American Literature: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin analysis

Benjamin Franklin revolutionized American civil rights, libraries, universities, hospitals, fire departments, armies, and newspapers, to name a few. One time, we laughed so hard that milk came out of our nose, so...comparable. 

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Transcript

00:39

overachiever to rule them all.. his name Benjamin Franklin yep the dude on the

00:44

$100 bill of course he made it onto the big currency the guy was baller...[Franklin makes a basketball shot]

00:49

even in a time when people like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and John

00:54

Adams were multitasking like crazy Benji's range of accomplishments and

00:58

contributions is especially mind-blowing let's run down the list real quick so

01:02

you can get a sense of how diverse this guy's interests and talents were...

01:06

Public Libraries, created them founded the first lending library the library [Library in Philadelphia 1731]

01:10

company of Philadelphia in 1731 and not once did he ever return a book to his

01:16

library that was overdue lightning rods he invented him in fact inventor Ben,

01:21

patented all sorts of inventions we either still use today or which led to

01:25

modern inventions coal stoves, bifocals, coffee machines

01:29

and urinary catheters to just name a few by the way we recommend not using all [Benjamin holding a urinary catheter]

01:34

those inventions at the same time daylight saving time, came up with it so

01:39

yeah he's the reason people start grumbling that it's suddenly dark

01:42

outside when they get off work the US government improved it was one of the

01:46

writers of the Constitution was a prominent statesman behind many of the

01:50

nation's founding principles and held more than a dozen offices including US

01:53

ambassador to France and Postmaster General of the colonies... Electricity made

01:58

the connection between electricity and lightning no one knew back then that the [Kite discussing Ben's inventions]

02:02

two were the same thing it's all very shocking but the list is so long that if

02:08

he kept rattling stuff off we'd be here all day which is no good because a

02:12

storm's a-brewin but here are just a few more he wrote the Poor Richard's

02:17

Almanack a hugely popular publication containing weather predictions proverbs

02:21

and wordplay, helped found universities hospitals and fire departments

02:25

campaigned for civil rights and still found time to perform his famous high

02:29

wire act over the Grand Canyon okay that one might have been somebody else [Benjamin on a tight rope over the Grand Canyon]

02:32

finally he wrote an autobiography, okay big deal so did Miley Cyrus yeah but

02:38

this auto biography is the most popular autobiography in the history of [Benjamin with trophy of most popular autobiography]

02:43

autobiographies it's the only pre 1800 bestseller that people still read

02:47

regularly today why because Ben's life was bonkers why

02:51

wouldn't you want to read all about a guy whose life reads like a Robert Louis

02:54

Stevenson adventure novel okay so let's do a brief summary of his all about me

02:59

book and then we'll dive in and analyze a part of it the autobiography of [Autobiography dives into pool]

03:03

Benjamin Franklin is divided into four parts - part one the Phantom Menace here

03:08

Franklin starts by explaining why he's writing his autobiography you know other

03:12

than because it's great fun to talk about yourself for hundreds of pages [Ben talking to himself in the mirror]

03:15

he gives us a brief history of Ben describing his early life in Boston

03:19

his love for reading and his job training as an apprentice to his brother

03:22

James who was a printer yeah not one of those printers one of these printers, Benny

03:28

boy loved the printing game but his brother's not so much so he ran away

03:31

from home at 16 made his way to Philadelphia and got a job working for a

03:35

printer there he bounced around from job to job eventually starting up his own [Hammer bangs nail into Pennsylvania gazette sign]

03:40

printing business where he prints the Pennsylvania Gazette not to be confused

03:44

with the Pennsylvania gazelle, which is one of the most graceful creatures in

03:47

the mid-atlantic United States anyway Franklin also talks about how he got

03:51

married to Deborah Reed a writer who marries a woman named Reed oh the irony

03:56

and about how he started up a club called the junto where folks got

03:59

together to debate philosophical and scientific ideas and you thought he

04:03

didn't know how to have fun part two the prisoner of azkaban - Ben talks about how

