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Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography

Reading is a means to true freedom, raising the mind of the reader beyond what can be found in direct experience. This theme is one of those expressed by Benjamin Franklin in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, a work that is especially interesting because it shows the themes we consider distinctively American and that those themes were prevalent in certain quarters from the beginning of the republic. One of those themes is education and the way education contributes to the ability of the individual to rise and succeed, no matter what level of society he was born into in the first place.

Benjamin Franklin was born to a Puritan household, and his father was a candlemaker. Franklin would become a different sort of craftsman and work as a printer before becoming a scientist, writer, statesman, and other occupations. Franklin expresses much of the American view of reading and writing as he shows how much can be learned from this process and how Americans can communicate with one another and with others. Franklin is always interested in promoting the importance of action as opposed to inaction, but reading is not seen as inaction but as a form of intellectual action. Education is a vital element in the American view of how to get ahead, and Franklin was a prime proponent of self-improvement and getting ahead. In his Autobiography, he refers to his delight upon finding a copy of the newspaper, the Spectator, which he bought and read over and over again and which he used as a model for his own writing. Franklin clearly uses his reading of this newspaper as a means to learn more, noting how he discovered that he needed a larger vocabulary in order to learn more and to convey his own thoughts to others. He cites other books that have served his needs and taken him into worlds he might otherwise not have encountered. He is first intent on learning better English, but there are many other lessons that can be learned from readin...

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Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:56, June 24, 2019, from