The Great Gatsby and the Ideal Self – Made Man
In the same way that the all-embracing concept of the American Dream suffered certain degradation during the course of its historical development, so, too, the noble 19th century ideal of the self-made man was conveniently adapted to suit the moral climate of the 1920s. Referring to Fitzgerald's main character in his novel "The Great Gatsby", the young James Gatz is obviously modeled in this aspect of personality upon Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), who is often quoted as the earliest example of this particular type of "homo americanus". As the youngster of a big family he soon went to work for his father, at the age of only ten after only two years of schooling. After his apprenticeship as a printer he concentrated on educating himself trough reading. In 1818 Franklin's "Autobiography" was published, which contains various enumerations of moral virtues he met with in his reading to arrive at moral perfection.
His intention was to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, so he found it better not to distract his attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix on one of them at a time, and if he should be master of that, he would proceed to another, and so on, till he should have gone trough them.
These names of virtues, with their precepts, were:
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
Make no expense but do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Wrong none by doing...