Write in an autobiography the author writes the story of his own life and achievements. It is the successful presentation of personality. It takes its origin in the common human heart to express once-on achievement in the form of writing. The writer may give a full account of his life in detail or he may give only a few anecdotes or events from his life.

The great drawback of an autobiography is that it can never be complete because it comes to an end before the author’s death. Doctor Johnson preferred autobiography to biography saying that every man’s life is best written by himself. The writer of his own life has the full knowledge of the truth through sometimes he made disguise or suppress it in his writings. From the psychological viewpoint also an autobiography is preferable because the writer knows what are the motives, hopes, and omissions that prompted him to decisive moments in his life. Thus while biography is the product of second-hand knowledge, autobiography is the product of the first-hand experience. R.L. Stevenson says, “There is no truer sort of writing than what is to be found in autobiographies, and certainly none more entertaining”.

An autobiography is a candid narration of events in the author’s life. It may take the form of a confession, apology, self-scrutiny, or a mere delightful account. When it is a mere account of facts without reference to the author’s inner conflicts and motives it is an objective autobiography. When an autobiography reveals the character and inner struggle of the writer and the present a searching analysis of his moods, motives, and fancies, it is subjective. St. Augustine’s confession’s, the earliest example of an autobiography, belongs to the subjective kind. So also Rousseau’s ‘Confessions’ written in the 18th century. Three other important autobiographies appeared in the 18th century. Those of David Hume, Edward Gibbon, and Benjamin Franklin.

Chief characteristic of an autobiography:

  • Truth should be the Hallmark of an autobiography. facts should not be perverted. A true picture of the writer’s personality should emerge from the autobiography. Gandhiji’s autobiography is the best example in this respect.
  • Courage and frankness are the essential virtues of a good writer of an autobiography. The writer should not be secretive and reluctant. Bertrand Russell’s three-volume autobiography is noted for these qualities.
  • The author of an autobiography should be objective in dealing with contemporary events and personalities. Autobiographies of Gibbon and Nehru are good examples of this kind.
  • The author should not be verbose in his description or narration.
  • Self-consciousness is the very essence of an autobiography. An autobiography should not aim at self-effacement as in the autobiography of T.E. Lawrence. Similarly, the author of an autobiography should not indulge in self-clarification.
  • The style should be interesting and even entertaining. A natural felicity of expression and flashes of humor and wit are essential attributes of an autobiography.

Some difficulties an autobiographer faces:

  • He is likely to forget the impressions and emotions connected with the events that happened in the distant past. Sometimes there may be embarrassing episodes he would like to hide or reveal only partially.
  • It is difficult for anyone to be entirely objective while dealing with contemporary persons and events that have affected his personal life and happiness.
  • An autobiographer is likely to omit the details of daily life that are common. This may lead to some falsification.



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