In Benjamin Franklin's "Autobiography" what is the theme, tone, style, and place in American literature. Explain with quotes.In Benjamin Franklin's "Autobiography" what is the theme, tone, style,...

In Benjamin Franklin's "Autobiography" what is the theme, tone, style, and place in American literature. Explain with quotes.

In Benjamin Franklin's "Autobiography" what is the theme, tone, style, and place in American literature. Explain with quotes.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography is an intriguing work for many reasons.  First, Franklin lived an interesting and eventful life at a time in history when he made a real difference. Second, his story is one of achievement in the face of adversity even as a young man.  The fact that he overcomes those things by hard work and sheer will is inspiring.  Third, his efforts at self-improvement are admirable.  He ultimately fails in his quest for perfection, of course, but the fact that he tried is noteworthy and intriguing.  Finally, Franklin is an effective writer.  He's witty and self-effacing, at times, and wise, always.  Benjamin Franklin and his Autobiography are representative of the best in American culture and history. 

epollock | Student

His Autobiography is one of the greatest works of American literature, because as an autobiography, it almost reads like fiction, that one person could have done all of that is beyond most people's comprehension. In fact traveling from Boston to NY at the time alone on a ship was inconceivable.