March 1, 2014
The life of Benjamin Franklin was one consumed with ambition to improve himself in furtherance of achieving his goals and beyond. By undertaking the challenge of improving himself in several aspects of his life, Franklin was able to become a successful inventor, newspaper publisher, business person, and political leader between the 1750s and 1790. The Autobiography serves as a guide for his son and others to learn how to overcome hardships in life in order to reach success. Benjamin Franklin was able to make his way to success through self-determination and self-improvement. His constant struggle with attaining perfectionism drives him to correct his mistakes and to achieve moral excellency. Throughout his autobiography, Franklin recalls events in his life where he has made mistakes. He uses the Latin word “errata” which is used primarily in the printing business, to describe the errors he has made in his life. Whenever Franklin describes moments in his life that seem to have been unfortunate occurrences, he conceives each one as one of his erratum. His recollection of his mistakes leads him to improvement of his character. He learns from his mistakes and hopes that they can serve as an example to other for what not to do in their life. Franklin’s first errata is taking apprenticeship with his brother, James, in the printing business by delivering papers. Franklin grew an interest in writing at a young age and decides to write papers by disguising his handwriting and leaving them anonymously under the door for his brother to find. When James gets arrested, he plans to give the paper over to Benjamin, while in the meantime, preparing secret papers that would continue his brother’s apprenticeship with him. Franklin decides to quit. He reflects of his decision to leave his brother’s business:
At length a fresh difference arising between my brother and me, I took upon me to assert my freedom, presuming that he would not venture to produce the new indentures. It was not fair in me to take this advantage, and this I therefore reckon one of the first errata of my life (Franklin 10).
Franklin was possibly “too saucy and provoking” for believing his brother would see things from his standpoint and therefore, he promised to never make that same mistake again (Franklin 10). Franklin goal is to evaluate his errors and to correct them until they are turned into qualities and accomplishments that will help him to elevate in life.
Another one of Franklin’s erratum taught him the importance of saving money. When he starts to work at Palmer’s a famous printing house, he spends most of his earnings with Ralph on plays and other entertainment (Franklin 22). Franklin marks this moment as “another of the great errata of my life, which I wish to correct if I were to live it over again” (Franklin 22). His mistake hindered him from moving as much as he wished to. Also, he was unable to return to see Miss Read, whom he planned to marry. Franklin being unable to pay his passage because of his miscellaneous spending, taught himself the value of saving. His change in habit allowed him to grow and eventually start his own business.
Franklin adopts moral principles that aides in his quest towards achieving moral perfection. About the time where Franklin decides to stop attending public worship because of his disagreement with a text in which the minister failed to mention morality, he decides to make his own moral values. Franklin, being obsessed with self-examination, creates thirteen moral virtues, in order: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chasity, and humility. He works on these virtues by focusing one at a time each week until has achieve perfection. He says, “I wished to live without committing any fault at any time, I would conquer all that either natural inclination,...
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