04:07

he created the library system and then launches into a discussion of morality

04:11

he basically says he's not a church-going gentleman but lives by a

04:14

strong set of virtues and principles which he lists

04:18

he's not into the whole religion thing but instead just prays by himself it

04:21

still gets the job done and you don't have to worry about falling asleep in a [Ben in church]

04:25

church pew so win-win part three Ben Franklin Winter Soldier fast forward

04:30

five years to when Franklin writes Poor Richard's Almanack which becomes super [Ben writing a novel]

04:34

popular like so popular you could reliably find it at Amy Hudson news on

04:38

your way through an airport well if there had been airports but yeah then he

04:42

gets into some of his major accomplishments like founding the first

04:45

American fire department, founding the University of Pennsylvania and helping

04:49

to create the first American public hospital which was pre-Obamacare so he [Doctor approaches man in hospital bed]

04:54

was able to avoid any controversy because the French and Indian War was on

04:58

the horizon Franklin talks about how he tried to unite the American colonies

05:01

which worked about as well as trying to get two people to agree on something in

05:05

a facebook thread the colonies decided to remain independent colonies

05:08

undeterred....Franklin threw himself into the war effort helping a general

05:14

acquire military supplies and building forts he's even made a colonel although

05:18

his chicken always did pale in comparison to the master then wraps up [Ben with a bucket of KFC chicken]

05:22

part three by talking about some of his scientific successes like the totally

05:25

minor electricity experiment part 4 too fast too furious

05:29

Franklin finishes his autobiography by talking about some tax related issues [Men preparing to fight with boxing gloves]

05:33

that arose between the Pennsylvania Assembly and governor Denny, and how Ben was

05:37

able to mediate the matter to arrive at an agreement that was suitable to

05:40

everyone well to everyone but governor Denny who subsequently got the boots [Governor Denny booted away]

05:44

from the colonists and that's how it ends... probably could have been a grand or big

05:48

finale but it's tough to be a critic when a books done as well as this one

05:51

has okay now let's dip our toe in the water and analyze one section of [Person tips toe into the water]

05:55

Franklin's famous work why do we care about the dude and what he had to say

05:59

about himself well keep in mind everywhere we look we

06:02

see some sign that a Ben was here he helped form our institution's advance [Ben was here written on a tree]

06:07

our sciences and forge our government when we refer to our founding fathers

06:11

he's one of those guys who comes immediately to mind, we wouldn't be who we

06:15

are as a nation without the industrious example set by fellows like Ben Franklin [Ben Frankling with a hard hat building a public library]

06:19

and then there's a matter of this being the most popular autobiography of all

06:23

time what makes it so good why are people still captivated by it hundreds

06:27

of years later are the chase scenes really

06:30

thrilling so yeah go ahead and read section eight from it is some time since

06:33

I received the above letters until and not to make apologies for them once

06:38

you're done come back trust me it's going to be electric......Alright, so we're [clock ticks forward rapidly]

06:47

here at the beginning of part two where Franklin is writing from Passy, France

06:51

located near the neighboring town of Gassy...

06:54

Ben received letters from a couple of his buddies urging him to keep writing about [Ben picks up letters from mail box]

06:57

his life it's a nice little stroke of his ego and it does the trick now check

07:02

out this pro move Franklin ends the first paragraph by saying I will

07:06

endeavor to recollect and write what I can if I live to get home it may there

07:10

be corrected and improved that middle phrase if I live to get home is just

07:14

kind of thrown in there casually but it creates the ultimate suspense right away [Ben playing poker]

07:19

he establishes how high the stakes are he's just writing some silly old book

07:23

about his life but he might not live to finish the tale, chilling.... From here he

07:28

launches into an explanation of how he established the Philadelphia public

07:31

library so maybe a little less thrilling than almost certain death lead-in, but he [Ben holding onto a kite]

07:36

knows how to grab yep okay now look at how he sets up this paragraph there was

07:40

not a good booksellers shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston

07:44

those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England and so

07:48

on just like any good story he starts by establishing the problem [Problem stamped on paragraph]

07:51

there are Pennsylvanians who would love to get their hands on some riveting

07:54

literature but unless they wanted to read their IKEA instructions over and

07:58

over again there isn't much of an option and then Franklin to the rescue he and [Man reading IKEA instructions]

