In The Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin recounts the many paramount experiences throughout his life that shaped him into great American figure he was known to be. On the opening page, Franklin reveals the book’s epistolary format by writing, “Dear Son,” going on to admit that he’s made some mistakes in the past and to recollect that past is a way to relive it. By divulging his desire to “change some sinister Accidents & Events” (Franklin 3) the author indicates how important it is for his son to observe as he amends his mistakes. Pride, virtue and vanity play a pivotal role in Benjamin Franklin’s life and the way he portrays himself to others. Instances occur where the author is shown gloating about his great accomplishments and he puts emphasis on his need to live a virtuous and morally perfect life. Throughout his story, Benjamin Franklin tells his son of his many virtuous acts and momentous achievements, motivating the question as to whether he seeks his own approval more so than the approval of his peers.
Franklin looks back on his fervent love of books, particularly Dr. Cotton Mather’s Essays to do good wherein the minister preaches about the importance of human courtesy and doing good unto others. He concludes that Dr. Mather’s essays “gave [him] a Turn of
Thinking that had an Influence on some of the principal future Events of my Life” (Franklin 13). By expressing the fact that Dr. Mather’s words played a pivotal role in his ambitions, it creates the assumption that the author’s life has been a quest for self-betterment. Throughout his existence, Franklin recounts his scholarly achievements from learning multiple languages to founding what is now known as a library. Most of all, his entire reason for writing the autobiography was to revisit some mistakes he had made to in an effort to correct his faults. Similarly, Franklin prefaces his admiration for Dr. Mather’s essays with emphasizing his enjoyment while reading Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Fascinatingly enough, the story depicts the Average Joe’s epic journey to release his feeling of torture over his sins. The author’s choice to include Pilgrim’s Progress in his list of influential texts is an obvious hyper textual parallel to Franklin’s own journey to absolve himself of his sins. Most people attempt to amend their mistakes soon after they occur, yet Benjamin Franklin differs in his great desire relive his life through The Autobiography in an effort to rectify past missteps.
In Part 2, Franklin tells his son of his Quaker friend who questioned the author’s humility and suggests an addition to his list of virtues. Franklin, then a quasi-scientist of virtue, made a point of illustrating charts that mapped his progress in “acquir[ing] the Habitude of all these Virtues” (81). This Quaker insinuates that Franklin is too proud, which shakes the author’s hubris enough to inspire him to prove the Quaker wrong. After a mediocre effort to achieve Humility, which he could not...