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Ben Franklin Autobiography Compared to Henry David Throeau

Essay by   •  December 9, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  590 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,780 Views

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Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau were two extremely important thinkers in American history. Their knowledge and what they contributed to society during their lives is still relevant today. Although both were important figures their ideals were, for the most part, quite different. The first, and most apparent, difference between the two is the fact that Franklin was an Enlightenment thinker and Thoreau a Romantic. This difference in their mindsets gives birth to others that were depicted in their works "Walden" by Thoreau and Franklin's Autobiography.

One major difference between the two men was their reasoning behind the importance of work. Franklin believed that work was crucial. Man needed to work as hard as he could in order to become successful. Work was a way for one to improve not only his life by attaining wealth, but also improve society. The self-made man was something that Franklin thought all men should aspire to be. One's social standing was also very significant to Franklin. He felt that to be truly successful it would need to be represented by one's social status.

To Thoreau a pastoral way of life was important. He liked things simple and wanted to avoid the complications of a modern world, which is why in his text "Walden" he talks about his time spent in a cabin in the woods; away from civilization. To Thoreau progression was a dirty word if it meant leading people away from nature. He thought that only enough work should be done in order to sustain life and that one had to leave time to connect with nature, which is what he did in "Walden".

The notion that simply surviving was good enough would have been an abomination to Benjamin Franklin. That would have been seen as settling, or doing nothing to better one's life. There is no way to become wealthy if all you strive for is the bare minimum. Despite the fact that Franklin was extremely intelligent and believed in education he saw amassing wealth and material items as a measure of success. When talking about work Franklin gives this advice to his audience: "Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions." He viewed prosperity not as happiness but as wealth and popularity, which Thoreau completely disagreed with. Thoreau saw prosperity not as a measure of popularity but as having a handle on who you are and an understanding of the world around you. He focused on the importance of spiritual growth and having a connecti...

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