Compare and contrast the literary elements in the autobiographies of Frederick Douglass and Benjamin Franklin.

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One striking similarity between both is that they both represent the notion of a bildungsroman set against the ever changing social conditions of the time period.  Franklin's narrative is a part of the changing colonial culture, a moment in history when the new nation began to articulate its own voice,...

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One striking similarity between both is that they both represent the notion of a bildungsroman set against the ever changing social conditions of the time period.  Franklin's narrative is a part of the changing colonial culture, a moment in history when the new nation began to articulate its own voice, which in part led to the America Revolution.  A narrative like Franklin's is a part of this change.  The same can be said for Douglass, although nowhere near the relative comfort of Franklin's.  Douglass' work depicts the changing face of culture in America regarding its treatment of the issue of slavery.  This particular instant is one that would threaten to divide up America, learning to the Civil War.  A major difference between them would be that Franklin's narrative voice serves to represent the promise and possibility in the new world, while Douglass represents the harsh reality and denial of opportunity, which was sadly also present in the real world.

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In comparing both sets of literary elements in both autobiographies, I think we have to open with one glaring distinction:  There is a vast difference in the narrative told by a slave vs. a free man in America.  Without a doubt this reality tempers comparing the sets of literary elements in both autobiographies.  I think that we can apply questions to better answer the literary elements with this distinction in mind:

1)  How does the setting of each differ?  How is the setting of each the same?  How does the inclusion of slavery change the perceptions of each?

2)  How does the issue of slavery change the characterizations of people outside of the main subjects in each work?  For example, how does slavery alter the interactions of Douglass and how does its absence allow Franklin more opportunity in his interactions with others?

3)  How does conflict change when the issue of slavery is included in the telling of both stories?  Certainly, there is a dimension of social conflict that Douglass endures which Franklin does not.

In my mind, the comparison and contrasting of literary elements in both works is directly tied to the issue of slavery and its impact.  I think this one issue changes both sets of literary elements quite drastically.

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