October 8, 2014
The Importance of Writing and Literature In The Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, we get a good representation of the American Dream in literary form. Franklin was the first person to write an autobiography in a non-religious way and it’s a good representation to readers today, of what life was like for people during the time of the 18th century in America. Although intellectualism was flourishing during this time, it wasn’t common for people to write about their personal and daily lives, and achievements. Franklin first went to school at a young age with the intent of becoming a minister, but his zealous desire for reading and writing soon took over. Although Franklin seems very narcissistic, his intentions in writing were for a good purpose. Franklin wanted to improve the life of the reader and make the reader an overall better person, and he does this in a few different ways. Prominent among them, he shows the reader that it is possible to succeed when coming from a lower class background, lists his virtues and how to achieve them, and shows the importance of literature and writing. In The Autobiography by Franklin, the central lesson that he teaches his readers is understanding the importance of writing and literature.
Franklin’s appreciation for writing is first seen in the creation of the autobiography itself. Franklin talks about his reasoning for writing the Autobiography, mentioning that since he is not able to live his life over again, he is able to recapture it by writing it down for others to read. "I should have no Objection to a Repetition of the same Life from its Beginning, only asking the Advantage Authors have in a second Edition to correct some Faults of the first. […] However […] the Thing most like living one's Life over again, seems to be a Recollection of that Life; and to make that Recollection as durable as possible, the putting it down in Writing”(pg.482). In this statement by Franklin, he is explaining one of his reasons for writing his autobiography. He compares life to a book, saying that when books go through a second printing authors or editors get the chance to remove any mistakes that may have been printed with the first edition. But in life, we can’t go back and edit the mistakes because there is no repeating the past. So, Franklin compares remembering life to redoing it, saying that writing it down is the closest that he can get. He's interested in making the memories permanent, and the best way to do that is in writing. Franklin seizes the opportunity to write his Autobiography as a way of contributing to the field of literature he loves so much; his self-portrayal within the pages is a deliberate attempt to show that a self-educated writer can also join in with the group of the elite. Franklin defines himself so much by his writing that without the Autobiography our views of him wouldn't exist.
Another reason that we know that Franklin values his writing, is in his descriptions of technique and the value that he places on his writing. His writing is most times, precise and with a smooth style. The sentences are compact and include a vigorous and direct vocabulary. His writing is also an insightful analysis of himself and others. "But as Prose Writing has been of great Use to me in the Course of my Life, and was a principal Means of my Advancement, I shall tell you how in such a Situation I acquir'd what little Ability I have in that Way” (pg.488). Franklin tells us about how he learned to write while using the writing process. While we've got Franklin as author writing in "prose," in the autobiographical form, we've also got Franklin as narrator telling us about a particular turn in the story. But this statement also reveals the kind of character Franklin is: he’s a person who's practical, in working on the kind of writing that's useful to him, and a person who's modest, putting down the considerable writing abilities he's