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Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Essay Example

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin The founding forefathers of the United States enjoy an esteemed position in American society not experienced by any other historical figures. Politicians, judges, and lawyers regularly invoke the thoughts and perspectives of these individuals in justifying policy and legal decisions…
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Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Download file to see previous pages... If one were to seek a comprehensive account of Franklin’s perspective most people look to the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. This essay examines this text in terms of the means that Franklin presents his story as an illustration of self-improvement. One of the prominent ways that Benjamin Franklin explores themes of self-improvement is through his articulation of his own education. As is common knowledge Franklin was largely a self-taught individual. In the first part of his text, Franklin indicates that, “From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books” (Franklin, p. 14). Franklin also indicates specific books he read. While not entirely presented as a path towards self-education, it’s clear that Franklin at least indirectly intends the reader to recognize that reading and intellectual pursuit were important aspects to his development. Franklin leaves it for the reader to then extract from these examples for their own self-improvement. A notable concern in these regards is that Franklin is not extremely over-handed in his presentation of life examples. For instance, at different instances he points out individuals he thought more intelligent or successful than himself. This mix of frank self-reflection with a touch of self-promotion is very successful as an instrument of self-improvement for others. Another prominent concern in examining the text as one of self-improvement is the means that Franklin traces his professional development. Similar to Franklin’s education this development process is not presented in an entirely over-handed or moralizing way, but instead is indicative of a true to form narrative account. In these regards, Franklin details how his interest in books led to his becoming involved in a printing press and the subsequent professional and personal developments he gained through this business. When Franklin does make proscriptive moral perspectives on life he does so in the context of his story. Consider Franklin when he notes, “I grew convinc'd that truth, sincerity and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life” (Franklin, p. 58). This statement emerges when Franklin is talking about the influence his parents and religion had on his life. In these regards, Franklin’s autobiography does not sound preachy or overly self-aggrandizing, but the work of a benevolent man that has attained wisdom through hard-work and life experience. As Franklin’s text progresses it slightly veers from this narrative presentation to one more self-consciously concerned with presenting a map of self-improvement. A prominent example of this occurs in the second part when Franklin lists a letter he received encouraging him to continue writing his autobiography as it could be used as a means of self-improvement. Franklin extends this as he explores his pursuit of moral perfection, outlining twelve points of character that he attempted to improve. While the first part of Franklin’s autobiography was highly reliant on the narrative progression of events that led to his personal and professional development, Franklin’s pursuit of moral perfection and his elaborate charts and diagrams demonstrating how he did so begins to squarely cast him as the first American version of Dr. Phil. Rather than his pursuit of mo ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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