Analysis of The Little Prince

Analysis of The Little Prince

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I. Tone


      The tone of The Little Prince is often lonely and fragile-sounding, much like the little prince himself, when he ventures into the world of adults in an attempt to understand them. The writer emphasizes, throughout the story, that loneliness is what isolates the adults rather than children because they are unable to see things with their minds, hearts, and imagination. Both the protagonist (the little prince) and secondary protagonist (the narrator) lead lonely lives because of this isolation due to the differences between the minds of children and adults.      "So I lived my life alone, without anyone that I could really talk to," writes the narrator, before his plane crashes in the middle of the Sahara. He explains this in the first few chapters - living his life alone - because this 'world of grownups' does not understand him and wishes for him to talk of their idea of 'sensible' and 'practical' things. This made him very lonely, not so much in a physical sense, but so that he could never really find anyone to relate to. The narrator explains that after flat responses to his imaginative observations to things, "'Then I would never talk to that person about boa constrictors, or primeval forests, or stars. I would bring myself down to his level. I would talk to him about bridge, and gold, and politics, and neckties. And the grown-up would be greatly pleased to have met such a sensible man.'" In one of my magazines is an article called, "Popularity Truths & Lies," where popular girls talk about their social status. In large, red print, it says, "Lie: Popular girls are never left out or lonely." The girls then go on to explain how sometimes, they feel as if they are making so many friends only because of their popularity. They say that it's great to be popular, but difficult to find someone that really wants to befriend them for true qualities rather than social status. The situations between the narrator of The Little Prince and these popular students is that it seems that they would never be isolated (popular students from their admiring peers and the supposedly sensible-minded narrator from the adult world) - physically, at least - but inside the kind of friend they are really longing for is someone to understand and honestly talk to in order to end the abstract barriers between these worlds of people.

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      The narrator was also very lonely as a child, because he would draw creative pictures and show them to adults, who would dishearten him with ignorant comments rather than praise for his use of imagination. "The grown-ups' response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them." His childhood loneliness progressed throughout his life until adulthood, not only because he was misunderstood, but was given a lasting impression as a young boy. His encounters with failure in the form of inability to please, a frequent social isolation factor for people in many situations (because they become afraid to assert their ideas), became a permanent breach in the worlds between himself and adults.


      A sad tone also plays a major role in The Little Prince. Because he and the narrator feel so lonely in the adult world, they are cast about, feeling depressed. The little prince also feels sad and confused when he ventures among the adults from each asteroid, because he cannot comprehend the way they go about leading their misunderstood lives. The little prince often enjoys looking at sunsets, and during a conversation with the narrator, he says, "'One day'...'I saw the sunset forty-four times!' And a little later you added: 'You know - one loves the sunset, when one is so sad...' 'Were you so sad, then?' I asked, 'on the day of the forty-four sunsets?' But the little prince made no reply." The little prince admits himself that he loves the sunsets and is sad when he watches them - he can't explain why he feels this way, but can't help the feeling either - like people's emotions after a bad dream, sometimes they can't explain why they feel sad or angry, because the dream isn't physically happening but has instead, a surreal quality - but it reminds them of something that could actually be real. The strangely depressing feeling is just like the little prince's reaction to sunsets and the overall tone of the story (because sunsets frequent the novel).


      On his own asteroid, B-612, the little prince left behind a single, beloved rose. He'd cared for her, believing she was the most special, beautiful creature and that there was only one of her kind in the universe - but when he arrived on earth, he discovered rosebushes filled with many roses. And his reaction: "...he was overcome with sadness. His flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in all the universe. And here were five thousand of them, all alike, in one single garden!" Feeling a strong sense of mistrust and betrayal for his much-loved and cherished rose due to this paradoxical discovery, the little prince could not be blamed for the wave of misery that overtook him. The depression he felt while discovering this, caused by feelings of betrayal, is like the pain in learning about a partner's unfaithfulness in a romantic relationship. The little prince and the rose loved each other, even if not in the romantic sense, and when he discovered how the rose had mislead him, he was wounded so deeply because his love was great. This kind of sadness is so prevalent in literature and film because many can relate to it, and is the kind the Little Prince must cope with.




II. Conflict


      The protagonist, the little prince, has quite the most prominent character trait of innocence. Though he is extremely thoughtful, intelligent, and curious as well, it is his vast uninvolvement in the worldly, mechanical concepts in life people have no longer been questioning that allows him to understand our society, unblocked from other things. In other words, this childish innocence of his allows him to keep asking the questions and recieving the answers that allow the conflict to develop throughout the novel.


