From their critical assessments on how to improve themselves and to the American public that they influenced by their writings, Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin illustrate American themes in their personal narratives that quintessentially make part of American Literature. Although they lived in different times during the early development of the United States of America and wrote for different purposes, they share common themes. Their influence by their environment, individualism, proposals for a better society, and events that affected their society generate from their writings. By analyzing Jonathan Edwards' "Personal Narrative," "Resolutions," "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," and selections from Benjamin Franklin's The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin found in The Heath Anthology of American Literature: Third Edition Volume One edited by Paul Lauter, the fundamental themes in American literature are evident and their individual ideas are distinctive.
These personal narratives reveal the influences of their environment that gave them epiphanies to their closer perfection of themselves. Jonathan Edwards' "Personal Narrative" shows his journey towards a closer relationship to God. His family was followers of the Congregationalist Church, and from early childhood, he followed a Christian life (Lauter 569). In the beginning of his autobiography, "Personal Narrative," he says "I had a variety of concerns and exercise about my soul from my childhood; but had two more remarkable seasons of
awakening, before I met with that change, by which I was brought to those new dispositions, and that new sense of things, that I have had" (Lauter 581). Edwards endures a "rite of passa...
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...e account of his success from moving from the lower class to the upper class influenced many of his fellow American in a needful time.
Franklin and Edwards were innovators to their communities when people needed a model to live their lives. By their constant self-evaluation, self-improvement, publication of their personal narratives, and their acknowledgement of a need to bind society together, they represent American Literature.
Brumm, Ursula. "Jonathan Edwards and Typology." Early American Literature: A Collection of
Critical Essays. Ed. Michael T. Gilmore. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980.
Lauter, Paul., ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
Leary, Lewis. Soundings: Some Early American Writers. Athens: University of Georgia Press,
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