The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The combination in the book of fantasy, satire, philosophy, poetry, science, imagination, and childish gaiety can capture the hearts and minds of ‘grown-ups’ as well as ‘children’ in only ninety-two short pages, moreover, this little boy teaches the reader many values that older people seem to forget more often in everyday life.
This mystical adventure begins when Saint-Exupery makes a forced landing in the Sahara Desert. A small, golden-haired visitor appears at dawn, asking the downed aviator for a drawing of a sheep.
A traveler from his home on a small asteroid, the little prince describes his journey to Earth and his experiences here. The story ends with the little prince’s departure from Earth on the anniversary of his arrival. I think that The Little Prince is written as a children’s book but can be analyzed on many different levels. It is necessary to clarify this statement: one is defined as ‘child’ or an ‘adult’ not by age, but by state of mind.
Maybe it is better to explain that it is a story for children, but not specifically for them alone.
The story of the little prince exists on many different levels. Saint Exupery explains the importance of seeing beneath the surface by beginning his book with the story about drawings of closed and open boa constrictors.
Later, he relates a story about the Turkish astronomer who discovers the little prince’s home, Asteroid B-612. When he presents his findings to the International Congress of Astronomy, dressed in his comical Turkish outfit, he is not believed .
Because adults never look inside, they will never know themselves or others.
All his life, The Little Prince has thought that grown-ups care only about inconsequential matters, such as golf and neckties, and are very dull when talking about important matters. He has never met anyone whom he could talk to about what is really important.
Throughout his book, Saint-Exupery teaches the importance of looking beneath the surface to find true beauty. Analyzed on an instructive level, his book casts a mysterious wonder over common things by showing what is beneath . Visible things are only shells that hint at the real beauty of what is inside. From the fox’s lesson that one can see only what is important by looking with the heart Saint-Exupery leaves the desert as a different person.
Saint-Exupery, the author, also teaches us how to love — the only way to overcome the existential boundary between men. Love, for The Little Prince, is not a matter of choice; it is a matter of consequence; indeed, it is a matter of survival. Men must learn to love one another or perish. Love is what gives life meaning. The little prince’s love for his rose is so important to him that the stranded aviator comments. What moves me so deeply about this little prince who is sleeping here, is his loyalty to a flower — the image of a rose that shines through his whole being like the flame of a lamp, even when he is asleep. His love gives his life purpose and direction (Price, 151).
The fox teaches the little prince how to love — a lesson for us all. It is the time that one “wastes” on someone or something that makes it important. It is the fox that tells us how love overcomes existance.
One only knows the things that one tames…. Men buy things already made in the stores. But as there are no stores where friends can be bought, men no longer have friends. Joy and pleasure must be earned — not given or received — like the joy the water from the well gives to the little prince and the pilot. Its sweetness comes from the journey under the stars and the work of the pilot’s arms making the pulley sing.
The Little Prince can also be analyzed as a satire. It presents caricatures of man’s preoccupations with useless pastimes, wealth and power, and technology (Price, 151). It is these human characteristics that cause man to miss the essentials in life: beauty, love and friendship.
Saint-Exupery scorns drinking as a pointless activity. The roundabout logic of the tippler shows the stupidity of this activity. Saint-Exupery also scorns man’s obsession with wealth and power, this through the King and Businessman. The king puts a great deal of importance into being obeyed when he orders only what would happen anyway. The businessman takes great pride in owning all the stars, a collector too busy counting them to get any pleasure from their beauty. The little prince tries to show the pointlessness of his “property” by explaining that it does the stars no good to be owned. The little prince then tells how he owns a flower and three volcanoes. The fact that he owns and takes care of them does them some good. The businessman does not help the stars.
The little prince arrives on Earth in the desert beneath “his” star. He recognizes the drawing of the closed boa constrictor immediately and knows that the author’s attempts to fix his engine have been successful before Saint-Exupery can tell him. When the author runs out of water in the desert, the little prince “miraculously” leadshim to a village well — even though they are in the middle of the desert without a town in sight. The time of the little prince’s departure from Earth is predetermined. He tells the author that he will look like he has died, but will live on.
Through reading and researching The Little Prince, I have learned that this seemingly simple book is truly a complex literary work and can be analyzed on many levels. I love The Little Prince for its simplistic beauty and childlike wonder. I believe that it is a work that means different things to different people.