Ben Franklin's Autobiography Term Paper

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Ben Franklin's Autobiography

How is Franklin a combination of his American roots (In Puritanism and in the relative independence from the society of England) with the Enlightenment ideas of writers like Pope? I.e. -- How is he a particularly American version of Enlightenment Man? Analyze and use examples from BOTH content and style. In answering this question write this question; Write the question on top of the page labeled "your question."

Ben Franklin is perhaps most famous for his aphorisms such as "early to bed, early to rise, makes a man happy, healthy and wise." His Poor Richard's aphorisms often take the form of well-regarded advice regarding health and good, clean living, and this aphoristic, pithy style is characteristic of Franklin's autobiography as a whole.

Yet Franklin is not simply famous as 'Poor Richard.' Franklin is also famous for his experimentation in the fields of optometry and electricity. The world can thank Franklin for his invention of bifocals as well as for the image of the desperate man flying a kite in an electrical storm. This duality of cultural images regarding Franklin is encapsulated in Franklin's own sense of duality of self and culture. His Autobiography stresses the importance of self-reliance, upon his own determination to discipline himself in terms of correcting perceived lackings in moral and intellectual fiber. His construction of self through the media of the 'autobiography' of narrative seems particularly American, given the evolving American culture's stress upon the self.

This may be in part due to Puritan's influence on constant self-examination and self-criticism outside of formal church dogma. Unlike Catholicism or European Protestantism's emphasis on church doctrine and the creation of church communities, American Puritanism focused on perfecting one's self from inside out and the creation of one's own moral principles in relation to God. Although Franklin reaffirms this stress upon the self, his intellectual curiosity directed to the outer world takes the form stylistically of Enlightenment writers such as Pope. Franklin's lapses into 'pity' quotations such as aphorisms are reminiscent of Pope's love of couplets, and his use of humor in regards to his self-examination is also quite akin to Pope.

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