The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin


Benjamin Franklin

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Themes

Themes and Colors
Industriousness Theme Icon
Vanity and Humility Theme Icon
Error and Correction Theme Icon
Self-Improvement and Self-Education Theme Icon
Public Projects, Communality, and Civic Duty Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


Industry, for Benjamin Franklin, is the judicious application of one’s full mental and physical resources to any productive endeavor. It is, as he terms it, “a means of obtaining Wealth and Distinction” as well as a way to gratify one’s vanity. Franklin’s industry is evident in his daily schedule, which entails waking up at 5:00 A.M., performing eight hours of daily labor, and allotting leisure time to business (settling accounts), reading, and housework. Franklin…

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Vanity and Humility

In his Autobiography, Franklin challenges the traditional idea that vanity is a vice. As he says, “Most People dislike Vanity in others whatever Share they have of it themselves, but I give it fair Quarter wherever I meet with it…” Vanity is something “productive of Good to the Possesor & to others that are within his Sphere of Action” for Franklin, so, accordingly, he lists it as something he hopes to gratify by writing…

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Error and Correction

In his attempts to reach moral and personal perfection, Benjamin Franklin of course makes many errors. Franklin prefers to use the printer’s term for mistakes in his proofs (Errata or an Erratum) for several of the major mistakes he considers himself to have made in his life. One of the justifications for this choice in terms may be that, like printing proofs, he saw the major mistakes of his life as events that could…

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Self-Improvement and Self-Education

One of the main purposes Benjamin Franklin suggests for the writing of his Autobiography is to set out the system and means by which he elevated himself from his “lowly station” as the youngest son in a family of seventeen and a printer’s apprentice to his ultimate status as one of the main founding fathers of a nation. First, he hopes to tell the story of his own life so that others might learn by…

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Public Projects, Communality, and Civic Duty

Benjamin Franklin is remembered in the United States as one the country’s founding fathers for good reason. Among his many civic achievements described in the Autobiography are the founding of Philadelphia's (and the country’s) first public lending library, the first company of firemen, a graduated property tax, Philadelphia’s first paved roads, the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania’s first public hospital, public lighting, and one of the first plans for a union of the 13 colonies in…

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