Benjamin Franklin

.. ve a favorable image of him. A highly esteemed reputation is critical of one’s advancement in society and the appearance of being financially secure is the surest way of becoming one. Therefore, people should not only be aware of how others view them, but also be conscious of creating the image that they want for themselves. Yet, when making this character of oneself, it is also important to stay humble in fear that one’s image will not be shattered by arrogance and pride. When Franklin first drafted his list of virtues, it contained only twelve. But a friend informed him that he would be viewed as being too proud and insolent.

So Franklin added humility to the list. However, having reached a certain level of celebrity status for all his accomplishments, he could not bring himself to be humble. Franklin honestly states that he “cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it (35).” In order to appear humble, though he confesses that pride is “still alive,” Franklin gets rid of all “positive assertion (45)” in his speech. He drops in his vocabulary such words as “certainly” and “undoubtedly’ and adopts a more open minded, soft spoken manner. When putting forth his opinions, he did not do it dogmatically, but instead said, “‘I imagine’ a thing to be so and so, or ‘It so appears to me at present.’ “After discovering Socratic method of arguing, he “was charmed by it, adopted it, dropped my abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation, and put on a humbler inquirer.” It proved to be successful: “this habit..has been of great advantage to me.” If one has pride, Franklin advises him to “disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it (45).” Franklin once again reveals that he is consciously “making himself” a certain way for people.

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In constructing a guideline for people to reach success, he lists humility as one of his thirteen virtues. Though, in reality, Franklin admits not being humble, he was successful in making himself look as though he was. In order for a man to reach a level of success, Franklin advises him to be well rounded with knowledge in many different subjects. The American citizen should be informed not only with the happenings before his eyes, but also the current events in the world. In his autobiography, Franklin portrays himself to be a man of inquiry. He creates a convincing image of a self-educated and curious man.

On almost every page, we see some evidence of Franklin’s willingness to learn. He reveals his expertise on a vast range of topics, from the science of electricity and speed of merchant ships, to street lights and Romantic languages. A wise man is one who hungers to learn new things. A man of merit is forgiving of other’s shortcomings. Relationships, particularly those involving Franklin’s father, brother, and governor Keith, show Franklin as a person who is able to move on when he is disappointed and hurt by others.

His father had no confidence in Franklin’s abilities and refused to support him in his ambitious endeavors to be a poet, swimmer, and printer. His brother, James, is described as being “harsh and tyrannical” towards young Franklin. And Franklin does not condemn the governor Keith “for playing such pitiful tricks, and imposing so grossly on a poor ignorant boy (46).” Instead, Franklin expresses no bitterness, or resentment; he is able to look back at these unpleasant moments in his life with forgiveness and understanding. He is also thankful for all the valuable lessons that he had learned thorough these seemingly difficult periods in his life. He cherishes every moment of his existence, embracing the bad as well as the good that comes his way. Franklin also teaches the lesson of giving to his readers.

He recalls an incident in Philadelphia that presents him to be caring and generous. After purchasing “three great rolls (23)” by accident, he eats one and gives the other two to a woman and her daughter that came on the same boat with him. This occurs at a time in Franklin’s life when he is near poverty. In this account, Franklin is willing to give up his security for the welfare of others. He challenges the readers to be more generous with their belongings and build a sense of community and cooperation in the nation. A man of good character will give to the community that has raised him and is now a part of him.

Franklin devoted much of his life to public service. In part one, a younger Franklin built a wharff that benefited all those who used it. Later in his life, Franklin did not lose his sense of community. He established the public library, paved roads that were not safe, instituted an academy for youth in Philadelphia and served as a public servant holding numerous positions. Franklin saw the importance of having citizens helping one another to build up the nation. Franklin encourages readers to keep a journal of daily events, observations, and personal reflections. By his own estimation, the most important part of his journal was the plan he formulated “for regulating [his] future conduct in life (50).” To help him live a life of “truth, sincerity and integrity” (80), he came up with “thirteen necessary virtues for arriving at moral perfection (80).” He said that a man committed to improving himself was destined for greatness.

In order to help the man reach a state of “moral perfection (63),” Franklin lists the thirteen virtues necessary for health, wealth, and happiness. This was, in reality, a “success formula” that could be practiced by a person who realized the importance of social consciousness and wished to imitate Franklin. Franklin is sometimes called the “the wisest American.” Blessed with talents and ambition, Franklin was a statesman, author, and inventor in his time. Conscious of his celebrity status and popularity, he was able to create his own character. Having lived the American Dream, he wrote his autobiography for the public as a guideline to reach moral and social perfection. It was Franklin’s extraordinary range of accomplishments that made him the American citizen to imitate.