Rhetorical Strategies Of Benjamin Franklin And Fredrick Douglass

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This paper will analyze the similarities and differences between the rhetorical strategies of Benjamin Franklin and Fredrick Douglass. Franklin and Douglass both are similar because they criticize the malpractice of religion in their time and preach the benefits of self-education. Franklin’s and Douglass’ writings are different because Franklin seeks to change individuals’ mindsets, while Douglass wants to change the mindset of America’s white, slave-owning class. Franklin skips over his mistakes to present himself as a perfect role model, while Douglass receives empathy from his readers because he is open and straightforward about his life’s story. In this essay, two similarities and two differences between the rhetoric of each writer will …show more content…
Both opine that religion as it is practiced in their societies creates unnecessary and unjust societal divisions. Franklin’s primary criticism of organized religion is the establishment of meaningless rituals as core tenets of a denomination’s faith. To criticize the extraneous aspects of organized religion, Franklin presents principles key to his personal theology. The religious concepts espoused by Franklin in his autobiography are straightforward. He believed in an omnipotent deity who governed the world, with the power to reward virtue and punish crime in the afterlife. Franklin states that he found these core beliefs “mix’d with other articles” which do not “confirm morality” and “serv’d principally to divide us”. Franklin writes this to teach Americans how extraneous “articles” divide into denominations rather than unite under a common god. Franklin goes on to establish his version of the Ten Commandments, a list of his ideal thirteen virtues, free from what he thinks are the useless traditions of religion. When writing about these virtues, Franklin remarks that he “purposely avoided” including “the distinguishing tenets of any particular sect” because he believed that his religiously-inspired virtues were “serviceable to people in all religions”. This is Franklin’s mechanism of implicitly criticizing organized religion by reorienting the focus of …show more content…
However, they each approach this objective in a drastically different manner. Franklin writes to influence readers on an individual level. He does this by persuading readers to model their lives after his own to attain pecuniary benefits and an exemplary education. Douglass attempts to effect change in society by highlighting the injustices of slavery through his rhetoric. He writes to effect change in all of man, rather than change in a single man. Franklin’s focus on the individual reader is apparent from the opening of his autobiography. His first two words are “Dear Son”. Franklin is not addressing his literal son. It would not be in fitting with his egotistical personality that Franklin would put so much effort in for no public commendation. Rather, Franklin is addressing each reader as his son, as he hopes his work has an influence like that of a father’s. Throughout his autobiography, Franklin presents himself as the imitable model for success. This is most apparent when he describes the publishing of his famous almanac. Franklin considers this to be “a vehicle for conveying instruction among the common people” Through his writings, he is trying to pass down his values and beliefs to his American readers, just like a father would to his son. Franklin writes his life story and focuses explicitly on himself as a role model for material success. Douglass does write about himself and his story, but

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