Gender and the Age of Reason
“In these two books, we have the story of a young man coming of age and finding success in the world and the story of a young woman coming of age and failing to do so. In either book, what gender roles prevailed?”
In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, we are reading the path that one man took to go from a middle class child to a well respected adult. Benjamin Franklin created what we know today as the American dream. Today we understand the American dream to be that one can go from rags to riches with a little hard work. The autobiography is based around the age of reason and a time man was thought to be able to be perfected by means of science and invention. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is full of success, however, the male gender prevails much more than the female gender. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin begins in 1706, when Benjamin was born. He was the fifteenth of seventeen children. His father, Josiah, had intended that Benjamin go to school to become a minister. However, Benjamin showed a great love for reading and writing and soon enough the path to become a minister was abandoned. At age ten, he was soon taken out of school to begin work with his father Josiah. This work included making candles and soap. During this time, Ben’s father taught him the importance of debate, which would stick with Ben for the rest of his life. Not long after, Benjamin began to work for his brother James, a printer. Ben signed an eight year work contract with his brother. Ben disliked his fathers trade and preferred working for a printer because it allowed him to read and hone his writing skills. This brief history of Ben’s childhood alone shows the importance of the male gender during the 1700’s. A female would never have been given a job at a printing press or put through school in the same way that Benjamin was. His success began right when he was born because of his father putting him...
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