The Speech of Polly Baker
Transcript The Speech of Polly Baker
“THE SPEECH OF POLLY
• 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
• What is Polly’s stated purpose?
• Polly tells the reader that she is
only asking that “my Fine be
• How might her purpose be different from the
• 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
• 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
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
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
• 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
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