The American Narrative: Yesterday and Today

American Narrative Literature

The originality of the literary situation in America at the time of Franklin’s creative work was caused by transitional nature of the era and the emergence of an independent United States government. The American Narrative literature has always been largely imitative. It displayed all historical events. The process of national consciousness formation and, consequently, an independent artistic thinking began at the time of Franklin’s creative work. Franklin is the brightest representative of the new American literature, which influenced the further formation of the nation’s identity and contemporary literary and cultural trends.

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The leading place in the days of Franklin belongs to the philosophical and political writings. The most significant work of Benjamin Franklin is Poor Richard’s Almanac. The text was built in the form of a letter to his son William, but it is clearly aimed at a broader audience. Poor Richard is the man who “composed himself” (Franklin and Norman, 17)and did not accept the fate and the well-being due to hard work. He has achieved great vital activity, became the first American literary hero. It is important to underline Franklin’s democracy expressed in the text. He strongly opposed the farmer to an aristocrat and used to tell that the farmer on his feet is better than a gentleman on his knees (Franklin and Norman, 18). He expressed the interests of the middle bourgeoisie, and therefore strongly objected the establishment of any kind of privilege for large owners during the discussion of the draft constitution. The educational function of the book is twofold. Telling about his life, Franklin made an example for others to follow the fate of the real man. In agreement with the previous tradition, the text of the book is focused on the practice of life. On the other hand, the author proposed his readers a scheme of the moral perfection of the individual and showed specific ways of its implementation  to life. The American thinker shared the belief of the Enlightenment philosophers that favorable conditions will certainly manifest all the positive qualities of human nature.

In the concrete historical situation of the end of the 18th century in America, Franklin, like many other his countrymen, considered a material well-being one of the main favorable conditions of life. However, the most important quality according to Franklin remained the ‘ability to work hard,’ with which people could achieve wealth and fame. Almost all the other virtues were subject to diligence and should have a practical use: thrift, diligence, maintenance of order and commitment help to achieve success in business, while moderation and refraining maintain physical health. Only the justice, sincerity and humility can be attributed to abstract moral categories. This utilitarianism is visible as another characteristic of the American Enlightenment, which was supposed to solve practical problems of building a new society.

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In the conditions of multicultural society at times of Franklin, the country represented a ‘melting pot’ (Zangwill, n.d). This metaphor was first used in the early twentieth century by Israel Zangwill. He wrote a play where he portrayed  America as the melting pot.  The author noted the America’s ability to ‘melt’ the representatives of all nations, races, classes to create the new society. Such American history caused a polysyllabic, multi-vector modern American narrative literature. Nowadays, it strongly rejects any pure integrity of the genres, friendly practices, and clean lines. I consider that this diversity and pluralistic character of the American narrative literature was born at the time of Franklin’s creative work.Today, even if we look at things that are considered to be ‘classic,’it is evident that they are by no means homogeneous, that there are embedded elements of the various currents, forms, and genres. In my opinion, in the current situation, this pluralism is much more pronounced because it became conscious that  deliberately is cultivated by writers. I think, this is the main cause of its qualitative difference from what it was before. Talking about rich modern narrative literature, all of these elements are certainly present in it and form a network of contemporary cultural pluralism, within which the narrative literature develops today. At the times of Franklin’s creative and political activity, the narrative literature challenged the formation of democratic principles and the concept of the American identity. Thus, the country of immigrants took  its social diversification as a basis and made its exclusive peculiarity in comparison with other countries. Today, Americans are united by common history and common principles. They found their reflection in the American narrative literature, which is evident even today. Thus, this kind of literature has a lot of genres and mixed forms. It is as multiform as the American nation.

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American thinkers of the Enlightenment highlighted the importance of the society, the individual and state identity. Their views changed the political system, established the outposts of modern American democracy and gave the impulse to the development of art and narrative literature in particular. So, theoretically,the American narrative literature of the 18th century substantiated the tasks of the bourgeois revolution. Thus, the American Enlightenment contributed to the development of the liberating ideas and historical progress. That is why, in my opinion, it is one of the most important periods in the development of the American narrative literature. Franklin’s contribution to modern American literature is sufficiently large. First of all, his easy, concise style had a significant impact on the formation of the literary language of modern times. Above all, in the images of Poor Richard the author reflected many of the qualities that were typical for his time. These images became the first step on the way of American literature to embody the national character that we see today.

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