Introduction to The Little Prince
The Little Prince was originally translated in English from the title Le Petit Prince, a short and simple novel, an imagination of the French aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The novel was translated into English by Reynal & Hitchcock, published in April 1943. However, it invited an immediate ban from the Vichy Regime ruling France at that time. The novel presents a young prince meeting the pilot of an airplane, who had crash-landed in the Sahara desert. The prince narrates the stories of various characters he meets on different planets, discussing their problems and predicaments of love, friendship, and life. Despite its being a narrative for children, it cleverly presents universal dilemmas human beings are facing on this planet.
Summary of The Little Prince
The story of the novel presents a pilot who tells about his childhood and the pictures that he used to draw having different meanings for different people. One of them is a depiction of an elephant eaten by a snake which looked like a lumped hat for the adults and always criticized the narrator to concentrate on important subjects like geography at schools rather than fanciful and creative things. Then he takes the reader to his present situation of having found himself crash-landed in the vastness of the Sahara desert where he finds a Little Prince with golden curly hair approaching him when he is feeling not only the heat but also the thirst and hunger.
The narrator has to fix the plane before he runs out of eight days of supplies. The Little Prince is not afraid of asking questions constantly until he receives an answer. The young prince, then, requests, him to have a sketch of a sheep that the narrator draws along with the box to which the narrator complies, and both befriend. Soon the pilot comes to know very strange and unique stories from that Little Prince who tells him about different asteroids having different numbers and unique features.
The Little Prince, then, states that he takes great care of the planet where he lives. He does not let the seeds grow into baobab trees that are malign for the environment. He also states that he loves roses due to having a rose plant on his planet with which he communicates daily and that it works wonders in her loneliness. It happens that the Prince starts narrating stories of his different journeys to different asteroids that he has completed. When going through the stories, he also comments on the different human expressions, emotions, and reactions to different things and concludes that human beings are strange creatures to go through such a variety of experiences and emotions.
During his narratives, the Little Prince states that he has met a king, an arrogant person, an addict, a businessman, a lamplighter, and a geographical expert during his journeys. Yet he finds that they have all been suffering from different negative emotions. This strange type of negativity has rather perturbed the prince who has not understood their real motives. Although he admires the obstinacy of the lamplighter as a good thing, he also reaches the conclusion that the human beings he has met on these different asteroids do not possess any beneficial characteristics except some among which geographer is also one.
The geographer has told the prince that flowers are useful but have a temporary life, and therefore, needed to be taken care of. The rose he takes care of on his planet demands him to do everything according to her will, which creates distrust in him and would judge her words rather than her actions. In reality, both loved each other but couldn’t show it because of their silly differences and interpretations.
At the narrator’s suggestion about doing something, the prince reaches a desert spot on the earth to meet human beings and come to know about a riddle speaking snake to which the Little Prince turns a deaf ear and continues roaming around until he meets a flower and tests his echo on a little mountain. Finally, he finds a rose orchard where he comes to know that his rose is different from all these roses and that it is the only of its kind because he has tamed it and not the rest of the other roses just like he tamed the fox and it is special. Befriending a fox makes him learn things that ‘a person can see through his heart is clearer and anything essential becomes invisible to the eye’ He also comes to know more about different abstract ideas through his encounters with people, a railway signalman, and a salesman.
When his narratives are on the verge of ending, both feel thirsty and move in search of a well where they come to a consensus that not too many people agree on the same point. They both understand that what makes things beautiful is because of their invisibility. Both express their willingness to return to their respective places and the Little Prince makes deals with the snake because his body is too heavy to take him back to his planet he lets the snake bite him, leaving him to fall to the ground.
When the pilot comes to know about it, he becomes very gloomy at his death but finds his body disappeared on the very next day. He, afterward, imagines the stars showing his friend, the Little Prince, smiling and giggling at him. Then the narrator asks the readers to take part in his narrative by stopping for stars and imagining Little Prince happily laughing.
