Ben Franklin

(January 17, 1706 - April 17, 1790)

franklin2.jpg The Whistle whistle.jpg

In Ben Franklin's essay "The Whistle", he talks about the evils in life comparing them metaphorically to whistles. He starts the essay by telling a story about him as a child, buying a whistle. This parable teaches us the lesson of how spending too much time, money and effort on living out a materialistic life is harmful. In his story, Ben Franklin talks about a time in his life when he was seven years old and went to a toy store with a pocket full of coppers. At the toy store, he sees a young boy with a toy whistle and instantly becomes mesmerized by its sound. Without hesitation, Ben offers the boy all of his money that he has, for that one whistle. Overjoyed, Ben went home to his house and continuously blew on his whistle. Ironically the whistle brought him joy, but his family pain, because they had to listen to the persistent annoyance. Ben’s brothers and sisters proceeded to tell him that he had paid four times as much for the whistle as it was worth. Coming to the realization that he had paid too much for the whistle, Ben reflected on all of the other items that he could’ve bought with his money and became distressed. He had spent too much money for a whistle that ended up not giving him the satisfaction he had anticipated. This became an important moment in Ben’s life, leading to his discovery that people in the world spend too much time and effort on unimportant ways of living. Following Ben’s story of his whistle, he gives examples of insignificant objects people in the world try to procure, spending too much time and money in the process. Throughout his essay he compares these frivolous facets of life nice phrasing! to whistles, metaphorically. He uses a whistle as a symbol of trying too hard to gain something that is unsatisfactory. Some of these examples include spending too much money on unnecessary items and too much time trying to hold a higher position in society.

“In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistle.”

This excerpt summerizes the entire essay by explaining the main idea of the essay. Ben is saying that people who spend their time and effort on attaining false estimates in life are the ones who experience miseries and evil in life. People who spend all of their money on materialistic items soon come to the realization that materialistic things aren’t what give people true satisfaction. The little facets in life, such as spending time with family, are the true joys in life that matter and are worth time and effort. People today experience miseries in life because of their idea of happiness and what they think is worth excessive time and money. Some believe materialistic items such as cars are worth more than living a simple life. Others believe working is more important than spending their time with their friends and family. Many even pretend to be somebody they’re not in order to be liked by other people they want to be associated with.


“ When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, This man gives too much for his whistle.

In this excerpt, Ben Franklin is talking about a person who puts on an act of being someone that they are not. This person tries to fit in with others and will sacrifice anything in the attempt of attaining popularity with his people. In this example, the whistle is used to describe the excessive time and effort this person puts into being liked by their peers. In attempt to gain popularity, this person misses out on having real friends that care about them and being at peace -- enjoying life. Instead they are trying to gain a fake life, which they think is more satisfying. This happens to people in today’s society -- in schools and workplaces. People think that being liked for their appearance and materialistic things will give them satisfaction, when really it leads to disappointment and upsets.


“ If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good for others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent for the sake of accumulating wealth, Poor man, said I, you pay too much for your whistle.

In this excerpt, Ben Franklin is talking about a person who gives up anything in order to gain wealth. This person gives up friendships and relations with people in order to gain artificial happiness. People who work too hard to become wealthy only focus on that one goal and miss out on so many other things, such as quality time with friends and family. The world passes them by, without them realizing what they are missing. In this example, the whistle is a symbol of a person’s artificial happiness that they pay too much for with time and effort. Many people in today’s society overwork themselves by focusing their entire life on their work. They neglect their families and don’t take the time to enjoy anything. In the movie, “The Family Man,” main character, Nicolas Cage, is a hard working father. However, he spends more time at work than he does with his family. One day, after an encounter with an angel, Nicolas wakes up to find out what it would’ve been like if he was just a normal man, living a quiet life with his family. In the end, Nicolas realizes that living a simple life with his family is more rewarding than achieving wealth a work.

These correlations are very well done.

I can relate to this essay because I too, have fallen into the trap of spending too much for my whistle. I have learned that spending too much for materialistic items only leads to disappointment. I used to believe that having the latest technology and clothes would make people like you, when it is really your personality and how you treat others that matter. It is vital to determine what is important in life and to not waste your time on false estimates. I’ve always heard the saying, “Money can’t buy happiness,” and thought that it wasn’t true. However, without anybody who cares about you and likes you for you, money isn’t worth anything. They are more important things in life than being wealthy, having artificial happiness, and being around people who truly do not care for you. All of these things will only bring evil and will cause pain. I have seen in other literary works, and in real life, all of these false estimates ruining people’s lives. I found it unique how Ben Franklin used his story of paying too much for his whistle, to compare whistles to the false estimates in life. It shows how spending too much for an actual whistle is bad and how these deeper issues in life are also harmful when you spend too much time and money in procuring them.