Heather J. York
Complexity in Simplicity
The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupery is a wonderful novel. The Little Prince was originally written in French in 1943 as Le Petit Prince. It was then translated to English by Katherine Woods. The Little Prince is the story of a young boy from another planet who ventures from his home to discover new worlds. In the process, he makes friends and teaches valuable lessons. St. Exupery places himself as the narrator and author of this story. St. Exupery tells of how he went down in his airplane in the middle of the desert and meets a little prince from another planet. The little prince tells the author/pilot about all of the people and animals he has met since he set out on his voyage. In the process, the readers eyes are opened to many of the mysteries of life.
To make a great book, there are certain criterion which a book must meet. A book needs to be entertaining so the reader will enjoy it and continue to read on. A great novel needs to be well written. It should have a message or a lesson for the reader to pick up on. All great literature also needs to be timeless so it can be applied in different times and places.
The Little Prince is a good novel, in great part, because it has very entertaining characters. Part of what makes these characters so enjoyable is the fact they are each a paradox. The prince is an interesting character to follow through the book. The way the little prince never answers anyone elses questions, yet always expects answers to his own, is amusing. He is childlike in appearance yet seems older in his wisdom. The author of the story is captivating, because his character gives a great deal of insight into the thoughts of adults. The author is also childlike, in his hope that he will one day find another person who looks beneath the surface of things. Another character, the wise fox, is the princes first friend on the Earth. The fox appears to be a silly animal at first, after one reads on, however, they discover he is not silly at all. Also the rose, the princes love, is very arrogant yet charming. The snake, whom the prince meets his first night on Earth, is dangerous yet helpful at the end when he assists the prince in returning to his home planet. These many-sided characters draw the reader in to the world of the little prince.
The Little Prince is written very well too. The words have a way of pulling the reader into the story along with the other characters. I become quite charmed by The Little Prince every time I read it. St. Exupery writes in a very simplistic style which allows children as well as adults to fall in love with The Little Prince. In fact, The Little Prince is deceptively simple. The sentences may be written very simply, but some very deep meanings shine through. One such example of a simple phrase with deep meanings is said in the thoughts of the author, "It is such a secret place, the land of tears." (p. 25) This quote eloquently tells how no one can ever fully know why someone else is crying. Someone may think they know the reason, but they can never be sure.
The messages, to me, are the most important part of this wonderful book. When someone reads The Little Prince only on the surface, the story seems very lighthearted. When I read the book for the first time, I was curious about where the story was going. I loved this cheerful story of a little prince who is trying to find friends, but I knew there had to be more to get out of it. From the very first page, Exupery shows how adults do not look beneath the surface to find what is underneath. On that first page, Exupery shows his illustration of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant. He asks the adults if they are frightened of his drawing. To this, the adults respond by asking why one should be frightened by a hat. Because of this situation, the reader knows the novel is composed of more than meets the eye.
Another of the most meaningful situations in this delightful story appears simple yet has very intricate ideas. The following quote by the fox explains how people do not always look under the surface. They miss out by taking things at face value. "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." (p. 73) The fox says this to reassure the prince so he knows how special his rose is even though it looks the same as every other rose. The quote may appear to be very simple, but it is something that people should think on seriously. This message has helped to move me into action. I have begun to look at life with my heart instead of my eyes. By looking with my heart, I am able to live life more fully. I am better able to appreciate people for who they are rather than by making assumptions based on their appearances.
There are other powerful messages to be found in this book. This novel, like all great literature, is universal because, hidden in the words of the text are truths that cross barriers of time and culture. The Little Prince can apply to all ages of all cultures. During an interview, Emily Weeks, a student at Central University, said, "It [The Little Prince] teaches lessons that a person can use for their entire life." If someone reads this novel with an open mind, they can also learn about seeing with the heart. In one chapter, the little prince and the author have a very important conversation about baobab trees. The little prince talks of how they are a big problem on his planet. The planet the little prince lives on is very small, so he is very fearful of baobab trees. If the baobabs grow up, their roots will split his planet into little pieces. The baobabs are a constant threat, and the little prince has to pull up the little baobabs every morning. The little prince points out that these trees start out very small then grow into large problems. In another interview, Joshua Belz, a student at Truman State University, said, "Everyone has baobabs in their lives; everybody needs to learn how to take care of them." This message speaks to me and helps me realize that I can overcome many large obstacles if I take care of them while they are still small.
Perhaps the most important issue discussed in this novel is that of the ephemeral versus the eternal. The little prince is very bothered by this controversy. The little prince loves a flower on his home planet, but he has to leave her behind when he explores the universe. The prince learns from a geographer that his flower is ephemeral, in other words, "in danger of speedy disappearance." (p. 54) However, the prince learns from his friend, the fox, once you have "tamed" something and made it yours, it is eternal. The little prince befriends the rose, so now it will live forever in his heart. Likewise, once someone has become your friend, they will always be your friend. Friendship is eternal, it is unchangeable.
This message spoke to me when I read it this spring, because I had just lost my mother. I was having a lot of trouble dealing with it, and The Little Prince gave me a sense of security. This message reminded me that the love I feel for my mother and the love she feels for me can and will never change. Love is eternal.
From reading this story, I have grown to love the stars as the little prince does. He finds comfort by looking at the stars in the sky. The little prince knows that his rose is up on one of those stars waiting for him to return to her. Since he does not know which star she is on, all of the stars are lovely for him. The little prince says it best when he says, "If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night. All the stars are abloom with flowers." (p. 87) He feels a special closeness to his rose by gazing at the stars. I, too, love to look at all of the stars, because I know that my mom is up there somewhere. This thought makes all of the stars appear brighter and more lustrous than they ever did before.
Before the little prince leaves Earth to go back to his rose, he asks the pilot to draw him a pet sheep. The pilot does, but the prince worries the sheep will eat the rose, so the pilot draws the prince a muzzle to help protect the rose from the sheep. After the prince leaves, the pilot realizes he forgot to draw a strap on the muzzle. Every night, the pilot looks at the stars and wonders if the sheep has eaten the rose, for he knows that will bring the little prince much pain. The pilot looks to the stars for his answer. He knows that if the sheep eats the rose, the stars will all be darkened. "For you who love the little prince, and for me, nothing in the universe can be the same if somewhere, we do not know where, a sheep we never saw has-yes or no-eaten a rose." (p. 94) This aspect of the story touches something inside of me too. It reflects the worry and pain of acts left un-done. The pilot and I are alike in our wondering. We both look to the stars for our answers, because the answers cannot be found elsewhere. "The wondering seems to link the author and the little prince; perhaps unfinished deeds and words are the tie between us and our loved ones until we are reunited," said Karen Harrison, a French teacher at Ballard high school, in her interview. Since my mother died, I have often wondered about acts left un-finished. I wonder if I remembered to tell her I loved her before she fell asleep that night. I wonder if she knew how important she was and still is to me. I wonder if she knows of the impact she has on my life, and if she realizes she is the force that keeps me going.
The Little Prince is an awe-inspiring novel which is poetically written. The Little Prince has the power to make a great impact on those who read it. This novel will make you smile, laugh, and cry. Everyone may take its lessons differently depending on ones life experiences. The Little Prince can be related to many issues we deal with daily such as friendship, love, and death. I believe there is a message in The Little Prince for anyone who is willing to embrace this novel.
1. Have you read The Little Prince?
2. Did you enjoy reading The Little Prince?
3. What did you find to be your favorite section of the novel?
4. Why did you especially like that part?
5. Were there any messages in The Little Prince that were very meaningful to you? Which ones?
6. Has reading this book changed your life in any way?
7. How has it changed your life?