Saturday, April 7, 2012

Appreciation of "the Autobiography"

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Appreciation of the Autobiography

A Brief Introduction about the Author

Benjamin Franklin (1706-170) is an author, scientist, statesman and inventor. He was born in a poor family, and had been studying in a primary school only for years since he was 10 years old, and later became an apprentice in a printing house at 1. But he studied very hard by himself at his spare time, so he could read French, Spanish, Italian and Latin works very fluently, as well as the English works. At 16, he began to publish the essays of commenting on the current affairs in ¡°New England Weekly¡±. And at 4, after becoming the owner of a printing house, he devote himself to the social and public utilities, for instance, he set up the Philadelphia Public Library, and became the chief-editor of the ¡°Pennsylvania News¡±, and later assisted in founding University of Pennsylvania in 1751. After reached his middle age, he studied the natural science such as physics, chemistry, mathematics and astronomy, and achieved a lot. Later on, he became one of the leaders in American Revolution, and participated in drawing up ¡° The Declaration of Independence¡±. Between 1776 and 1785, as the American plenipotentiary, he was sent on a diplomatic mission to France, seeking for European allies¡¯ supports and aid in politics, economics, military, etc., and accomplished the mission with flying colors. Franklin had published numerous books on the current affairs, science, economics, education, personal life, etc. And in 17, using the pen name, he published ¡°Poor Richard¡¯s Almanac¡±, which contained proverbs, mottos and aphorisms, as well as the almanac. It was so popular that it had been published as a successive publication for 5 years. ¡°The Autobiography¡± of Franklin, which was written between 1771 and 170, was generally acknowledged as the classic works in American literature since its publication, as it recorded Franklin¡¯s lives vividly and deeply.

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This excerpt is extracted from the first chapter of ¡°The Autobiography¡±. In 1771, 65-year-old Franklin recalled his first half-life experiences and wrote it down in the form of autobiography to educate posterity. ¡° The Autobiography¡¯ had been written for nearly 0 years. And this book consists of 4 parts. In the first part, he told us the experiences of his fist 5 years life, including the short-time studying life in school, the apprentice experience in the printing house, and the experience of studying independently and diligently in the difficult circumstances, as well as the experience of writing articles anonymously for the press and of succeeding in printing industry and getting married. In 1784, the second part was finished in Paris, which emphasized particularly on the author¡¯s interests and achievements in scientific researches, and on the social and public utilities to which he devoted. And the third and forth ones, which portrayed his life from 5 to 51,were completed respectively in 1788 and between 178 and 170 at his hometown----Philadelphia. And the author just slightly touched on his second-half life, about years, especially on the experiences and achievements in European and national political and diplomatic circles, in the last two parts. In other words, ¡°The Autobiography¡± is not the complete autobiography of the author¡¯s whole life. After Franklin¡¯s death, several chapters of that book, whose words and content were not all accurate, were published in France and Britain without authorization. Not until the whole manuscript was found in Paris in 1868, was the complete ¡°the Autobiography¡± published.


¡°The Autobiography¡± not only is the first successful biography in America, but also is the early representative book in American national literature. The value and the influence of ¡°the Autobiography¡± had little been declined, since its publication. We can analyze and appreciate this book, which is important in American literature history, from different perspectives. From the perspective of autobiography, though the author of ¡°The Autobiography¡± was a native American born in a poor family, without formal education, supporting from the nobles, and romantic love, he finally succeeded by his persistent efforts. And this was different from European traditional biographies, which took the emperors, important officials or heroes as their heroes, and portrayed the experiences far from the ordinary people, as their contents were full of fights of imperial court, usurpation of throne, wars and slaughters, mysterious fate and political affairs. And we could see it very clearly in his book that how a very ordinary American gradually grew up----from childhood to adolescence and adult, from childishness to mature, as he devoted himself to various things, from industry to scientific researches, and from individual struggle to playing a leading role in the independence of the country, which was just some ordinary and simple stories about life. And Franklin¡¯ success did not only lie in his industriousness and his tenacity of purpose, but also lie in the opportunities given by the times. However, Franklin didn¡¯t emphasized too much on the relatively free and relaxing American society of the early 18th century, but just applied it as a background to set off his experiences of growth.

And the value and significance of this book, does not only lie in the successful portraying the achievement, which was made by an ordinary American in the early years after the founding of America, but also lie in the successful revelation of the process of building one¡¯s moral quality. The Puritanism¡¯s diligence, pragmatism and the spirit of making progress, as well as the Americans¡¯ imagination and belief for the future of the nation in the period of Enlightenment, were all could be found in his personality, which reflected strong life vigor. And Franklin was very proud of it, and expressed his belief of mortality and ethic to the readers, which can be seen obviously in the second, third and fourth parts. As a typical American portraiture, ¡°the Autobiography¡± showed American society in the 18th century and mental attitude in the period of Enlightenment, and depicted a new image of American, as well as reflected the vigor that society gestated, with individual development and achievements. And this image had not only been played an important and long impact on the formation of the character of American nation, but also had been reversed the Europeans¡¯ despise and prejudice against Americans, to some extent.

And from the perspective of narration wording, this book is real and moving, and the language is very simple and the style is lucid, which was totally different from the writing in an ornate style, which was very common in British and even the whole European literature in the 18th century. However, the styles of the four parts of the book are a bit different, as Franklin might think his readers were from all walks of life. As for the first part, as Franklin¡¯ offspring, the readers can understand the deep love between Franklin and his son very easily, as he began his book with ¡° Dear son¡±, and used the simple and kind lines. While began from the second parts, as Franklin might thought his readers might be the commons, so there began to be a certain distance between the author and readers, as the sermon was apparent in his book. Moreover, the article organized loosely, not only because the time spent on writing the ¡°The autobiography¡± was quite long, but also because each part was connected just by the time.

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