Major Themes in The Little Prince
- Understanding: The novel, The Little Prince, shows the thematic strand of understanding between different creatures through the commentary of the fox who says that what is important is often not visible to us. It means the author wants to stress upon this idea that when there is an understanding, things easily reconcile and becomes feasible for human beings. When the pilot comes to know about it, he repeats it several times in his mind to overcome its meaning. When the Little Prince departs from the desert, he comes to know how this simple phrase has become seductive due to his love for the rose and in turn the pilot’s love for the prince.
- Effort: The theme of effort is ever-present in the novel in that the Little Prince has done great efforts to spoil his rose like a child. He has rather tamed it with much love that the fox also points out to him that he is responsible for what he tames. All the characters including the prince and the pilots are putting effort into for caring each other that has created a relationship. This relationship has changed the world for them. That is why the pilot suffers from loneliness and pangs of nostalgia when the prince dies and leaves the earth.
- Love and Separation: Love and separation are intertwined and one makes the other prominent as the fox points out that if the Little Prince wants him to be a friend, he must tame him first. This creates a relationship that lasts for longer than a person can think. The Little Prince thinks about his flower and comes to know that actually, he has tamed his flower. So, it comes into his thoughts often as he recalls it. This is the love that separation from his rose is intensified in the story.
- Growing Up: The novel shows the thematic strand of growing up of the children through the Little Prince whom the pilot thinks a child until he tells him things that are significant in life. The pilot is little aware of the point of tameness in life but when the Little Prince points him out he comes to know about its significance in life, in love, and its interaction in human relationships. He also comes to know negative human emotions of pride, vanity, and greed through this little friend whose narratives of different planets set his record straight.
- Lack of Purpose: The Little Prince stresses the purpose or objective in life. When the pilot comes to know that his narrative about different asteroids has different interesting characters but almost all of them have very trivial purposes in their lives, he sees that life without a purpose seems absurd and idiotic. For example, the lamplighter is only posted to light the lamps and the king is only there to issue commands without having any tangible purpose. This makes the Little Prince feel ashamed of himself that he has accepted such illogical things.
- Fear of Time: At one point, the Little Prince meets the salesman who tells him that he is selling pills that are a substitute for drinking water. The prince is amazed at his claim and asks him why it is so. In response, the salesman tells him that it is the fear of time. However, when he asks the purpose of this venture, he does not elicit any answer from him which makes him think about the time and the rationality behind wasting it.
- Curiosity: The thematic strand of curiosity is significant because the Little Prince is not only curious but also highly quizzical about general things. The curiosity of the Little Prince spans over the nature of flower to the worlds he visits and his questions about the nature of life, about professions and professionals, and the nature of the task that the king, the salesman, and the geographers are performing. However, when compared to the world of adults, this curiosity seems childish, and in reality, is it very profound.
- Nature: The theme of nature transfuses throughout the book on account of the information the little price has and wants to have about the earthly flora and fauna and their importance on his planet. The insidiousness of a short, thick tree is put into contrast with the innocence of roses and the natural world including the stars, the sunsets, and the starry nights that seem to laugh with the prince. When the Little Prince meets the king, he takes his boasts about the natural phenomenon quite seriously, the reason that he feels his love for his rose.
Major Characters The Little Prince
- The Narrator: The first-person narrator of the novel, The Little Prince, is an aviator by a professional who has crash-landed in some part of the Sahara desert where he meets the Little Prince and faces an uncertain future. However, he narrates his painting-making stories of how he used to be a naïve kid when he was in school and used to paint with curiosity. When the Little Prince meets him, he quickly adapts himself to his childish but realistic stories to enjoy and finally tries to leave the desert when the Little Prince dies and his dead body disappears on the next day.
- The Little Prince: The Little Prince is the protagonist and the central character around whom the entire story revolves. The eponymous child-like character is a very simple, easy-to-deal, and naïve person yet his stories are highly suitable for adults and mysterious. He narrates several fantasies about different planets having different numbers and different people residing on them with whom he has a very good conversation. In detail, his conversations and interactions with the king, the salesman, and the geographer are highly meaningful as they take a philosophical turn. His conversations in the desert with the fox, the snake, and with some people are also complete of the message and hidden meanings.
