Benjamin Franklin Short Fiction Analysis
No American writer before Washington Irving produced more brilliant short fiction or approached the modern short story quite so closely, or quite so often, as Benjamin Franklin. The modern short story developed in America when Irving and others managed to blend the best of two quite distinct traditions: the essay-sketch tradition and the tale tradition. Scholars agree that Benjamin Franklin was the very first American to imitate the Addisonian periodical essay in America and that he had a genius for manipulating elements of the tale tradition: folklore, hoaxes, tall tales, and so on.
Franklin’s first published prose, the first of his fourteen Addisonian Dogood papers, appeared on April 2, 1722, in the New England Courant. Taking the form of a letter to the paper, the sketch introduces the marvelously characterized persona Franklin adopted for the series, Mistress Silence Dogood; her fondness for gossip, mother wit, humane concern for others, eye for detail, sense of humor, earthiness, and well-deserved vanity make her one of the best-developed and most utterly charming characters of eighteenth century American literature. Apart from her rather more conventional moral system, Mistress Dogood in some respects recalls Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, another vital widow powerfully addicted to life.
Franklin further improved his writings skills in the Busy-Body essays which he penned some six...
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