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Understanding The Little Prince
"The essential is invisible to the eye," said the fox. The little prince repeated the phrase to remember it, a way for the author to indicate its importance for the understanding of the story. He had already done it by starting his text with drawings of a boa snake "opened" and "closed" , which may have been to tell us that every being hides a treasure, a mystery that we have to discover. Beyond the appearances, there is the spirit that must be seen with the heart.
The spirit makes things unique. It is the result of our choices, our efforts, friendship, and love. There thousands of roses in a garden similar to the one the little prince left on his planet, but his rose is unique because he watered it, he protected it, because he had " tamed " it, in the words of the fox who adds:" You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. "The mind creates links. Thanks to him, the world becomes full of signs: the cornfield are a reminder of the golden hair of the Little Prince, the stars are bells that remind of his laughter, the sky is full of planets where old wells creak because on one of them lives a pilot who had found a friend in the desert. The true life is in the spirit, which, if necessary, can do without the matter, without the “bark”: to return to his rose, The Little Prince sacrifices his body of flesh, he is bitten by a venomous snake: "I shall look to be dead and it will not be true ..." he says as the last message.
Taming, love and separation
From The Little Prince, we all remember the fox lesson: "If you want a friend, tame me" (Chapter XXI). It is through this teaching that the Little Prince figure out how he feels about his rose "I think she tamed me" (Chapter XXI). The Little Prince understands that by taming his rose, he managed to take her out of the “mass”. For him, the rose is now “unique in the world." With these words Saint-Exupéry wants us to understand that our eyes alone cannot perceive the uniqueness of an individual, of a thing. These are locked in their appearance and it is only after taming them we can know and appreciate their uniqueness.
It will take a trip to the Little Prince a year to understand his feelings towards his rose. Understand that the pleasure of a game ends in the pain of separation. Taming a being is willing to see it disappear one day or the other. The "disappearance in the near future " of his rose is what plunges the Little Prince into melancholy and pushes him to let the snake bite him, to join her on B612.
Unfortunately, with age, children lose the gift that allows them to live naturally in connection with the mind. They become "big people" whose only concern is the useful. Trapped by the material side, by a vulgar existence, victims of their vanity, their greed or their intellectual laziness, the "big people" judge someone from his suit, evaluate the beauty of a house from its price and think they know a young friend from the income of his father. Yet yesterday’s child is not dead: it is only buried and an experience such as the meeting of the aviator (who is now “a little older") with The Little Prince allows the child in him to resuscitate.
In telling us the story of the Little Prince, Saint-Exupéry also addresses major themes which he establishes as if in a duality: visible and invisible, adult and child, love and friendship, travel and sedentary lifestyle, space and time, danger and destruction, signs and meanings, questions and answers, happiness and sorrow.
Lack of Purpose and Fear of time
Throughout the narrative, the Prince hints about the importance of having a purpose. When he travels to different planets he discovers that most "Big People" do things without no logical explanation. When the Prince asks the businessman, for example, why he wants to own all of the stars (Chapter XII) the businessman blows him off by saying that he will later put them into his bank account. The Prince becomes appalled and doesn't understand "Big People" and their need to do things without a purpose. Later, the Prince meets the drunk man, who claims he drinks because he is ashamed. However, the Prince views this as illogical and once again a lack of purpose is presented in the book. The Prince is an inquisitive character that always wants to understand why people act the way they do. Nevertheless, as the story progresses we see that adults struggle in answering his deep questions as they themselves have no idea what the answers are.
Later, in Chapter XXIII the Prince meets a salesman that sells pills to substitute water. When the Prince asks the salesman why would someone take the pill instead of drinking water, the vendor claims that drinking water is time-consuming. The Prince asks a follow-up question as to what is the purpose of this time saved and the vendor does not have an answer. This shows how much people are scared of wasting time, yet without a reasonable purpose. The same thing happens when the Prince sees all the people traveling on the train and the train tracking worker tells him that only kids look outside with curiosity because adults view it as an aimless and wasteful task. Once again, the book explores the idea that people believe they need to justify everything they do and particularly save all their time.
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The Little Prince Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Little Prince is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.