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ERIC Number: ED329974
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1990-Nov
Pages: 15
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Sifting through the Essential Fictions of Nonfiction: Contextualizing Ben Franklin.
Smart, Karl
One of the greatest myths or fictions of nonfiction is that it contains no fiction. Ben Franklin's flight from Boston to Philadelphia illustrates how changes occur in the retelling of the "facts" of a life. In his "Autobiography," Franklin writes that his friend, Collins, arranged for a ship's passage for Franklin by telling the ship's captain that Franklin "had got a naughty Girl with Child." During the nineteenth century biographers altered the story, making it more readable to the public at large. "Naughty Girl" became "girl of bad character"; pregnancy became "intrigue"; and responsibility for the story passes to Collins. By the end of the century, some writers chose to eliminate the passage altogether. For purposes of discussion, the 19th century may be divided into 4 periods. The early period (1800-1829) was affected primarily by the image Franklin himself created during his lifetime. Mid-century (1830-1859) finds additional scholarly work that give a more authentic picture of the man, but this is countered by additional fictional elements. An increasingly mythic image of Franklin as self-made man emerged in the Civil War and post-Civil War era (1860-1897). The late period (1880-1900) finds the image at its full mythic proportion. The survey of Franklin's image through nineteenth-century biography reflects how economic, intellectual, and social attitudes influence biographers to adapt a historical figure to the exigencies of their own era. Comparative analysis of a historical figure helps students understand the impact of point of view and audience on writing. (TD)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A