Why Father Abraham? The way to wealth is a well-known essay by Benjamin Franklin written in 1758.
Franklin carefully gathered useful adages that he wrote during 25years of ‘Poor Richard’s Almanac’ publication and weaved them into a form of speech given by ‘Father Abraham’ As I learned about the essay in the class, I found it interesting that Franklin didn’t set himself as the one giving the speech. It’s strange because, after all, these are his own adages and I expected Franklin himself or at least, Poor Richard would be the one giving the speech. Also, the rhetorical standpoint of the essay seems odd because Father Abraham’s speech is not aimed directly at the readers. We listen to Poor Richard listening to group of people listening to Father Abraham.
The readers and Poor Richard are deliberately distanced from rest of the group. Why did Franklin set the character ‘Father Abraham’ to speak for him instead? Is there any benefit of doing so? The main reason I think, has do with the characteristic of the speech. It’s not just any kind of speech that Father Abraham is giving, but it’s a sermon. Sermon is usually given to educate people and force them to do certain things that they didn’t do before.
This very nature of sermon makes people defensive. Some people will ask “Who are you to judge? Why should I listen to you?” in return. That’s where this third person ‘Father Abraham’ comes in handy. Readers will find it less high-handed and more objective as the third person comes into play.
The so called ‘Father’ is usually seen as an authority with noble, intellectual temperament and is expected to give a sermon.The indirectness of the speech makes the sermon even less bitter to swallow. The readers are all distanced from the rest of the crowd. We remain as the mere spectators throughout the sermon. It is important to note however, that even though we are distanced from the central action, the value of the sermon is not lost to us. The speech is intended to answer the question from the crowd as someone asks ‘Pray, Father Abraham, what do you think of the time? Won’t these heavy taxes quite ruin the country?’.
This is the question that we can still relate to even today and we are invited to carefully listen to what Father Abraham has to say about the ‘badness of the time’ and how to resolve them.