      Although there are many smaller conflicts, after much questioning I have been led to believe that the prominent conflict in The Little Prince is man versus man - more specifically, children and their morals versus those of the adults. On earth, the little prince ventures to a train station and meets a railway switchman. He continously prods the railway switchman with questions, not knowing how bothersome he might be and oblivious to what is the 'sensible' level of questions one might ask an older, more experienced person. Perhaps the railway switchman understands the little prince's childish innocence, so he continues answering his inquiries. He asks the switchman why the people and trains keep exchanging: "'Were they not satisfied where they were?' ...'No one is ever satisfied where he is,'" the switchman replies. A little later in the conversation, the little prince says, "'Only the children know what they are looking for.' 'They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry...' 'They are lucky,' the switchman said." Because the children have something to pursue, like these children that have lost their rag dolls, know what they are looking for and are not unsatisfied or preoccupied with other worldly matters, such as the quest for wealth and power. They are satisfied with their rag dolls and are searching for just that in order to achieve happiness and satisfaction. The depicted adults, however, are occupied with their endless prospects of gaining more wealth, power, and mundane objects. This is just one of the examples that adds onto the developing conflict of children versus adults. I have witnessed this kind of wanting, even in my own family - I know for a fact that my older sister and I were always wanting more things - money, clothes, accessories, and so on. It can't really be helped, because this outside world demands that we 'improve' ourselves with these things. But while we were wishing we had more, our little sisters would be playing with their toys or pets, not looking through clothes catalogs or asking for money. And quite apparently, they were the ones that were happy - happy before we got those 'to-die-for' pants and happy while we had them, even though we would just long for shoes to match those pants. Being unhappy moves in a cycle - an unhappiness caused by this unsatisfactory state of continous wanting (and the thin line between needing). In this scenario, my sister and I play the role of the adults, while my younger sisters play the children. This sort of cycle is like that of the depicted adults in The Little Prince - businessmen greedy to count their wealth, kings greedy to own the stars - when wealth really cannot be counted and stars never owned.


      When the little prince meets a snake in the desert, they courteously begin a conversation. They talk about the loneliness of the desert, and how it is like the loneliness of men, where physical barriers do not make a difference in isolating the adults. The snake says, "'...But you are innocent and true, and you come from a star...You move me to pity - you are so weak on this Earth made of granite.'" First of all, the snake is touched by the little prince because he is kind and innocent - not afraid of this creature that so many others have feared. When he spoke of 'being weak on an Earth made of granite,' he again was speaking of the little prince's frail innocence. The 'granite' he says it consists of is the rigid, stereotypes of Earth, a pollution from the depicted adults with their fact and figure-based ideas. The little prince represents the children here, as the children hold the minority of ideas thought to be 'important' in the world because they are not thought of as significant - yet, if they paid more attention to this way of seeing through the outside, this Earth may be made of gold, rather than granite!




III. Point of View


      The point of view in the story is actually told through first-person, in the words of the narrator who gets stranded in the Sahara desert. Although parts of the story tend to sound as if they are being told in an omniscient style, like when the Little Prince ventures from the various asteroids, the telling of these experiences is based on what the narrator has learned while he is with the Little Prince himself. For example, at one part, when the narrator describes his situation: "I realized clearly that something extraordinary was happening. I was holding him close in my arms as if he were a little child; and yet it seemed to me that he was rushing headlong toward an abyss from which I could do nothing to restrain him..." That is a line (and not a quote) that would only appear in the narration of a first-person point of view story.




IV. Action and Plot


      The story begins when the narrator depicts his childhood, when he drew many creative pictures and showed them to adults but was disheartened by their crude comments. He says he then gave up his potential career of an artist and putting his creativity to use, and instead became a pilot, because it was what the adults believed was sensible. One day, his plane crashes and lands in the middle of the Sahara Desert. There he meets the little prince, who instructs him to draw a sheep. Learning pieces about the strange prince through their conversations, the narrator pilot finds his little friend has come from an asteroid, B-612. The little prince took great care of his asteroid, preventing baobabs - destructive plants - and other unwanted things from destroying his home. One day, a rose appears on his asteroid, and as he cares for it most deeply, thinking she is the most wonderful, special creature ever - he is depressed to assume that she does not love him back. The little prince then leaves his asteroid and rose.


      As he lands on many asteroids, each one is occupied by a different adult. First, he meets the king, a man attempting to rule over the universe and the stars. The monarch, however, does not realize the will of his presumed subjects, who do not even know they are being 'ruled' over because of natural instincts. He covers up his lack of understanding for these things by saying, "'Accepted authority rests first of all on reason. If you ordered your people to go and throw themselves into the sea, they would rise up in revolution. I have the right to require obedience because my orders are reasonable.'" As he continues his journey, he meets more and more seemingly pathetic people - a conceited man who believes the little prince is only an admirer; a tippler who is attempting to drink his problems away; a businessman too busy to stop his work for anything; a lamplighter who does nothing but light his lamp, day and night; and a geographer who cannot complete his work because there is no explorer.


