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Literature Essay on Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Find out more about the most inspiring and enlightening “Autobiography” of Benjamin Franklin. He is really an outstanding writer, philosopher, social and political activist who can be fairly called a prototype of American successful personality.

Which Assigned Reading for This Course Did You Find Most Enlightening and Why?

This course was full of incredibly interesting and thought-provoking readings that can serve a real motivation for people who do not know what they want to do in the future or those who just need an example of a person who could change this world for better, following own goals and dreams. Benjamin Franklin was a child of the Enlightenment epoch that is generally recognized as an epoch of great inventions and progressive philosophical ideas of the understanding of a human being, society and social relations, state and power, God and spirituality. Life was not easy neither in Europe nor America; however, this instability was not a barrier for talented people who worked both on the self-development and the development of society.  Besides, the fact that inspires most of all is that these people, including Benjamin Franklin, were writing about what they deeply believed and put into practice as primary principles of their own life.Therefore, it is possible to say that the personality described in the “Autobiography” is an integral part of real Franklin, whereas this text is an integral part of historical events he took part in.

The whole book is filled with sincerity of the author and his genuine desire to share own reflections on human life with readers of new generations. This sincerity and candour were decisive factors that made me choose this reading as the most enlightening because the ability to put difficult and serious things into a simple and unconstrained form is often an indicator of good writing skills for me. All writers of that time could produce pages of teachings and preaches, but not everybody could do it the way Franklin did. He has not just told about his life and his principles separately but showed that those moral principles, described in his book, have already worked in his life; therefore, they are not abstract notions of mind but theoretical results of practical activities.

Civilization and Literature

The enlightening role of “Autobiography” consists in the representation of the whole life of one person that had no special social privileges such as a rich family or high social status from birth. As far as we know, his parents were emigrants from England, who came to North America to follow their religion without persecutions. Somehow, Benjamin Franklin was a stranger on the new land, and nobody could foresee that this stranger will become famous and, moreover, a fighter for the independence of the United States of America. Who knows if it might be possible in another historical epoch, because I think that general tendencies of Enlightenment influenced Franklin a lot. Belief in the compelling force of human reason, confidence in the universalism of human rights, justice, democracy and common sense as a basis for the rational performance of society were these tendencies that let representatives of Enlightenment overcome prejudices and demonstrate all possibilities of a human being. Earlier, for example, in the Middle Ages, people were more dependent on God, clergy, various social institutions that tried to establish their authority over people. Enlightenment started to view every human being as a creature that can be guided by own reason and discover new things in the world.

As “Autobiography” shows, Benjamin Franklin was one of the people who dared to rely only on himself and achieve the top, trying absolutely various activities and developing different skills. The fact that he started to work at 12 years old can surprise and confuse American teenagers of the 21st century that mostly cannot imagine their career without school, college and university.

Generally, Franklin's lifestyle can be a role model for modern people: diligence and devotion to everything he did was surely a key to success. “Reading was the only amusement I allowed myself”, wrote Franklin, and it may be another explanation of his success because people who do not read will never become intelligent. (Franklin & Bigelow) Apart from these small Franklin's “success keys” I have singled out while reading, it is necessary to pay some attention to the thirteen principles (or “virtues” as he says) that the author thinks to be required for the personal well-being of people and their co-living in society. These thirteen virtues are temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility. Many of them might be taken from the Protestant ethics but time has already removed religious any religious background, and readers who are not Protestants do not pay much attention to the connection of these virtues with Protestantism. By these virtues, Franklin built a construction of an ideal man that he tried to follow in his life as well. Internal and external harmony, spiritual and physical purity were the goal of this great man, and it seems that he achieved what he wanted. Moreover, he made thirteen virtues a kind of a moral landmark for the whole America that was trying to get independence and sovereignty, creating a new strong state where Franklin's role model, set out in “Autobiography” could be taken as a basic one. Many years have passed after Benjamin Franklin had formulated such a list of necessary ethical characteristics, but it remains to be topical even in our time because thinkers of Enlightenment created a fundamental basis of morality that all humankind should adhere.

For now, I think that every young person should read this book of Benjamin Franklin. All of us are taught that we are Americans and that we should love and be proud of our nation. However, nation is not just an abstract word. It can be concretized with particular people who stood up for the creation of American nation as a strong, confident and intelligent one.  Benjamin Franklin is recognized as a talented personality who was not only into reading and writing, philosophy and political science, religious issues, physics and fight for American independence but also created something we should always remember about. The epoch of Internet and mass media, smartphones and television, sales and consumption changed the understanding of a human being a lot. The world is used to think that American people, especially teenagers, are under the influence of all these modern technologies more than citizens from Europe or Asia.

Generally, we have money, cars, houses, access to education, work, information and amusements; most of us have life that people in developing countries can only dream about. However, we should not forget how American nation raised to this extent, who created the philosophical basis for its development and what we should look like to save the proud name of American citizen with all those virtues Benjamin Franklin had and wanted to see in next generations. If an emigrant from England could be so grateful to this land that gave his all possibilities to demonstrate own talents and become an ideological father of the USA, then we should be twice more grateful and twice more hard-working to work on ourselves and be intelligent and enlightened.


Franklin, B., & Bigelow, J. (1874). The life of Benjamin Franklin,. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott. 
Isaacson, W. (2003). Benjamin Franklin: an American life. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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