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"Emersonian Influences On Ben Franklin's Autobiography" This Essay Shows How Emerson's Philosophy Of Transcendentalism Is Shown In Franklin's Essay. Uses Citations From Emerson's Self Reliance

1097 words - 5 pages

"Emersonian Influences on Ben Franklin's Autobiography"

Being one of the first "self-made men" in America, Benjamin Franklin and his autobiography best portrayed many of Ralph Waldo Emerson's views regarding transcendentalism. Coinciding with Emerson's views of self-reliance, Franklin placed a great deal of value on individuality and self worth. He was independent and determined, rising above the poverty in which he and his fourteen other brothers and sisters were raised. Due to the lack of finances in his family, Franklin was removed from all institutions of formal instruction and had to rely upon himself to obtain a quality education. Franklin stated in his autobiography, "[h]aving ...view middle of the document...

Franklin achieved the unthinkable in his lifetime because he did not stop, as so many would, when he was met with adversity.
Franklin did not conform to society's standard by giving up when faced with a barrier. Instead of quitting, he acted as a transcendentalist would have: "[t]rust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, and connection of events" (Emerson 934). Franklin trusted his own instincts and natural skills. He had full confidence in his abilities to educate himself and move forward in the world. Franklin did not depend on his family to financially support and educate him. Rather, Franklin trusted in his own capabilities and surged forward in society, and later emerged as one of the greatest politicians, inventors, and scholars known to man-kind.
Emerson also states in his essay, "Self-Reliance", "[t]here is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion" (Emerson 934). In other words, one must not conform to what society dictates as necessity. One must be content with his own individual and natural blessings and feel free to explore those gifts without feeling apologetic to the surrounding societal norms: "Man is timid and apologetic... he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments about the past" (Emerson 941). One should not hold back their true nature because it is not the standard, on the contrary, Emerson explains that one should "speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again" (Emerson 937). Furthermore, Emerson says that we should "affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever man works" (Emerson 938). This is precisely what Franklin did in his lifetime; he recognized his potential and did not settle for mediocrity. He did not follow traditions; he trusted himself and created a new tradition, the American Dream.
Even after his success as an...

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