Franklins autobiography

When going over Franklin’s autobiography in class there has been frequent discussion over the image that Franklin seems to construct through the creation of his narrative. In Smith and Watson’s Reading Autobiography, the concept of the “coaxers, coaches, and coercers” can help the reader to fully understand the character of Benjamin Franklin, as displayed in the text. When reading Franklin’s autobiography, Ben seems to exemplify the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality that has embodied America from the very beginning. The image of the young Ben arriving to Philadelphia, alone and poor, strolling with too big loafs of bread under each arm, giving his extra to a poor mother and child. Unlike the early Puritan narratives, Franklin was not confined to a strict religious curriculum, but instead was motivated by hard work and reason. It was almost as if Franklin, looking towards the future, knew how essential his contributions would be to the history of the founding of the United States, and in doing so he wrote his autobiography accordingly. Ben Franklin was not withheld by the strict curriculum of the Puritan church, and was allowed to appreciate his vanity and pride, personal characteristics that would have sent any good puritan into a fit of self-loathing. Smith and Watson explain, in the “Autobiographical Acts” chapter, that politicians tell “compelling personal narratives.” The chapter even discusses Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, in regards to its “coaxers.” In the second part of the narrative, Franklin includes a series of letters from friends telling him how much other people could benefit from reading Franklin’s autobiography, “coaxing” him to compose his life story, for the good of others. Puritan narratives would never have been so vain as to believe that their personal story was that “important,” even if it was.

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