Is 'The Little Prince' more than just a children’s book?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is a magical book about the importance of friendship and the quest for the truth. Our story begins with our narrator, who retells his encounter with the Little Prince, which took place over six years ago. Our narrator has crashed his aeroplane in the middle of the Sahara desert and while he is trying to fix it, a little boy appears out of nowhere and asks him to draw a sheep. After a lot of questions (and not a lot of answers) our narrator discovers that the Little Prince comes from the planet B-612, where he has left behind three volcanoes and a rose, all in search of friendship. Leaving the safety of his own planet, the Little Prince journeys through the universe to many different planets where he meets a number of adults with different characteristics, before he eventually arrives on Earth and meets a fox and our narrator.
Throughout the whole of the book, we are told very little about our narrator and we do not learn anything new about him, besides the fact that he is an adult and a pilot. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry purposely creates a mysterious narrator for two reasons. Firstly, the narrator’s main role is to describe the Little Prince’s odyssey to the reader, and so it isn't important for our story to know who the narrator is. Secondly, we are also told very little about the narrator because he is meant to embody all adults, just as the Little Prince represents children in a general sense. Therefore by not creating a very specific and rich character, the narrator can be made applicable and relatable to each and every one of us grown-ups, and the reader has the creative freedom to imagine the narrator as they wish.
Although on first glance The Little Prince might seem to be a simple children’s book about the search for friendship, the book can be read on many different levels. The author of the novel resourcefully crafts it to be interpreted on many different levels according to the age of the reader, and so the book transcends the limits of both time and age. On one level the Little Prince is searching for friendship, but on another level he is searching for something much more: he is searching for the truth.
It becomes clear then that while the Little Prince visits these other planets to see if any adults are suitable to be his friend, he is also trying to find out what is ‘truth’. Along the way the Little Prince meets the Businessman on planet B-328. The Businessman is a very busy man who spends all his time counting the stars that he believes belong to him. The Businessman then writes down the number of stars on his piece of paper and he puts it in the bank. We realise that the Businessman is a symbol of human greed, because he wants to own all the stars and so is obsessed with counting them all. Not only is the Businessman a bad friend because he ignores the Little Prince, but he also doesn’t help the Little Prince on his quest to find the truth. The Businessman claims that he owns the stars because he has counted them even though this isn’t the truth. He is therefore following a lie, and because he is greedy he doesn’t focus on searching for ‘truth’ and real beauty, but rather he focuses on material things.
It is only when the Little Prince meets the fox on Earth that he realises the importance of searching for the ‘truth’. The fox tells the Little Prince that ‘what is essential is invisible to the eye’ and you have to close your outer eyes and use your inner eyes to find the truth. It is therefore through the Little Prince’s journey that we too come to realise what is the real ‘truth’ and to accept the sad illusion that we sometimes trap ourselves in.