Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Franklin Evans

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferying at 2:54 pm on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Franklin Evans

When I started to read Franklin Evans, the term “temperance” kept coming up, but I was not clear of what it meant. When I was reading the introduction to Franklin Evans, in the Whitman and Social Reform section, I read that Whitman was asked to compose a temperance novel for the New World. I had no idea what a temperance novel was either. The first lines were “Due largely to Whitman’s capacity for self-mythologizing, readers today may know more about the events leading to the writing of Franklin Evans than about the novel itself.” I concluded from this that the term temperance was used for events or happenings that occurred during the era that Franklin Evans was published. Also in the same section, it is stated that “Temperance fiction was highly formulaic, abounding with sensational scenes of sin, corruption, and violence.” I had an idea of what a temperance novel was afterwards but in my head I had doubts that Franklin Evans incorporates those themes or anything similar in the book because Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was absolutely the opposite of a temperance novel.  And then once I started to read the novel, I was getting the sense that the writing was indeed different. This novel is about a young man, Franklin Evans who travels to America in search for the New World. Yet once he arrives, series of events happens to him, for example, like when he goes bankrupt and starts engaging in drinking. Although Whitman jokes about how he wrote this temperance novel in a matter of 3 days while he was drunk off cocktails, as stated in the introduction, “Franklin Evans is not so different from the figures of failed reform that  populate American media today: those who cannot stop eating, cheating, or defrauding stockholders.” I feel like this is true because even today, these events are still happening.

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