Benjamin Franklin Essay - Critical Context

Thomas James Fleming

Critical Context

Franklin’s exemplary life, given Fleming’s comprehensive treatment, will continue to be a perennial favorite of American schoolchildren. Popularly remembered for his scientific advancements and inventions, such as the Franklin stove and the lightning rod, Franklin’s immense political contributions are often neglected. Indeed, his intellectual and diplomatic leadership during the revolutionary era was extremely significant. While his contributions to the intellectual, social, and political development of the emergent United States were immeasurable, Fleming’s biography provides an overall study of Franklin’s singular life. Written in 1973, the book reflects bicentennial patriotism but happily is not limited by that fact. More recent Franklin scholarship has not revised the popular perceptions of Franklin’s grand historical role.

Having read Fleming’s book, students may wish to move on to Franklin’s autobiography. Transforming his life into a guide for behavior, but doing so with verve and humor, Franklin made his autobiography pleasurable for readers of all ages. Understandably, Fleming’s early chapters follow Franklin’s own writing, thereby capturing the Philadelphian’s unique personality and his particular joie de vivre.

Fleming’s Benjamin Franklin is liberally sprinkled with humorous anecdotes about the great man’s life, thereby keeping young readers’ interest consistently engaged and their attention spans unstrained. Franklin’s political achievements prove exciting in themselves, as do his contributions in engineering American independence. Readers with broad-ranging curiosities will be stimulated by the many interests of Franklin’s varied life. Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution, this substantively accurate biography illuminates the key historical events leading to this rebellion while providing a pleasurable portrait of America’s most famous eighteenth century figure.