be circumcised and become Moslems, Johnson replies that he will consider the proposition on a full stomach. His philosophy is a combination of common sense, stoicism, and opportunism.