Benjamin Franklin: An Inspirational Self Made Man

1507 words - 6 pages

Benjamin Franklin is one of the most influential and famous figures of all time. Ben Franklin if often referred to as the "self-made man," and his philosophies and principles in the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, edited by Louis P. Masur, has served as a self-help book for millions around the world. Franklin's Autobiography is a prime example of the American dream, a rag to riches story that has inspired many people to think of themselves and the community in a different light. Franklin's moral and social philosophies are packed deeply into his Autobiography. Franklin believed that improving ones self was the key to success. Self-improvement, self-education, and self-discipline are the main factors of a self-made man. Improving yourself will ultimately improve the society as a whole. Franklin speaks of principality and inclination. His idea was to produce the principle man with the awareness of man's natural inclination. Throughout the text Franklin provides examples from his own life that contradicts his moral and social philosophies. These contradictions are mostly caused by natural inclinations. Franklin uses these contradictions to educate people to be aware of their natural inclinations and to try and overcome them. Franklin's realizes that improving oneself is a road with many imperfections. Not even the "self-made man" was completely perfect.

A general theme in Franklin's writings is the differences between the private and public self and how the two interact. Parts One and Two of his Autobiography were written at different times and intended for different audiences. In Part One Franklin is speaking to his Son, (who was then the Governor of New Jersey) a public figure. It was started in 1771. Part Two was begun in 1784 and deals with the private self. Part Two includes Franklins 13 virtues of self-conduct. This is where most of the contradictions come into play, since many of the stories and interactions Franklin writes about in Part One contradict his Virtues that he lists in Part Two. Franklin provides these contradictions purposely to help educate other people about natural inclinations. "I balanc'd some time between Principle & Inclination..." (Pg.56). The balance between principle and inclination is a central theme in the Autobiography.

In Part One, Franklin briefs his son on the history of his family and comments on the experiences and interactions he has had with different people over time. Franklin provides examples of how he built character and credit for himself, which are important aspects in attainting a good reputation. Franklin speaks of his reputation when he says, ."..learnt early to swim well, & to manage Boats, and when in a Boat or Canoe with other Boys I was commonly allow'd to govern, especially in any case of Difficulty; and upon other Occasions I was generally a leader among the Boys..."(pg.34). A good reputation is essential for the public self to prosper. Franklin also provides examples of...

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