Benjamin Franklin Vs. Plato: Which Literary Masterpiece Does a Better Job at Teaching the Public

Some individuals may prefer to read about the contrast between Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait and Charles Chesnutt’s The Wife of His Youth and how both portray unfortunate love affairs that mend in the end. Or perhaps readers might want to analyze the similarities of events or consistent themes an author uses throughout his/her work. For example, Edgar Allen Poe manipulates identical themes of mourning through his works Annabel Lee, The Raven, and The Oval Portrait. Unfortunately, the heart-capturing romances are not involved in the works of Plato and Franklin. Instead, their works lead viewers to a mental path that inspires them to do better financially or intellectually. Benjamin Franklin and Plato are two individuals born in separate lifetimes that created incredible literary works to share wisdom. But what is wisdom? According to Google’s dictionary, wisdom is “The soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience.” In simpler terms, it is an essential and prominent factor that shapes people throughout their lives. Wisdom is present in labor, educational purposes, career-based subjects, yet it was also a building block used by the world’s earliest thinkers. Examples of this float through history within people such as Washington T. Booker, Socrates, and the Wright Brothers. Their success and fails demonstrate that authors, philosophers, inventors, and politicians can share their knowledge because they broke free from ordinary thinking and recorded their findings for others. The action of using this knowledge makes it wisdom. Luckily for the human race, it seems that Benjamin Franklin’s Way to Wealth and Plato’s Allegory of The Cave are simplified tools that capture a balance of perspectives and the essence of wisdom. Both books have several similarities, differences, and equal competition to be the ultimate wisdom provider.

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Even though Plato and Franklin lived in different lifetimes, their books of written knowledge reflect similar values and themes. Both Plato’s Allegory of The Cave and Franklin’s Way to Wealth possess unique stories within stories, puzzling metaphors, and motivational endings. As most know, in the Allegory of The Cave, Plato writes about an individual whose teacher guides him out of a pit of darkness to reveal the advantages of knowledge. However, his story goes farther than just the student learning and exploring. Plato knits a makeshift world with a sun, a cave, birds, and plants. Each detail added in his story interacts with the man who left the cave to create a stream of events that eventually the reader pieces together. Like Plato, Benjamin Franklin does something relatively similar in his work. In the Way of Wealth, he manipulates metafiction to write a story about rising taxes and illustrates a simple scene rather than an entire world. Plato’s and Franklin’s detailed settings are essential to visualize and understand their books. Aside from their visual effects, Plato and Franklin used a lot of metaphors. Phrases like “Early to bed, and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” (Franklin, Benjamin) and “When he remembered his old habitation and what was the wisdom of the cave […] do not suppose that he would bless himself for the change?” (Plato) guide the viewers mentally to the author’s intended point of view. Lastly, on the similarity list are the endings. Both authors finish their books with a grand statement that leaves an impression on the readers. Plato ends Allegory of The Cave with “Even with the prospect of death, they shall give of their help to one another wherever each class is able to help the community” (Plato), and Franklin finishes the Way to Wealth with “Reader, if thou wilt do the same, thy profit will be as great as mine.” Overall, each author uses similar writing skills to inform their readers.

Aside from the similarities, both books also have differences. They each have different topics, meanings, and motivation variables. The themes are the easiest differences to decipher. Plato desires to motivate individuals to search for knowledge in the Allegory of the cave, whereas Franklin tries to kindle the importance of financial stability in The Way to Wealth. In other words, both authors intended to write bluntly about the problems their society faced. However, Franklin used metafiction and self-depreciation to lure his audience towards the morale of the story. The topics then crumble away to the heart of the books, the meanings. Meanings are slightly more difficult to perceive than topics. But after careful examination of the books, readers see that Plato wrote his book to inspire others to learn. He wanted individuals to think outside of closed mindsets or caves and explore the knowledge around them. But Franklin intended to stir financial alertness in his intellectual audience. Through his characters, he stresses that idleness and laziness can tax citizens twice as much as the government does. It is great to understand their works and the wisdom provided, but what taunted their creations? To completely grasp the concept of the books, individuals should consider their timeline while reading. In simpler terms, the struggles of their society strongly shaped the character and meanings of the books. It’s a short read before most can tell that the lack of common knowledge is why Plato wrote his book, and the financial scare of Benjamin Franklin’s time is why he wrote his book. However, the biggest difference is the fact that Plato inspires creative thinking and Benjamin Franklin attempts to help others adapt to his governments system. But like the positives, each difference makes a significant impact in shaping the books, and at the same time, they separate the two books.

Which literary book does a better job at teaching the public? That is a great question, but it is invalid because both books are equally crucial to the education of the people. Some assume that Plato contributed more benefits to society with the Allegory of the Cave, while others proclaim that without the advice of Franklin, they would be below poverty. They are partially correct. If only one of the books were written, it would still be great without the other. But it would be more efficient to the reader if they read both books. The advice provided resembles a building set, meaning that the reader gets more by using the knowledge from both of the books. For example, a sublime combination of wisdom can derive from using Plato’s advice and Benjamin’s. Therefore, someone can be an intellectual with the ability to become wealthy as well. Overall, both books do an exceptional job at teaching the public.

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

In conclusion, the wisdom of a philosopher and an inventor can educate the public. It isn’t easy to imagine that these writings have similarities since their creations are drastically set apart by time. Still, after a definite comparison, the books seem to be oddly alike. These creative writers use metaphorical phrases, humor, fake scenarios, and worlds to deliver their thought process to the reader. It is safe to say that the truest meanings of both books are to inspire or motivate the wellbeing of fellow individuals. Even though the focused contrast is between Plato and Franklin, it is a gentle reminder that knowledge can come from anyone. The action of understanding and using shared knowledge makes its wisdom.



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