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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin


by Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Memory and the Past Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Paragraph)

Quote #4

For when my Mother some time after spoke to him [brother James] of a Reconciliation, and of her Wishes to see us on good Terms together, and that we might live for the future as Brothers, he said, I had insulted him in such a Manner before his People that he could never forget or forgive it. In this however he was mistaken. (1.42)

This shows how other characters' memories are fallible, too. James tells their mother that he'll "never forget or forgive" Franklin, but "never" is a long time, and James can't keep his word. Like remembering, forgetting is a flawed system. Franklin can be generous about James' harsh words, though, because by the acting of writing, their original fight is so far in the past.

Quote #5

Osborne went to the West Indies, where he became an eminent Lawyer and made Money, but died young. He and I had made a serious Agreement, that the one who happen'd first to die, should if possible make a friendly Visit to the other, and acquaint him how he found things in that separate State. But he never fulfill'd his Promise. (1.55)

Franklin steps back from the coherent narrative to offer up a separate memory – what happens to Osborne later in his life. While Franklin remembers the pact they make, though, Osborne seems to have forgotten. Franklin frames this moment in such a way as to suggest that Osborne doesn't show up because there's no afterlife; he doesn't show up because he's not keeping his word.

Quote #6

After Many Years, you and I had something of more Importance to do with one of these Sons of Sir William Wyndham […] which I shall mention in its Place. (1.77)

Here, Franklin steps away from his narrative to make an authorial aside, saying that he'll come back to this character later. This seems to show his control over the narrative, or indicate a plan of action, and is also an active act of remembering. He's saying, "I'll get back to this." But this character, Wyndham's son, doesn't appear again, raising questions of whether Franklin's memory failed, his plans changed, or he just ran out of time.

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