“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”-Benjamin Franklin. The non-fiction novel, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson, is one of New York Times Bestseller. A few icons Isaacson has covered in his biographies are: Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
This biography specifically focuses on the 84-year life of Benjamín Franklin. Franklin went through so many roles throughout his entire life. He went from a writer, to a scientist, and all the way to the man who shaped the national identity of America. He was born in Boston on January 17th, 1706. Franklin started off in Boston, ran away to Philadelphia, moved to London and then, came back to Philadelphia again and bought the Pennsylvania Gazette.
His professional life started off by writing anonymous stories on political, humorous and social topics. Franklin married Deborah Read in 1730, who supported him throughout every obstacle of his life. His travels included new interactions with people that eventually become his enemies, or great friends in the future years. Then, his area of focus shifted to the field of science. Such as his kite and lightning experiment conducted in 1752, which brought about a major part of our life; electricity.
Throughout the rest of his years Franklin took on political views and helped shape America. Walter Isaacson did an incredible job covering the life of Benjamin Franklin. The New York Times Book Review states, “A thoroughly researched, crisply written, convincingly argued chronicle.” If one was to give this book a rating it should be 5/5 stars. Every chapter grabs the reader’s attention within a few sentences. If one was to read this book, they would feel like their traveling alongside of Benjamin Franklin throughout his life. This book is everything that the cover suggests.
Walter Isaacson maintained skillful organization throughout his writing. He maintained the same writing style throughout the entire book, which is important for the purpose of not making the reader confused. In each chapter, Isaacson used the topic, location and a time frame. By establishing the specific setting, the reader is better able to contextualize the subject matter. For example, the name of a section in chapter 10 was The Stamp Act of 1765.
The section started off by stating, “…..March 1765 of his safe arrival in London……….Franklin was about to become embroiled in a controversy over the notorious Stamp Act, which would require a tax stamp on every newspaper, book, almanac, legal document, and deck of cards.’ (page 222 paragraph 1).
The location and date help a reader to understand the upcoming information in the chapter. Isaacson included every little aspect of Franklin’s life. The outline of the book is a chronological re-telling of Franklin’s life work. Perhaps the reader can better appreciate how Franklin emerged from a nobody, to a major player in the creation of the first democratic republic. While he told his story, Isaacson included some pieces from other references too.
By utilizing another source, the author supports his own argument. For example, in chapter seven section Catherine Ray states, “Claude-Anne Lopez, a former editor of the Franklin Papers project at Yale, has spent years researching his private life…analysis of the type of relationships…..” Isaacson used these types of sources to establish proof for some points that he made, regarding topics on relationships, political affairs and much more.
Isaacson mainly adds all the important characters that were part of Franklin’s life. The characters included were his family members, far away relatives, wife, children, illegitimate children, closest friends, and many women that he always kept in touch with. For example, Walter Isaacson included William Franklin. He was the illegitimate son that was raised by Benjamin Franklin and was later appointed royal governor of New Jersey.
The author did not include this to tarnish Franklin’s reputation, but he added it to build onto the credibility of his characters. It portrayed how Franklin accepted the mistakes he made in life and was not always perfect. Whenever there was a topic with Franklin’s interaction with other characters, Isaacson added a personal letter that Franklin had written to them. This gave a huge insider and an up-close look into his life.
For example, in chapter ten section Sally and Richard Bache it states, “…. I can only say that if he proves a good husband to her, and a good son to me, he shall find me as good a father as I can be.”(Page 236). This letter helped explain the relationship between Deborah and Franklin and his outlook towards the marriage of his daughter. Letters help to gain more information about any surrounding problems and the relationship in-between characters. This book would be very useful for AP students when they must write about someone or need a personal point of view on political or social topics.
This book includes references from so many other writers who have also written something about Franklin. Quotes were taken from Franklin’s personal autobiography and there were insiders to his letters and personal life. For example, in chapter 6 section Retirement it states, “Lost time is never found again.” (page 128 paragraph 2).
Quotes portray how a certain topic had a deep impact on a person. Honestly speaking, anyone one who was read this book would be shocked to find out that, many of our appliances that we use in our everyday lives came from Franklin’s inventions. Electricity being the most important and many other things that we also use. The theme that the author held throughout the entire book was very helpful because, all the events were put in chronological order.
The authors aim was to inform the reader about the life of Franklin, and he achieved that throughout his detailed writing. As the Washington Post Book World states, “The most readable full-length Franklin biography available.” Getting comments like these from high posts is a big thing. Isaacson also uses a very thoughtful idea of putting titles within sections of the chapter. As in the title of Chapter 13 is Courtier Paris, 1776-1778 and the name of the first section is The World’s Most Famous American.
This was a new idea that many biographies don’t often use. Every chapter was an attention grabber that either posed information about history or talked about the flirtatious relationships in Franklin’s life. Overall the book was a success because, the subject of the book was to inform the reader about the life of Fraklin, which was accomplished by Walter Isaacson.
The important thing to note about a book is if it follows a logical order or not. This book not only has a logical order but also a chronological one. It’s easily read because, of the smooth transitions from paragraph to paragraph and the sequence of topics being in logical order. The author organizes Franklin’s life in very detailed chapters. Each chapter specifically targets every aspect of his life. Isaacson did not exaggerate a topic or go straight to the point.
The entire book went deep into his life and touched on the topics very well. While reading, one would feel the same emotions as Franklin would be feeling. One should definitely read this book because Walter Isaacson does a wonderful job in portraying the life of Benjamin Franklin from birth to death.