Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: the Role of Keimer

Topics: Benjamin Franklin, Virtue, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Pages: 3 (1167 words) Published: October 8, 1999
In Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Samuel Keimer is a character who represents the antithesis of Franklin. The development of Keimer not only improves the reader's understanding of the minor character, but also of Franklin, the major character. Franklin makes a point of showing the reader each of Keimer's faults and contrasting them with his own merits.When Keimer is first introduced to the reader, he is in very much the same circumstances as Franklin; they are two young men trying to make a fresh start in a new town, the only difference being Keimer's economic, and thereby social, advantage. In comparison to Franklin, however, Keimer is a flawed and immoral man; this difference is what makes him the ideal model for Franklin to scrutinize. As Benjamin Franklin consistently moves up the social and economic ladders, more than surpassing Keimer's achievements, Keimer quickly falls into poverty and loses everything. "With the rest I (Benjamin Franklin) began to live very agreeably; for they all respected me, the more as they found Keimer incapable of instructing them, and that from me they learned something daily."1 Franklin goes into great detail to teach the reader how one should live one's life in order to avoid the same fate as Keimer. In Franklin's opinion, many factors attribute to his rise to glory and Keimer's fall to disgrace; these elements help to provide the foundation for some of Benjamin Franklin's thirteen virtues. The virtues are designed to show how a person can lead a morally flawless life, which is why the morally corrupt Keimer is the perfect counter-example for Franklin. The first of these virtues is Temperance. The amount of Keimer's temperance can be summed up in the following quote: "He was usually a great Glutton" (BFA 29); he is unable to last through the ordeal of abstaining from meat and eventually orders and eats an entire roast pig before his guests can arrive. This scenario also shows an example of Keimer's lacking of...
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