Inner Truth and Outer Term Paper

Pages: 9 (3475 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

If I am a believer and not an atheist, I might say that Woolman puts his human self at God's disposal. In essence he says, 'Whatever I am, I owe to You, I put myself at Your disposal. Your will be done.'

If I am an existentialist I might say, Franklin represents his self in his actions and his life. Self as defined by Webster is "the identity, character, or essential qualities of any person or thing," or "one's own person as distinct from all others." Woolman's essential quality is his Christlikeness and his concern with his inner life. Franklin keeps his inner life largely to himself. His essential identity is his "advancement" and "progress" in the outer world.

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Franklin cares for the opinions of others. He is proud that his father is "frequently visited by leading People," who consult him "for His Opinion in Affairs of the Town or of the Church." He notes that his father "always took care to start some ingenious or useful Topic for Discourse, which might tend to improve the Minds of his Children" (374). Franklin takes pride in his talents and skills, in his "Machines" and "Experiments." He loves to read and describes his "Thirst for Knowledge" (376), but compared to Woolman, Franklin's is more an outward than an inward journey. Franklin is proud to make "great Proficiency in the Business" and be "a useful Hand to my brother" (376). He is intent upon self-improvement: "I discover'd many (writing) faults and amended them;...this encourag'd me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English Writer, of which I was extreamly ambitious" (378). He is so ambitious in worldly ways that although he still thinks religion "a Duty," he cannot "afford the time to practise it" (378).

Both Franklin and Woolman are self taught, but, obsessed with self-improvement and learning Franklin's energy is outward, whereas Woolman's is inward.

Term Paper on Inner Truth and Outer Truth Assignment

When he adopts vegetarianism Franklin avows that he makes "the greater Progress (in his studies) from that great Clearness of Head and quicker Apprehension" (379). As a result of his reading he becomes "a real Doubter in many Points of our Religious Doctrine."

This is what his mind experiences. He doesn't tell us what his heart experiences like Woolman does. Franklin is very self-conscious about his mannerisms, describing his "Habit of expressing my self in Terms of modest Diffidence," never using words like "Certainly," or "undoubtedly," which adds to his powers of persuasion. He is interested in persuading "Men into Measures that I have been from time to time engag'd in promoting" (379). How he got interested in these measures he does not share with his readers. He has no heart interest or passion in these matters as far as we know. Franklin argues against being "dogmatical" (381) which is a word which is probably not in Woolman's vocabulary as he expresses his heart in pure sincerity. Apparently Franklin's brother treated him harshly, but we learn of it only in a footnote: "I fancy his harsh and tyrannical Treatment of me, might be a means of impressing me with that Aversion to arbitrary Power that has stuck to me thro' my whole Life" (381). This is the sort of personal information that we hunger for and miss in Franklin's autobiography.

Franklin is conscious of how his self impresses itself upon others: "Others began to consider me in an unfavourable Light, as a young Genius that had a Turn for Libelling and Satyr" (382). In his worldliness, he appreciates being thought a Genius and so reveals that he cares others think of him. When he takes "Advantage" of his brother's troubles and uses the occasion to escape to New York, he reckons it "one of the first Errata of my Life" (382). We perceive that he has some guilt over this, but is also resentful of the "Blows" of "Passion" his brother gives him. He doesn't reveal how these beatings really make him feel. He merely says: "Perhaps I was too saucy and provoking" (382).

Franklin shapes his words to fit the audience, rather than to reveal heartfelt feeling. This portion of his autobiography, being addressed to his son, is most likely meant to provide a model and supply inducement toward self-improvement. As DH Lawrence pointed out, Franklin did have the "qualities of a great man," and though it hardly seems fair to reproach him for being "never more than a great citizen (367), it is intriguing to speculate as to what Franklin might have been if his journey had included a more inward path.

When we read about the lives of those who write their own biographies it is best to keep in mind how our own version of our personal story might differ from that of an objective observer. Truth is always relative and each individual reader must judge for himself how the autobiographical writings reach out to them. When a man reveals himself with as much vulnerability and openness as Woolman does, the trust and empathy of the reader tends to flow more freely than when inner feelings are withheld as they are in Franklin's autobiography. Franklin becomes a well-known influential figure on the world scene, yet he leaves little of his heartfelt sentiment or inner self for his posterity to ponder. Woolman, on the other hand, reveals his pain and anguish and is much more vivid in our perceptions. Woolman shows us his soul. Franklin shows us only a partial hint of his mind. We gain no trustworthy knowledge of his soul. Perhaps that's what DH Lawrence meant in his famous comment. A self is more than merely mind. The elements of individuality include the depths of heart and soul as well as mind.

An imagined exchange of correspondence between Abigail and John Adams reveals both inner and outer Truth to the degree permitted by the style of their times as evidenced in the particular hearts and minds they brought with them into their presence in this world:

Washington, D.C. August 1794

My Dear Ulysses, write in haste, the good Captain Reynolds holds the sailing of the Emily June for my missile of heavy import. I have news today that Charles is ill with fever in Philadelphia. The letter revealing his sad condition was dated over three weeks ago and reached me only today, so pray God he is restored to health by this. There is much in the way of dangerous Sickness in that city of late. I fear it is the Heate and Pestilence of too great a gathering of God's creatures in one place. How I longe for the simpler times of our residence in Quincy. I fail not to supplicate Heaven for the restoration of our dear son to temporal happiness, though I cannot dispel the Gloom which hangs heavy on my heart with him ill at such a distance from his affectionate mother unable to lay her hand on his fevered brow and his dear father across the great gulfe unable to kneel at his bedside. Write to Charles that your words will cheer his spirit though they delay 3 months in arrival, he will know that your were with him in the fullness of your Thoughts in his time of trouble. I cheer my heart with hope of your Welfare and the Knowledge that your prayers fly with mine to our Heavenly Father for the revival of the Health of our dear son. If there be news as to when you again may be an Inhabitant of this soil now Free and Independent from the Realm wherein you reside in such devotion to our new Republic while I remain in this cruel State of Seperation as time, I pray you please purvey it.

Time is fleeting faste. The edifice of our future residence grows apace. The building of the Federal City creates great bustle on the shores of the Potomac and I await a finished fireside where I may sit at Peace with you the Seconde in Command of this new Nation. I pray that you are now more warmly received than upon your last mission when I was privileged to accompany the Hero who ever lies nearest my Hearte.

Adieu, my friend. The Captain furls his sails. Chesapeake and beyond acrosse the Far Atlantic waters he carries by misery to you. Pray that Providence will bless our poore son.

Your ever affectionate and less than patient Penelope

London, November 1794

Dearest Penelope, write to you in hope and certainty that our Son is now recovered beyond all danger. I have had no letters but yours and those from personages in Philadelphis whiche do not deign to mention Charles. I write today, holding your newly arrived packet delivered to me this day by the hand of the Captain himself. We poor Mortals must have Patience and Trust to Omnicience. Do not despair, my dear. I do repeat a maxim that I recall writing more than once to Charles himself: "Great… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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