A brillant and enterprising individual, Benjamin Franklin continues to be an inspiration to Americans. As one of the forefathers of our country, his place in American history and literature is essential to the understanding of Colonial and post-Revolutionary culture. In addition, his writings are wonderful models of how motivation, hard work, and the recognition of opportunities can bring individuals success.
Critics feel that his Autobiography is an excellent study in "entrepreneurism and individual pluck." His work is rather fragmented as it is a series of memoirs, written in the reflective tone of an older man reflecting upon the mistakes and accomplishments of his youth; of these, Franklin is proudest of his civic contributions. The recurring theme that runs through Franklin's work is that the individual must take responsibility for oneself by studying working hard, and creating a good image.
The theme of individualism is salient in Franklin's writings:
I took upon me to assert my freedom....
And, his Puritan upbringing also greatly influences his thinking,
I wished to live without committing any fault at any time.
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
Franklin's ability to grasp opportunities is apparent in his narrative of his arrival in Philadelphia when he asks a boy where he had procured some bread; he immediately went to the baker's to whom the boy had directed him and bought several rolls, stuffing them under his arm. Yet, at the same time, his charitable nature impels him to share his bread with a woman and her child who were in want.
In order to develop his character, Franklin writes down the virtues that he wishes to attain:
I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the virutes....I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day.