Ben Franklin 2 Essay

2070 words - 8 pages

Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography is broken up into four integral parts, all written during different periods in Franklin's life. The first part, addressed to his son, William, was written when Franklin was sixty-five years old. Before he began the task of recording his past, Franklin carefully wrote out a list of topics he would narrate to his readers. Eleven years later, this list somehow fell into the hands of Abel James who urged Franklin to finish writing his memoirs. In 1782, Franklin completed the second part of his autobiography in France where he served as a peace commissioner, and in 1788, Franklin composed the longest part of his autobiography at the age of eighty-three.The tangled history of how Franklin's autobiography became to be is interesting in itself. It shows Franklin's motives behind writing his autobiography. When Abel James wrote "kind, humane, and benevolent" Franklin to finish his life story, he told Franklin that his autobiography "would be useful and entertaining not only to a few but to millions (55)." Franklin wrote to his friend and confidant, Vaughan, for advice. Vaughan agreed with James and also urged Franklin to print the history of his life because he could think of no "more efficacious advertisement (56)" of America than Franklin's history. "All that has happened to you is also connected with the detail of the manners and situation of a rising people (56)," he replied to Franklin. It is obvious that when Franklin resumed writing his story, he did so knowing that his story would serve as an example for Americans and as an advertisement to the rest of the world. He wrote his autobiography in full self-consciousness that he was offering himself as a representative of the American citizen. Just as America had succeeded in creating and forming a nation, Franklin was successful in showing how an American went about creating his own character. Instead of being a personal account of his past for his son, Franklin's autobiography became a model for those who wished to fulfill the rags to riches American Dream.He was successful in fulfilling the image that his public wanted him to play. Following James' and Vaughan's letters, Franklin wrote about some important aspects of creating oneself: the image that one wanted portrays, how to appear generous and humble, keeping informed and educated, giving time and energy to public causes and the thirteen rules to live a virtuous life. Here, in one neat package, Franklin constructed a prescription that went into making a self-made man. In the land of opportunity and democracy, Franklin made a name for himself, and his autobiography reveals how one goes about following his footsteps and making a success of one's self.In the opening section of his autobiography, Franklin's message to his son is the same as the one to the rest of the world: how to go about making a success of oneself. "From the poverty and obscurity in which I was born and in which I passed my earliest years, I have...

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