English Class: American Literature

The Archetypal American

When considering the question “Is there anyone you think is more of the archetypal American than Franklin?” one would have to start by defining what an American is. This is my personal opinion of what an ideal American would be. An American should be honest and tell the truth in all situations. From work to home an American ought to be truthful and not deceive others. This ties into an American having a moral conduct. That archetypal American should maintain a decent, principled, and upright life. I would also put integrity as a characteristic of an American. Integrity is doing what’s right even when no one is watching. Integrity also means that one will not let others pressure them into doing something wrong. An American ought to be brave. That doesn’t mean that an American should do adventures or reckless deeds. It means that one is courageous enough to do what’s right, brave enough to be kind, and strong enough to stand in the face of danger. “Live and let live” would describe Americans’ view of letting others live as they please and of their desire to be left alone. The archetypal American would be hard working and industrious, not afraid to get dirty doing an honest day’s work. An American’s thrift along with being self made and able to work at many different things are also part of that ideal American. One could also describe Americans as down to earth and practical, not putting on airs. Lastly I would say that an American would be quite independent.

I think that Benjamin Franklin is not the archetypal American. I think that the hard working man who plowed his land, built his cabin, and raised his family in the fear of God is the archetypal American. The mother who cared for her children and taught them from the Bible, tended the garden, and cleaned the house is the archetypal American. The archetypal Americans lived on their own land in the country, grew their own food, and made many of their necessities. They sat on their porch chatting with family and friends. They had a hard life, but it was a blessed and simple one. They had time for the important things in life, God and the Bible, family, friends, and helping others. These Americans were unknown, they were invisible, but they made up the American ideal, the American dream.

Benjamin Franklin does have some of the characteristics of what I think is the archetypal American but he has other characteristics that should not be considered American. For example, his son William was born out of wedlock to an unknown woman. At certain points in his life he was industrious, thrifty, inventive, and self made. But later in his life he seems to have detached himself from the simple, hard working life of an American. Also, his deism and ties to Freemasonry is not something that Americans should emulate. Sadly, the ideas of the enlightenment, exulting man’s achievement and praising man’s reason above God’s revelation seemed to define Benjamin Franklin. I would hope that the archetypal American would put God above his own reason. In the end, whatever reason and abilities he has, the archetypal American realizes that they are from God. Franklin did encapsulate some of the attributes of what it means to be an American, but I would hope that the other characteristics that he had would not describe the archetypal American.

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