Monday, August 29, 2011

Ben Franklin

I found Ben Franklin's autobiography to be very inspirational. Not only was he an awesome rags-to-riches story, but Ben Franklin was an ideal human being everyone could learn something from. Franklin's intellect is first shown  when he says he wouldn't want to live his life over, just "correct some faults of the first" (Chapter 1, Paragraph 2). I think we have all thought the same thing at one point or another in our lives. Since we obviously cannot go back and change things in our lives, Franklin states the next best thing for him to do is write his life down. This way, not only can Franklin recollect on his life, but he can also reflect and more importantly teach others how to live based on his life. Ben goes on to tell the reader pretty straightforwardly that he will be vain in his writing at times. This reminds me of the vanity of the speaker in Sot-Weed, but at least Ben acknowledges it. The true difference between the speaker in Sot-Weed and Ben Franklin is that Ben is vain only to convey a point. After he tells the reader he may be somewhat vain, he immediately humbles himself by thanking God for his life.
We are then introduced to Ben and find him sick on an arduous journey to start a new life in Philadelphia. During his travels, Ben, much like the speaker in Sot-Weed, is questioned of his motives for leaving. When he is searching for a place to stay, Ben's run-down appearance cause him to be suspected of being a run-away servant. After a few days of staying in local inns and homes, Ben finds a boat that takes him further towards Philadelphia. Upon getting off, Ben gives the people he rode with on the boat money for the voyage. This can be seen as an altruistic gesture on his part, but I question it when he says, " A man being sometimes more generous when he has but a little money than when he has plenty, perhaps thro' fear of being thought to have but little" I think this means that Ben gave his money in order to uphold his reputation that he is not a poor peasant or runaway slave.
In Chapter 2, we are introduced to Ben attempting to buy bread from the local bakery. However, this does not go very smoothly as the bakery uses foreign portion sizes and names of bread. Eventually Ben buys three very large rolls and makes his way around the new town. After eating one of his rolls, Ben certainly performs an altruistic gesture by giving the other two rolls to a mother and her child. Ben continues to make his way through the new city, and when he asks about a new place to lodge, he again is questioned about being a runaway. It seems this happened a lot in Old America. We learn that Ben is searching for a printing job and eventually becomes an apprentice of sorts to the two local printers, although it is obvious that Ben thinks he is better than both men. In paragraph seven, Ben analyzes both men and states, "These two printers I found poorly qualified for their business." Slowly but surely, Ben begins establishing a new, successful life in Philadelphia.
Chapter 6 was the best of the chapters in my opinion. Basically the majority of the first part of the chapter are letters from Abel James and Ben Vaughan, respectively. In two very long-winded letters, both men commend Ben for his work and for his interest in the importance of the youth, and also implore him to write his autobiography. Paragraphs (roughly) 9-11 were the most interesting portion of the autobiography I read. Throughout the reading, I began to note that I had no idea Ben Franklin was so religious! However, upon reading Chapter 6, the reader learns that Ben is not so hung up on religion as he is about being a truly good person. For instance, Ben even "conceiv'd the bold...project of arriving at moral perfection." Ben continues by telling us about his thirteen virtues and even continues on to outline a plan in order to obtain moral perfection. This was Ben's model of being a good American, but also a good human being. Although Ben says he "fell short of [perfection]," the process made him a "better and happier man." We all could learn something from this. If everyone acted in the way Ben outlines here, the world would be a better place. To me, Ben's quest for moral perfection reminds me a lot of Buddhism/Hinduism, and even of the book Siddhartha, in which the main character is on a quest to find internal peace. I also truly respect Ben's views on religion. People tend to get so caught up the intricacies of certain religions, they often forget to be good people, which is Ben's chief goal in life.

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