Benjamin Franklin Sets up Self-Improvement Plan

In his Autobiography, Franklin explains that he felt he needed to be a more moral person, so he set up a self-improvement plan based on thirteen virtues of moral perfection.

He practiced one virtue for a week and then moved on to the next. Franklin created a little virtue book for himself in which he took notes on his progress and evaluated his success. He reports that he gave up on the plan after a time, but carried the little book with him for many years.

The opening part of the Autobiography addresses some themes that will come up later on in the book, namely, self-betterment and religion. Franklin's tone at the beginning of the book is humble and indicative of a belief in utilitarianism. He claims to write only so that his own life may be an example for his son of how one can live well and how one can get through hardships. Franklin's book, a story of self-betterment, is written so as to be a model for the betterment of others. This general motive for writing, as well as Franklin's mention of correcting some errors were he to relive his life, both indicate Franklin's constant interest in self-improvement. This is perhaps the largest theme in the Autobiography; it dominates Part Two and recurs often in Part One.