Benjamin Franklin: Autobiography

(1771)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography is not only a landmark of American literature but also a significant statement on what distinguishes Americans from other people. By the summer of 1771, Franklin was already world famous and known to nearly every American, as he was aware, so he began his memoirs as a way to elaborate on how he became successful. The autobiography is at first addressed to his son William, but this changes to a broader address to the general public, perhaps because during the Revolutionary War, William, as a royal governor, remained a Loyalist.

As published in the modern era, the Autobiography is presented in four parts, not by design but because Franklin worked on it at four separate times of his life. The first part was written when he was sixty-five years old; he wrote to explain how he, one of seventeen children from a poor family, had become rich, popular, and even famous. Thus, the first part of the Autobiography...

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Benjamin Franklin (Library of Congress)

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