08:02

his pals started by collecting and sharing their combined literary

08:05

resources among themselves and their work so well that he decided to expand

08:10

the idea boom! public library but unlike the best things in life it wasn't free [Man returning lots of books to library]

08:15

he talked about how there was a one time sum upfront and then annual

08:18

contributions which of course they needed to import new books and run their

08:22

little library and then he describes the snowball effect you can really see [Snowball rolling down a hill]

08:26

Franklin's writing shine here in the space of half paragraph he goes from one

08:31

little library to a library phenomenon the institution was imitated by other

08:36

towns and in other provinces the libraries were augmented by donations

08:41

reading became fashionable and in a few years were observed by strangers to be

08:45

better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally

08:49

are in other countries the fact that he covers this meteoric rise in the

08:53

popularity of libraries in such a short span of page space really makes me feel

08:57

like you're well on a roller coaster a roller coaster without a long line [Man and woman in line for a rollercoaster]

09:01

maybe but a roller coaster nonetheless.. We can almost see these libraries

09:05

springing up like whack-a-mole people becoming well-read and brilliant at

09:09

breakneck speed brains becoming so full they're ready to burst and so Franklin [Man reading and he explodes]

09:14

takes a pretty dry topic libraries and turns it into a thrill ride not an easy

09:19

task in the seventh paragraph Franklin gives us a little insight into how he

09:23

went from being fairly uneducated to the great brainiac mind he turned out to be [Ben wearing a graduation cap]

09:27

although he puts it a little more modestly this library afforded me the

09:31

means of improvement by constant study for which I set apart an hour to each

09:36

day and thus prepared in some degree the loss of learned education my father once

09:40

intended for me throughout the book we can see examples of this technique where

09:44

Franklin gives us multiple bits of information in a single though... for one we

09:48

get that he suddenly had this little place filled with knowledge where he [Ben reading in the dark]

09:51

could wile away the hours reading and learning, no wonder the guy needed bifocals

09:55

but he also tells us a little about his childhood and his relationship with his

09:59

father he never got a good education growing up but his father intended one

10:03

for him so now we're picturing this great dad who wants the best for her son

10:07

but isn't able to provide it that's a lot of info packed into just one

10:10

sentence and check out how much he hops around from one topic to the next not in [Ben hopping from topic to topic]

10:14

a disjointed way but just enough to keep it interesting like if he went down for

10:18

50 pages about how great his library was we might be ready to start a book [Man throws book onto fire]

10:22

burning club by the end of it but he jumps from description to the library to

10:26

some light-hearted and humorous lines about his relationship with his wife and

10:29

then in the next paragraph to his religious beliefs he segways nicely from

10:33

one to the next and doesn't try to bore his audience by being overly descriptive

10:36

or trying to impress people with his awesome vocabulary there might be a few [Franklin reading a thesaurus]

10:40

$5 words in there but they weren't $5 words in Franklin's time yeah this is

10:44

kind of how people used to talk even when texting all right time for you to

10:48

look over one more section and do a little analyzing yourself check out

10:51

section nine - plan for attaining moral perfection this guy like to set the bar

10:56

low didn't he? read from the beginning of the section down to I should probably be

11:00

proud of my humility as you read ask yourself some of these questions...when

11:04

and why does Franklin break from a normal paragraph format? what does this

11:08

accomplish? how does Franklin make his own spiritual

11:11

or moral journey relatable to his readers? do you get a sense Franklin is

11:15

just relaying his own struggles or trying to impart his wisdom to his

11:18

readers? like is he saying he's got it all figured out and you better hop on

11:21

the bandwagon to virtue town how does Franklin make use of italics?

11:24

what does he achieve by emphasizing certain words and phrases? and just in

11:29

general what does he do well how does he hook his readers what message is he

11:33

trying to convey when's the sequel coming out? all right read and enjoy [Question of Ben's autobiography section]

11:37

while you're doing that I'll be working on my own autobiography - Gone with

11:41

the wind shoot that one's already taken back to

11:44

the drawing board [Gone with the wind book with kite on the cover]