Benjamin Franklin, "The Way to Wealth"
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was born in Boston. Franklin—a Renaissance
man if there ever was one—was a printer, a newspaper columnist, an editor,
a publisher, a shopkeeper, a philosopher, a scientist, an inventor, a
Congressman, and a diplomat. He started writing Poor Richard's Almanack
in 1732 and kept publishing editions for twenty-five years. His The
Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. (1793), which you
can now find in print as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,
is one of the best, and most entertaining, American autobiographies ever
written. Although drawn in some ways to England, Franklin became a leader
of the American Revolution and contributed much to the drafting of the
Declaration of Independence. His popularity as a diplomat in France helped
in that nation's recognition of the U.S. as a sovereign state, and Franklin
helped negotiate the peace with the British. Benjamin Franklin also had
a major role in the forming and drafting of the U.S. Constitution. "The
Way to Wealth" was first published in 1757 in the last edition of
Poor Richard's Almanack.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
- What does the phrase solid pudding mean?
- How does the author contrast the people on the one hand and critics
on the other?
- Explain the view of leisure time this piece presents.
- Where does Poor Richard say he gets much of his material?
- What does Poor Richard decide about getting a new coat?
- Who is the speaker in paragraphs four through seventeen? How do
the people listening react when he's done?
- Summarize the key elements of the "way to wealth" presented
in this piece.
STRATEGY AND STYLE
- In paragraph thirteen, what distinction is made between the poor
and the indigent? Discuss how word choice, specifically, the
nuances of two synonyms, helps the author make a point about materialism.
- Examine the syntax of the saying, the second vice is lying,
the first is running in debt. How effective do you find this reversal
of order in getting the point across about the relationship between
these two things? What would be lost if the saying were put in the "normal"
- Review your answer to Content question f.) above. What effect does
employing a narrator have on the tone of this piece? How would the tone
change if Poor Richard addressed the audience directly?
- Discuss this piece as a process analysis. What is the process being
discussed and how does the author analyze it step by step?
- Characterize the humor in this reading. Where do the laughs come
from? What devices does the author employ to make the piece funny?
ENGAGING THE TEXT
- How important is it to you to be wealthy? How do you define the
term wealthy? Did any of these ideas occur to you during your
- What is your idea of the "American dream"? How committed
are you to pursuing it? How can you relate your feelings to your reading
SUGGESTIONS FOR SUSTAINED WRITING
- Describe the introduction to this essay. Describe the conclusion.
How do the two work together to take us through the history of Poor
Richard's Almanack? What's the relationship of the speaker in the
body to Poor Richard? To Franklin?
- How well does Franklin's advice hold up today? Review the reading
to find some examples that seem timeless. Then, go through it again
and find some examples that seem out of date. Which outweighs the other?
FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
Find a Fortune or Forbes list of the world's richest people,
and pick a person who intrigues you to study. Use your answer from Content
question g.) above as a checklist to see if the person you're researching
followed or departed from Franklin's formula for wealth.
You probably know that Franklin was an inventor. Want to find out more
about his inventions? This hyperlinked essay
outlines and details them.
"Benjamin Franklin: Glimpses of the Man" is a hyperlinked
the Franklin Institute Online that contains a portrait and a link to
a QuickTime movie about Franklin.
from ThinkQuest.org contains links to a Franklin biography that includes
hyperlinked chapters, an epilogue, and a chronology.
Here are ten Franklin portraits.
What can you tell about the man's life by studying these representations
of him? What common traits run through this collection?
How about some Franklin quotes? Click over to "The
Quotable Franklin," a hyperlinked collection arranged by keyword.
You'll also find a portrait and commentary there.
Here Franklin takes a look at the idea of daylight savings time
in an article
first published in 1784 in Journal de Paris.
Looking for some of Franklin's work in etext? This page
from EarlyAmerica.com has his Autobiography and some links.
contains some information about a forty-part animated PBS series about
the founders of the U.S. Whoopi Goldberg is slated to give voice to
Deborah Sampson, Ben Stiller will be Thomas Jefferson, and Walter Cronkite
will play Franklin.
Are you thinking about doing a research paper on Franklin? To put
his life and work into historical context, check out this page
of 18th Century historical resources. You'll find plenty
of places to visit online there.
Need a Benjamin Franklin impersonator (and who doesn't?), but don't
know where to turn? Click here!