When the fox says, "The essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeats the phrase to remember it, which is also a way for the author to indicate its importance for the message of the story. He had already done it by starting his text with drawings of a boa constrictor "opened" and "closed," which may have been to tell readers 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. Understanding does not come from numbers or statistics or worldly accomplishments, but rather from loving someone or something (even if they are imperfect) and investing time in it.
Effort is what makes relationships unique. There are 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, protected, and "tamed" it. The fox, who told the prince how to tame something, adds "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." Due to the effort invested in a relationship, one’s experience of the world changes. The mind creates links. For example, thanks to the prince’s willingness to tame the fox, the pilot’s interest in the prince, and the prince’s effort in caring for his flower, the world becomes full of signs: the wheat fields are a reminder of the golden hair of the little prince. The stars are bells that recall 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.
Taming, Love, and Separation
Readers of The Little Prince will all no doubt remember the fox's 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 indistinct masses; 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 or a thing. These are locked in their appearance and it is only after taming them that we can know and appreciate their uniqueness. It will take distance, time, and contemplation for the little prince to understand his feelings towards his rose. However, Saint-Exupéry suggests that the pleasure of a relationship can end in the pain of separation. Taming a being means being aware that it may disappear one day. 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.
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 materialism and a sense of importance, and perhaps carrying on a vulgar existence imprisoned by their vanity, greed, or intellectual laziness, they judge someone by his suit, evaluate the beauty of a house by its price, and think they know a young friend from the income of his father. Yet, yesterday’s child is not gone forever: it is only buried and an experience such as the aviator’s meeting with the little prince allows the child in him to be resuscitated. In telling us the story of the little prince, Saint-Exupéry also brings in major themes which he establishes as binaries: visible and invisible, adult and child, space and time, questions and answers, and 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 adults do things without a logical explanation. When the prince asks the businessman, for example, why he wants to own all of the stars, the businessman blows him off by saying that he will later put them into his bank account. The prince is appalled and doesn't understand adults 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 notes a lack of purpose. The prince is an inquisitive character who always wants to understand why people act the way they do, but as the story progresses, readers see adults struggle to answer his deep questions because they themselves have no idea what the answers are. Later, in Chapter XXIII, the prince meets a salesman who sells pills to substitute for drinking water. When the prince asks the salesman why someone would 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 the purpose of this time saved and the vendor does not have an answer. This reveals how much people are scared of wasting time, yet without a rational reason.
One of the virtues Saint-Exupéry lauds is curiosity. This informs the prince's character and its dearth informs most of the adults' characters. Curiosity is usually associated with children and the prince is no exception. He is curious about his flower, curious about other worlds, curious about the stars and sunsets. He probes the meanings behind why people do things and is always asking questions until he gets an answers. Most of the adults, in contrast, are content with their comfortable world. They write books but do not explore the world, they direct trains without going anywhere, and they light lamps on a brutal schedule with no understanding of any other world. The pilot has trouble getting back to his childhood curiosity until he meets the prince, who brings this out in his older friend and shows him a different way of living.
Though it is a subtle theme, it permeates the book: nature should be respected and revered. The prince carefully tends the flora and fauna on his planet and protects them from insidious baobabs. He rakes his volcanoes even though one is extinct. He stares reverently at the stars and sunsets. He makes no deleterious impact on nature but instead treads lightly. The adults he meets are indifferent to the beauties of nature or, perhaps more dangerously, think they can own it or control it. The king boasts that he can make the sun rise and set while the businessman claims to own the stars. Saint-Exupéry urges his readers to behave like the little prince rather than the adults.
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.
It is generally believed that the Baobabs in the novel, The Little Prince, are a metaphor for Nazism..... a warning that sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between the good and the bad. Why the author used this specific example in...