Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Isaacson's biography of Ben Franklin is long and detailed but it is well worth the time invested. Franklin is possibly the most original and unique American character ever in our near 230 year history. The list of his roles to the country and personal achievements are enough to inspire patriot or royalist alike.
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He attained wealth as a printer. He was appointed colonial postmaster. He is credited with unlocking many of the mysteries of electricity and coining the terminology positive and negative, battery, neutral, conductor and others. He invented the lightning rod. He formed the colonies first organized militia. He helped to found the University of Pennsylvania. He invented the Franklin stove. He was a representative to the first and second Continental Congress and a signatory of the Declaration of Independence (which he helped to edit). His role as minister to Britain and France made him a reknown statesmen in Europe.

In addition, he was vain and opinionated. He was so dispassionate about his common law wife of 44 years, he chose not to return to see her on her deathbed after 10 years abroad in Europe. He was estranged from his illegitimate son when each picked opposing sides in the War of Independence from England. He was a shameless flirt with young women and showed more concern and care for acquaintances and friends than his immediate family.

For all his traits good or bad, he was an ambitious, hard working, self-made renaissance man, who was loyal to King and England until the British proved tyrannical. His unflagging patriotism, work ethic that kept him actively involved in world affairs until well into his 80's, inventive mind, sharp wit and brilliant mind make him possibly the most important American. His own penned life story is the world's most printed autobiography.

The review of this Book prepared by David Fletcher

Born in 1706, apprenticed as a printer to his older brother James at age 12, Benjamin Franklin was already publishing pseudonymous satires by the age of 16. He lived a long life for his time, invented many useful tools as well as proved the connection between electricity and lightning, was the country's national postmaster as well as the publisher of the first novel to appear in the colonies, served his homeland as a diplomat to England and France, and accomplished a bewildering number of other things. He also had mostly poor or at best cool relations with his own family, carried on oral and epistolary flirtations with a number of younger women, and changed his mind about a number of significant issues (mostly for the better). A chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time magazine, Isaacson's 2003 biography of Franklin is balanced and tremendously readable, but somewhat facile; the reader doesn't really get to know the man under the myths, though he or she will learn an awful lot about this complicated Founding Father's activities and relationships.
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

In Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson gives an honest look at all aspects of the founding fathers who took pride in being know as a printer. Franklin's life is traced from his family's beginnings in England and move to the colonies through his steps up the social ladder and his travels as a politician to his death at the age of 84. Franklin is shown as a philopher, inventer, politician, and trouble-maker. His fights to hold the British Empire together and then those for America's freedom (as well as those against slavery) are told in such a way that one can almost forgive his playboy approach to women. Franklin's attitude towards women proves to be most complex as is his caracter.
The review of this Book prepared by Kate Bennett

Chapter Analysis of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

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Plot & Themes

job/profession:    -   politician    -   scientist/inventor Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes Politician story?    -   Politician trying to reform Period of greatest activity?    -   1600-1899

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Male Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   American


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK    -   France Century:    -   18th century

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   like laughing Pictures/Illustrations?    -   A lot in color 11-15 How much of bio focuses on most famous period of life?    -   51%-75% of book

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