The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Theme of Wealth
Franklin's focused on money, but he's no Donald Trump. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is all about saving the money he earns and making the right, responsible choices with it. For Franklin, the way you handle money shows what kind of person you are and whether you conduct yourself with honor. Being in debt is cause for worry, while managing accounts properly conveys a sense of pride. Franklin's more interested in having enough money so that he can do the things he really wants to do – like read all the time or conduct scientific experiments – than he is in using it to buy luxury items or a country house. Money's a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Questions About Wealth
- What do you think Franklin's attitude towards money is? How would he have responded to the 2009 recession?
- Are there any events in this book that can't be traced back to money, or weren't motivated in some way by it? What does that motivation (or lack of it) say about the events themselves?
- In this age of consumer culture, we've been raised to think of spending money as a good thing. Do you think frugality is a virtue, as Franklin did? Or can you think of times and ways when it's important to spend money on stuff? If so, what stuff?
- What do you think Franklin would say about the fact that his face decorates the American $100 bill?
Chew on This
While the Autobiography seems to be about ideas and thoughts about Franklin's past, it's really "all about the Benjamins": the money Franklin saves, earns, and creates is what defines his life.
While Franklin is upfront about his frugality and open about his desire to earn enough money to provide for his family, he's not driven by currency. Ultimately, Franklin is much more interested in the opportunities money gives him to participate in politics and philosophy.