The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Essay - Critical Essays

Benjamin Franklin


The narrative tone of the book is clearly that of an older man looking back upon the accomplishments and mistakes of his youth. An element of self-reflection pervades the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, especially in the part that is written to his son. Nevertheless, the tone is one of perfect self-awareness and personal satisfaction. In the opening paragraph, Franklin notes that he was born in “poverty and obscurity” and reached in his adulthood “a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world.” His motive is not to revel in his accomplishments, however, but to offer a method by which his son will be able to advance as Franklin has. Indeed, even modern readers can appreciate the rags-to-riches model that Franklin displays in his autobiography and learn much about the value of studying, working hard, creating a good image, and taking responsibility for oneself.

In keeping with the Puritan ancestry that he details at the beginning of his autobiography, Franklin is at ease with introspection. Often, however, this introspection serves not so much to enlighten Franklin about himself as to provide an object lesson for the reader. While he confesses to having committed a number of errata during his life, mistakes that he wishes he could correct, more often he shows how he succeeded and reached his present state. This goal seems to be more apparent in part 1 of the work than in part 2.

More than ten years...

(The entire section is 579 words.)