        Next, the little prince goes to earth, where he meets a snake, who is very much pleased in the prince's company because of his innocence and honesty in all matters, and says his bite can send them back to their homes (where they truly belong). He then finds a flower; an echo, of which he believes is mocking him; many roses (which depress him, because the rose on his planet had told him she was the only one of her kind in the universe); and a fox, whom he befriends and attempts to tame. He also meets some humans, who seem highly peculiar to him - a railway switchman who is unsatisfied, and knows people are unsatisfied, except for children, who are the only ones that know what they are looking for; and a merchant, who sells pills that will quench thirst and save valuable time.


      This is the end of the little prince's told story, the part where he ends up in the desert with the narrator pilot. They finally find a well to quench their thirst, and share an understanding moment when they both know that people no longer see what is most important in life but lead mechanical, empty lives. However, the little prince misses his homeland dreadfully, and finds the snake to bite him and send him back to his asteroid. Before he leaves, he gives the narrator a gift of "laughing stars," something no one else in the universe has. The narrator, with his newfound friend and outlook on life, then proceeds to examine the lovely and sad landscape of the desert and the lone star of the little prince, shining in the night sky.




V. Theme


      "When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey." That is the mystery of The Little Prince, a novel that represents and emphasizes some of the many roles of aspects in life - such as honesty, loneliness, hate, success, love, compassion, fear, regret - and has a strange power to portray them with extreme precision. I have learned so much about life from this richly-themed novel that since reading it, I have been seeing and understanding the world differently.


      The first main principle I learned from The Little Prince is simply to see with your heart and imagination rather than with eyes, facts, and figures. With the author's depiction of adults, lonely people who have lost their ability to understand and make their surroundings into beyond what they are on the surface, the little prince and the narrator alike understand this loneliness as inability to perceive beyond. The adults he meets are so lost and alone without even knowing so because they rely only figures to prove something, whereas in the children's world, emotions and 'matters of consequence' are viewed upon with imagination and a relative understanding (something you don't need to see to know that it exists). To be able to think like the children do is a trait much worth seeking, though. When the little prince was about to depart from a fox he met that had wished to be tamed by him, he was left with this: "'And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'" A fox, that has spent its days observing men and their habits, surely would have derived the morals that govern the people that can se life for more than wealth and status. Unlike the children and people who know what their goals are, the adults depicted are always wistful of other things - money, power, material, and mundane objects.


      The second important theme I have learned from The Little Prince is not to let all the new developments and material things our rapidly developing society has to offer take away that which has always been most important in life. When the little prince meets the merchant selling pills, which he claims will quench thirst, saving a calculated fifty-three minutes from every week spent drinking, he asks, "'And what do I do with those fifty-three minutes?' 'Anything you like...' 'As for me,' said the little prince to himself, 'if I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.'" People in modern society have developed such things that advertising claims to make their lives easier and more efficient. They drink bottled water and eat pre-packaged meals; and they would much rather prefer taking diet pills than exercising off extra pounds. "How old fashioned," most of us would probably reply to the little prince's desire to use those extra minutes to walk to a fresh spring. But this kind of stay-convenient and technologically-dependent attitude of modern society is what may very well lead to a foreshadowed depression (and has already begun its process) - if anything at all.   


      Yet another important message I wanted to mention that relates to the latter theme is the extreme importance of preserving true friendship in our lives, which is quickly fading. Being a friend will give an unfallible uniqueness and undying quality to life that nothing else can imitate. During a conversation with a fox, the little prince learns that "'Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends anymore...'" As I look around my high school environment, it is as if the most dramatic change has occured. Beauty, wealth, and social status has so vastly superseded the original qualities people once looked for in a friend, such as trust and compassion, that I cannot stress the importance of this theme enough. When the little prince encountered the many thousands of roses, contradictory to what his single beloved rose told him on his planet, he did not give up that love for his rose, even though there were so many that looked like her. He simply told them about his fox friend: "'...He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.' And the roses were very much embarassed. 'You are beautiful, but you are empty,' he went on. 'One could not die for you...but in herself alone [his rose] she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses...'" Like a field of beautiful women the little prince could easily have given in to, the little prince much preferred his one rose to all the hundreds of them. This kind of friendship and love is so rare to find, because as said earlier, "'...there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship...'" and is one of the few things people have left yet to survive on.

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