Sticks and Stones Essay

Submitted By jglennon14
Words: 906
Pages: 4

Laurel Bennis
Mrs. Davis
AP Language and Composition light bulb
April 16, 2007
Benjamin Franklin Giving an unparalleled look into the life of one of America’s founding fathers, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin utilizes numerous rhetorical fallacies to depict Benjamin Franklin’s rise through society. Based off his primary intent of the piece, the betterment of society, Franklin incorporates ethos as a mode of persuasion into his writing. As a component to argument, ethos is the process of convincing the audience of the credibility of the author. In using the rhetorical devices of ad hominem and argument from authority, Franklin is able to successfully depict his battle to establish himself amongst the best in society. Throughout the course of his autobiography, Franklin unknowingly exposes the readers to his extreme egotism. In rhetoric, Franklin uses ethos as a mode of persuasion: he attempts to persuade the readers of his moral competence and knowledge. Utilizing the rhetorical device known as ad hominem, Franklin is also able to establish his credibility as a person. Franklin ascertains himself as a superior person by attacking the faults of his friend’s characters. When writing about his stay with Keimer, Franklin comments on one of his acquaintances, James Ralph. He writes, “Ralph was ingenious genteel in his manners and extremely eloquent…rather more lax in principals of religion, for which made me suffer” (104). Franklin opens his discussion about Ralph with compliments to his personality then quickly moves to the negatives: his careless interest in religion. This practice is consistent throughout the story as Franklin often attempts to establish his credibility as a person. By showing the faults of his friends, Franklin illustrates how his morals have taught him not to be like the rest of society. For this reason, he convinces the readers of his impeccable character. Franklin successfully establishes his morality simply by utilizing the faults of his friends. Another prominent theme through the story is that of virtues-. Franklin often comments how the publication of his autobiography will be used for the betterment of society as it will be an example of how to improve one’s own virtues. By incorporating the two letters into his autobiography, Franklin establishes his authority as an expert on virtues: once again using ethos to build his credibility as a writer. While living in Paris, Franklin receives a letter urging him to expand upon the first part of his autobiography. The following is a passage from Abel James’ letter to Franklin which argues Franklin’s authority. James writes, “The influence writings under that class have on the minds of youth is very great. It almost insensibly leads the youth into the resolution of endeavoring to become as good” (135). James’ simply points out how others make use of the example Franklin has set on how to live one’s life. Franklin’s sole purpose for including this letter into his autobiography was to prove his expertise on improving society’s virtues. If other people attest to his great knowledge, it would be easier for him to convince the readers that his argument is a viable one. Although the incorporation of the letters may further confirm Franklin’s egotism, he is able to establish his credibility. Franklin is able to gather further support for his claim of moral perfection through the second letter written by Benjamin Vaughn. Once again, Franklin is able to incorporate the argument from authority to convince the readers of his impeccable character. Commenting on Franklin’s virtues,…