A Rhetorical Analysis of Franklin and Freud: Love in the "Autobiography" by Ada Van Gastel

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In my Rhetorical analysis of Franklin and Freud: Love in the “Autobiography” by Ada Van Gastel I speak about Van Gastels techniques and how he uncovers many things in Autobiography by using Freud’s theories from Civilization and its Discontents. I analyzed how Van Gastel took the concept of sublimation and applied it to many different parts of Franklins story. Van Gastel uses many differently literary elements to make his point about sublimation and tie the two books together. Aimed at a higher level audience at first this essay was a little tough to analyze but after reading it through a few more times it became so much more clear and easy to understand.

Van Gastel speaks about Franklin’s emotive language and how that portrays itself in Freud’s eyes. In my essay I take Van Gastels strategies to bring Freud and Franklin together and I expose in what ways they work well or don’t work at all. Rhetorical Analysis Franklin and Freud: Love in the “Autobiography” is a piece by Ada Van Gastel which strives to look deeper under the surface of Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, by using the book Civilizations and its Discontents by Sigmund Freud.

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Although these two books are not similar what so ever Van Gastel uses Freud’s theories from Civilizations and its Discontents to make sense of a few different aspects of Franklins book. In the opening Van Gastel quotes Benjamin Vaughan saying that Autobiography is “ a sort of key to life” which he uses as a strategy to ploy people into being interested in the essay (168).

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Between Franklin being called and exemplary figure yet also being shown as a man with no true emotion Van Gastel finds a way to use Freud’s ideas to summarize what Franklin is trying to say in Autobiography. In terms of organization Van Gastel would give an idea from one of the books, which would proceed with an excerpt from the book. For a reader who had only read one of the books or neither of them this is good technique to help someone better understand the essay. It also enforces the arguments, which Van Gastel makes because he always has examples from the text to prove his point. For most of the essay a part of Franklins book will be used and then Van Gastel will use a Freudian theory to explain what that means.

Unfortunately from page 171 to 176 a few parts from Autobiography are summarized, giving us insight into the book but Freud is barely mentioned. Sublimation is thrown in a few times but other then that a good chunk of this essay is just a summary of Autobiography. Van Gastel uses a broad variety of vocabulary in his essay, along with varied sentence structured and many in text cites from both books. All of these things make this essay a little more complex and geared at a higher-level audience. Van Gastels writing is very clearly aimed at a more scholarly audience; someone in high school would have a much more difficult time reading this then a college student would. Van Gastel feels very strongly about the appearance of Freud’s concept of sublimation showing itself multiple times within Autobiography. Once reading the whole paper it is very clear that sublimation plays a huge role in Franklins book.

Van Gastel mentions multiple times different places in the book where Franklins actions are seen as sublimation, and in turn no emotional language is used towards his wife or to any other girls in the story. Although sublimation is mentioned multiple times throughout the essay there is no definition given for the word. This probably has to do with the advanced target audience of the essay but it would have been helpful for most readers if there were some mention of a definition. Also a definition would be helpful to Van Gastel for purposes of clarity in his essay. In Franklin and Freud: Love in the “Autobiography Van Gastel begins to mention Franklins lovers. He then asks “Who are these lovers?” (171). For someone who has not read Franklins book the word “lover” is very enticing. Van Gastel does a good job of setting up scenarios where the reader wants to continue on with his essay due to a cliffhanger. In turn we find out that these “lovers” are actually lovers of reading.

While Franklin refuses to use endearing words to speak of his wife it is brought to our attention that he uses the word lover to describe multiple men. By exposing the emotional language used by Franklin on men rather then women Van Gastel finds a great way to tie sublimation into his essay. With one sentence about lovers Van Gastel opened the doorway to many anecdotes from Autobiography and we can now look at them in a different light and figure out what they truly mean. Van Gastel bases a lot of this essay on sublimation and how it relates to Franklins lovers of reading. Unfortunately no other approach or thought is taken when coming to this topic. Van Gastel says that when Franklin calls his male friends lovers of reading or when he puts in very hard work over seas in London as a printer it is all sublimation. He is trying to take all of his love that he supposedly has for his wife and turn it in to something more worthwhile then just lust or sex.

Van Gastel takes no other theories or thought into consideration as to why Franklin is emotionless toward his wife to be or why he works so hard. The whole essay is based off of sublimation and its very limiting as far as which parts of Autobiographies Van Gastel can use and what he can say about each part. Later in the essay Van Gastel discusses the Public Library and again brings up his wife Deborah and his family. The Public Library improved the general conversations of Americans (175) and is a big part of American history. To say that this was created all because he was trying to use his drive to give guidance to others is a very narrow minded statement.

What Van Gastel does well regarding the public library is give a brief history of how Franklin came up with the idea for the Public Library. Van Gastel quotes Franklin and says “He goes back in history to relate how, when he had first entered Philadelphia as a young boy, there was not a good book shop anywhere south of Boston and those who Lov’d reading: were obliged to order books from England – all of which serves as preparation for his elaborate account of the public library (175). He shows where it all began for Franklin and it helps the readers to take a concept as big as the public library and make it much easier for people to understand. In the last paragraph Van Gastel brings his arguments full circle and makes the full paragraph about Franklin’s emotive language and how he was so impersonal towards his wife. It talks about how all these personal words are used for such impersonal people rather then being used on Franklin’s wife to be, Deborah, and how he channels all of his feelings into public affairs. This all comes back to the final sentence where obviously sublimation is mentioned to sum everything up.

Over all Van Gastel gets his point across, and helps us to see more then what meets the eye about Autobiography. Although a lot of this essay was summaries of the books rather then smaller details that could have helped more with the sublimation argument, it was made very clear that Franklin has a lot going on when it comes to his emotions and how he chooses to express himself to different people. Van Gastel ties Civilization and its Discontents in with Autobiography by the use of Sublimation in the last sentence to have the readers fully understand what his essay was about and what its purpose was.

Works Cited Page

  1. Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton, 1962. Print.
  2. Van Gastel, Ada. Franklin and Freud: Love in the “Autobiography” N.p.: UNC, n.d. Print.

Cite this page

A Rhetorical Analysis of Franklin and Freud: Love in the "Autobiography" by Ada Van Gastel. (2021, Sep 28). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-rhetorical-analysis-of-franklin-and-freud-love-in-the-autobiography-by-ada-van-gastel-essay

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