The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Second Close Read Questions Directions

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Second Close Read Questions

Directions: Answer the following questions from the text. Make sure to give textual evidence when answering and write answers in complete sentences.

  1. Why did Ben Franklin describe himself as having a “bookish inclination”? Ben loved to read. He would borrow books from an apprentice to a bookseller, read it that night, and return it, clean, early the next morning. Then he met a man at the printer’s office where he worked that had a library. This man, Mr. Matthew Adams, loaned Ben any books he chose to read.

  1. What did Ben’s father want him to learn to do to earn a living? How did he propose to accomplish this? Was Ben agreeable to this from the start? Why or why not? Ben’s father wanted him to be a printer like his older brother, James. He thought it would suit him because he liked books so much, and he also wanted to prevent him from going off to sea. The plan was to “bind” him to his brother as an indentured servant. He would work for James while learning the trade of printing, and when Ben turned 21, he would be on his own. Ben had to be persuaded to follow this path because he still longed to go to sea.

  1. What was Ben’s brother’s reaction to Ben’s early interest in writing poetry? Ben’s brother, James, encouraged him to write ballads and poetry because he thought it might “turn to account”; he thought he would have some success at it.

  1. Why did the first poem/ballad that Ben wrote have great success? The first ballad Ben wrote, The Lighthouse Tragedy, was based on an event that had recently happened. People recognized it and it spoke of the deaths of a father and his two daughters, so people were very interested in it. It sold wonderfully.

  1. What made Ben abandon his poetry writing and how did it affect his future? Ben’s father discouraged him from continuing to write poetry because he said poets were generally beggars – very poor. Ben says he “escaped” being a poet, so he must have been glad in later years that he did not pursue poetry writing. Instead he turned to prose, which he said was a “principal means of his advancement.”

  1. What “very bad habit” did Ben Franklin fall into with John Collins which he described as “confuting one another, which disputatious turn…”? Ben was fond of arguing and having disputes with John Collins. He said this was a bad habit because it makes people disagreeable in company and spoils conversation. Arguing produces enemies unnecessarily.

  1. Did Ben Franklin always believe in the side for which he argued? How do you know? Ben often took the “contrary” side – the side he was really against – just for the sake of arguing. He did this with John Collins concerning the question of educating females.

  2. How did the term “antagonist” fit Ben’s description of Collins? What would that make Ben Franklin? In literature, the protagonist is the main character (the “good” guy) and the antagonist is the one who goes against the protagonist. Ben and Collins liked to argue, and naturally Ben would refer to himself as the “good” guy, making Collins his antagonist.

  1. What observation by Ben’s father about his writing made him want and work to improve his writing skills? Ben and Collins were not able to see one another for some time, so they wrote letters back and forth about the issue of female education, but they were unable to settle the matter. Ben’s father read the arguments and observed that although Ben had the correct spelling and grammar; Collins had more elegance of expression and was clearer in his arguments (perspicuity). Ben saw what his father meant, and he determined to get better at his writing.

  1. Summarize the process Ben employed to improve his writing. Ben went to great lengths to improve his writing. He would read the Spectator stories, and would rewrite them by paraphrasing each sentence. After a few days, he would go back to his writing and try to rewrite the stories from what he had written the first time. He would then compare the stories back to the original and correct his mistakes. He also tried to increase his vocabulary by changing prose into poetry because poems tell stories in fewer words, so the word choice must be precise. After some days away from the story, he would try turning his own poetry back into a prose story to see if he came back with the right ideas.

  1. What was the meaning of and reason for Ben wanting to “board” himself? Ben had read a book about eating a vegetarian diet and how that was supposed to be better for your health – he was definitely ahead of his time. He, his brother and other workers would normally eat at a woman’s house who would feed the apprentices. Since Ben did not usually eat the food that his brother was paying for, he convinced his brother to give him directly just half of what he was paying for the “board”. Ben then fed himself small meals and was able to keep about half of the money (he bought books with the remainder of the money). This also gave him more time to study and read because he did not have to leave the printing house to go eat.

  1. What was Ben ashamed of from his time in school and what did he do about it? Ben had failed in “figures” or math two times while in school, and he was ashamed of his ignorance. He decided to teach himself through a book, Cocker’s Book of Arithmetic. He learned it with ease.

  1. What can you infer about the type of person Ben Franklin was because of his reactions to failure? When Ben encountered failure, such as in learning math or choosing the wrong words when writing and expressing himself he did everything he could until he got it right. He went through some lengthy processes to better himself. This shows how determined he was and how he persevered. He did not take the easy way out.

  1. As Ben continued his independent studies and read works of the Greek philosopher, Socrates, what conclusions did he come to about the best ways to influence people? Ben learned that it is better to be a humble inquirer and doubter rather than arguing with people. When people act like they know it all, saying words like certainly and undoubtedly, others do not think they will listen to another opinion. However, when people aren’t as absolute, saying things like I should think it so or I imagine it to be, they appear more likeable and pleasing and people are more inclined to agree with them rather than the former type of person.

  1. What language arts standard that we study did Ben address when he talked about how to inform, please and persuade? Ben refers to the chief ends of conversation as being to inform or to be informed, to please, or to persuade. These are the main author’s purposes that we study in school. They are the reasons that we write, talk or communicate with others. Ben was a good communicator and throughout his lifetime influenced many people to his way of thinking.

  1. In Ben’s opinion, what is the best way to NOT get the information you desire from others? On the other hand, how can one be pleasing to his hearers? If you remain firmly fix’d in your present opinions, acting like you already know everything, people are less likely to tell you anything. However, if you do not provoke contradiction by arguing and gathering attention to yourself, you will be more pleasing to modest, sensible men.

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