- The Rose: The Rose also becomes a character when it comes into contact with the Little Prince. The Little Prince has personified the rose as a female having fickleness with temporary beauty and flirtatious nature. Although the rose also loves the Little Prince, he becomes restless at her temporariness and fleeting nature.
- The King: The character of the king is significant in the novel when the Little Prince comes into contact during his first expedition to Asteroid B-325. The King is found alone and yet ruling over his subjects comprising a single rat. The most important feature of this king is that he issues commands only when things are going to happen and not when they do not happen. He only moves with the moving things and stops with the things have stopped.
- The Geographer: The significance of the geographer lies in that the geographer is a book lover as well as a book worm, yet he states that he does not go out to verify facts. He states that this is the job of the researchers and asks the Little Prince to visit the Earth on account of its good reputation.
- The Vain Man: This dramatic character appears when the Prince starts his narration about his visit to Asteroid B-326. He tells the pilot that the boaster considers himself the most intelligent man and wants to be admired despite knowing the fact that he is alone.
- The Businessman: The character of the businessman makes the Little Prince realize the importance of increasing one’s bank balance. They also discuss the difficulty of planning and earning them. However, the businessman has had to hear his tale of the rose that is hard to digest for him.
- The Drunkard: The drunkard is a minor character who meets the Little Prince. He confesses that he is ashamed of it and wants help to get rid of his addiction.
- The Street Lamplighter: The only character that impacts the Little Prince is the lamplighter who states that he obeys orders and keeps the lamps bright. The Little Prince does not consider him funny or ridiculous.
- The fox and the snake: The character of the fox is important as the fox makes the prince realizes that the worth-loving things are invisible, while the snake makes him realize that he can send the Little Prince back home through his poison.
Writing Style of The Little Prince
Although it seems that the writing style that Antoine de Saint-Exupérya adopts for the narration of The Little Prince is very simple, easy to understand, and has a flow, it is inexplicably mysterious as well as highly alluring. It is also called shiver style or what is dubbed as “poetry in prose.” The fable that seems written for little children has almost the same whimsical appeal for the adults due to the simplicity of language and depth of the message it conveys. The narrative has been told from the first-person point of view. First by the pilot and then by the Little Prince. Despite have some dialogues, it shows informal diction and informal language generally used for children’s literature.
Analysis of the Literary Devices in The Little Prince
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the crash landing of the plane, the pilot’s meeting with the Little Prince, and the narratives of the Little Prince about different people he found on different asteroids referred to with numbers. The rising action occurs when the Little Prince narrates the story of the king and the falling action occurs when he narrates the story of the fox.
- Allusion: The novel shows good use of different allusions as given in the examples below,
Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. (Chapter-I)
ii. At a glance, I can distinguish China from Arizona. If one gets lost in the night, such knowledge is valuable. (Chapter-I)
iii. So I lived my life alone, without anyone that I could really talk to, until I had an accident with my plane in the Desert of Sahara, six years ago. (Chapter-2)
iv. But that did not really surprise me much. I knew very well that in addition to the great planets–such as the Earth, Jupiter, Mars, Venus–to which we have given names, there are also hundreds of others, some of which are so small that one has a hard time seeing them through the telescope. (Chapter-4)
The first example shows alluding to a book, the second to geographical places, the third to a geographical feature, and the fourth to celestial bodies.
- Anaphora: The novel shows the use of anaphora. For example,
But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose. (Chapter-21)
ii. It seemed to me that I was carrying a very fragile treasure. It seemed to me, even, that there was nothing more fragile on all Earth. (Chapter-24)
These excerpts show the repeated use of “because it is” and “It seemed to me” in the first part of the sentences.
