Benjamin Franklin: An Archetype Of American Identity

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Benjamin Franklin: The Archetypal American Modern American identity revolves around self improvement. Americans seek to improve themselves in all areas of life, be it socially, financially, or physically. Americans accomplish these goals through education and observing the successes of others. Benjamin Franklin, a man who is frequently admired by fellow Americans, embodies many of these qualities and, as such, has become an archetype of success and of what it means to be American. Benjamin Franklin is an archetypal American because of his values of self-improvement, community-mindedness, and frugality. In his early life, Franklin begins to exhibit a trait that is now an integral part of American identity: a commitment to self-improvement.…show more content…
Franklin contributed some of his success in this area to his wife, whom he says is “as much dispos’d to industry and frugality as [himself]” (Franklin 37). Together, their table was “plain and simple”, their furniture “of the cheapest”, and Franklin’s breakfast was milk without tea, eaten out of a “twopenny earthen porringer” with a pewter spoon (Franklin 37). Franklin did not see value in upgrading his pewter spoon to silver or his cheap porringer to a china bowl. Franklin valued practicality and would rather avoid the enormous sum of “three-and-twenty shillings” for such things when the pewter spoon does the same job for a fraction of the price (Franklin 37). Franklin is frugal with his diet, as well. Franklin avoids overconsumption of alcohol because he knows that a loaf of bread is a better use of his money. Franklin realizes that bread is much more satisfying than a beer or “grain of . . . barley dissolved in . . . water” ever would be (Franklin 23). At age 16, Franklin took on a vegetable diet so that he could save half of what his brother gave him for board money (Franklin 6). Franklin values frugality so highly that he refers to as the way to wealth, freedom from debt, and “producing affluence and independence” (Franklin 38). Franklin goes as far as to “avoid all appearances to the contrary [of being frugal]”, by always dressing plainly when out in public and not being seen at expensive, “places of idle diversion” (Franklin 33). Franklin’s combined frugality and humble appearance worked in his favor, as he was seen as a “thriving young man” whom merchants would import stationery for and “others would supply . . . with books” (Franklin 33). This frugality of Franklin’s gave him social standing, success, and riches. Frugality is an American ideal due to the benefits one can reap from it, and Franklin is a great example of what it means to be
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