“THE SPEECH OF POLLY BAKER” BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PURPOSE BUILDING • What do you consider Franklin’s purpose was in writing his text from the perspective of a woman who is arguing before a court that her sentencing is unjust? • His letter is a challenge to the existing judicial philosophy, particularly as it applies to women, as opposed to trying to speak for women whom society might ignore. PURPOSE BUILDING • What is Polly’s stated purpose? • Polly tells the reader that she is only asking that “my Fine be remitted” (Franklin). PURPOSE BUILDING • How might her purpose be different from the writer’s purpose? • Franklin is arguing that the very structure of the law forces women into sordid behavior. • He references the “Numbers of procur’d Abortions!” and the expense of “a Wedding Fee” (Franklin) that keeps men from proposing. • At the same time, Franklin seems to suggest through examples that perhaps the court, and by extension the government, are involving themselves in matters that they shouldn’t. SETTING THE TONE • How does the rhetorical situation in the italicized introduction set the tone for this text? • Franklin hyperbolizes that on the fifth commission of her offense, she should not only have the court eliminate her punishment, but that she would be married by one of the Judges. The “fairy tale ending” is a bit exaggerated. READ - QUESTION #1 • How does the speaker make use of logos in the speech? • Polly Baker uses a number of “If…then” arguments, making assertions based on the idea that “If” men will not be punished for a behavior, “then” how can she as a woman be punished. READ – QUESTION #2 • How would you characterize the speaker’s voice in the speech? • It is obviously sarcastic in tone. The conversational language appears appropriate for a woman of her station and age, and it also opens the door for Franklin’s satire. READ – QUESTION #3 • How does Franklin use humor to further his aim in the speech? • Franklin’s humor is varied and may strike one gender more than another, depending on his/her frame of reference. • Polly humorously discusses the “growing Number of Batchelors” (Franklin); however, some people of today may see that as a reflection on today’s marriage and divorce rates. READ – QUESTION 3 (CONT’D) • The humor allows the reader to laugh at an uncomfortable topic while still giving it serious consideration. READ – QUESTION #4 • What do you think the purpose might be of giving the outcome of the “trial” at the beginning of the essay? • The outlandish result of Polly’s marriage is what tells the audience from the beginning that Franklin’s piece is satirical. WRITE – QUESTION 1 • Comment on a place in the essay where you begin to believe that the piece is not really a speech by Miss Polly Baker. Explain why. • Line 3: “…[F]or I have not the presumption to expect, that you may, by any Means, be prevailed on to deviate in your Sentence from the Law, in my Favour. (Franklin). • The diction and the turn of phrase in this sentence seems to indicate someone of a greater education and legal skill than a poor woman who has been prosecuted five previous times. WRITE – QUESTION #2 • Why might Franklin choose to write from Miss Polly Baker’s perspective? • Franklin may feel that his argument would have a greater emotional impact on readers if told from the perspective of a woman, almost giving him first person credibility. • Franklin often wrote using pseudonyms, so taking on another persona would have been comfortable for him. He seemed to favor “walking in another person’s shoes.” CONNECT – QUESTION #1 • What do you find in this work that links to Franklin’s approach in “Notes Concerning the Savages”? • In both texts, Franklin adopts the persona of the group he is representing, which perhaps lends validity to his arguments, since they include the voice of those he is representing. CONNECT – QUESTION #3 • How does Franklin reveal the position of women in colonial America in his essay? • Most women were treated as second-class citizens who are held to a different set of moral standards.