- Antagonist: The antagonist in The Little Prince, is the curiosity or the thirst of the Little Prince for answers. He questions everybody and wants to get an answer to all of his questions.
- Conflict: The novel shows only internal conflict. The internal conflict comprises the Little Prince’s curiosity and the thirst to know everything at once.
- Characters: The novel shows both static as well as dynamic characters. The Little Prince in the novel, The Little Prince, is a dynamic character as he shows a considerable transformation in his behavior and conduct by the end of the novel. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as the pilot, the king, the geographer, and even the salesman.
- Climax: The climax in the novel occurs when the Little Prince decides to go back to his own planet and take care of his rose.
- Foreshadowing: The novel shows many instances of foreshadows as given in the below examples,
Oh, Little Prince! Bit by bit I came to understand the secrets of your sad little life. (Chapter-6)
ii. On the fifth day–again, as always, it was thanks to the sheep–the secret of the Little Prince’s life was revealed to me. (Chapter-7)
- Hyperbole: The novel shows various examples of hyperboles such as,
If you could fly to France in one minute, you could go straight into the sunset, right from noon. (Chapter-6)
ii. “I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved anyone.” (Chapter-6)
iii. On the morning of his departure, he put his planet in perfect order. He carefully cleaned out his active volcanoes. (Chapter-9)
These examples exaggerate things instead of showing the normal situation and characters as nobody can fly to France in a minute, nor is there a person living alone on a star, or a planet, or nor a person owns a planet, or visits any planet. In the world of children, however, the use of hyperboles is a normal practice.
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
Now I stared at this sudden apparition with my eyes fairly starting out of my head in astonishment. Remember, I had crashed in the desert a thousand miles from any inhabited region. And yet my little man seemed neither to be straying uncertainly among the sands, nor to be fainting from fatigue or hunger or thirst or fear. (Chapter-2)
ii. Seen from a slight distance, that would make a splendid spectacle. The movements of this army would be regulated like those of the ballet in the opera. First would come the turn of the lamplighters of New Zealand and Australia. Having set their lamps alight, these would go off to sleep. Next, the lamplighters of China and Siberia would enter for their steps in the dance, and then they too would be waved back into the wings. (Chapter-16)
These two examples show images of color, sound, and feelings.
- Metaphor: The Little Prince shows good use of various metaphors as given in the below examples,
His flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in all the universe. (Chapter-20)
ii. What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the Little Prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember. (Chapter-21)
These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows the flower compared to a man and the second things to invisible things.
- Mood: The novel shows various moods; it is entertaining, funny as well as exciting but with the passage of time it starts losing its fun and rather becomes too alluring and too philosophical.
- Motif: Most important motifs of the novel are the stars, flowers, paintings, and asteroids.
- Narrator: The novel is narrated from the first-person point of view, who the pilot and the Little Prince.
- Personification: The novel shows examples of personifications as given below,
I don’t believe you! Flowers are weak creatures. They are naïve. They reassure themselves as best they can. They believe that their thorns are terrible weapons. (Chapter-7)
ii. His flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in all the
These examples show as if the flowers have feelings and lives of their own.
- Protagonist: The Little Prince is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with her entry with the pilot and ends when his dead body disappears.
- Setting: The setting of the novel is a place in the Sahara desert and then different mysterious places that the Little Prince visits.
- Simile: The novel shows the use of various similes as given in the below examples,
They would shrug their shoulders, and treat you like a child. (Chapter-4)
ii. Volcanic eruptions are like fires in a chimney. (Chapter-9).
iii. He twined himself around the Little Prince’s ankle, like a golden bracelet. (Chapter-17)
iv. But he saw nothing, save peaks of rock that were sharpened like needles. (Chapter-18)
v. And a brilliantly lighted express train shook the switchman’s cabin as it rushed by with a roar like thunder. (Chapter-22)
These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things such the first one between him and the child, and the second between volcanic eruptions and chimneys, the third between the snake and the bracelet, the fourth between the rocks and the needles and the last between the sound of an express train and the thunder.