Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Benjamin Franklin: The New American, Milton Meltzer provides a mosaic of Franklin’s life and deeds. Opening with Franklin’s boyhood, continuing with his adult years, and ending with his death at the age of eighty-four, the book is organized chronologically. This chronological order, however, is interrupted with chapters related to individual areas of Franklin’s interests and accomplishments. To address each of these areas adequately, the activities and events leading up to the eventual successes are recounted. Meltzer focuses on three strands in Franklin’s life: the self-made man, the complete man of diversified talents, and the man of science.

In narrative form, Meltzer develops these three strands beginning with young Franklin in Boston. Although he was not the best of students and his father had difficulty settling the boy into a trade, Franklin started a self-improvement program and showed evidence of his inventive mind. As a last resort, he was indentured to his half-brother, a printer. Franklin liked printing, but he was not content with being an apprentice and found a way to be free of the contract. Seeking work as a printer, the seventeen-year-old Franklin arrived in Philadelphia with only one Dutch dollar in his pocket. While working for others, he met the governor, who promised funds for Franklin’s own printing equipment. On the basis of that promise, a rather gullible Franklin sailed to England to purchase the presses....

(The entire section is 457 words.)