Imperial Self In Franklin And Thoreau Analysis

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The Imperial Self in Franklin and Thoreau The fabled American novels Walden and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin present two drastically different versions of successful lives. The past focuses on spiritual enlightenment, focused introspective, and the joys of isolated thought; the latter praises the Protestant work ethic, the ability to weather misfortune and continue working in set professions towards a future of wealth and comfort. While they differ entirely in their methods, both Henry David Thoreau and Benjamin Franklin and their individual books argue that people have complete mastery over themselves but differ on the implications of that belief. In the final chapter of Walden, Henry David Thoreau appeals for all people to discover…show more content…
On the very first page of his writings Franklin notes that what follows will show him “having emerged from the poverty & obscurity in which I was bred to a state of affluence & some degree of reputation in the world” (Franklin Penguin 1). He brands his tale as the original rags to riches story, the fulfillment of the American Dream. The lengthy sequence of anecdotes which makes up his autobiography carry this theme forward. Whether they are stories centering on his autodidactic upbringing or his long career as a printer, Franklin repeatedly bangs the drum of hard work leading to…show more content…
“I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that the natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into” is the mission statement he begins this discussion with, using such forceful terms as conquer to characterize this goal as a battle his perseverance can win. The thirteen virtues which he tries to commit to habit also reflect his belief in making one’s own life; order, industry, moderation, tranquility, and humility each hinge on the notion that a person can control their emotions and live in a constant state of productivity to accomplish any possible goal. Even after he abandons this pursuit, Franklin believes that his efforts have made him a better person more likely to succeed in life, claiming that “I was by the endeavor a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been.” This example and several others from his autobiography show that Franklin wholeheartedly felt that any person could improve their state of being and material affairs by the pulling of their own

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