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Study Guide: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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THE LITTLE PRINCE: LITERARY ELEMENT ANALYSIS

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

Major Themes


The main theme of The Little Prince is the importance of looking beneath the surface to find the real truth and meaning of a thing. It is the fox who teaches the Prince to see with one’s heart instead of just with one’s eyes. Unfortunately, most adults have difficulty doing this. In the beginning of the book, the narrator points out how grown-ups can never see the real meaning of a drawing; instead, they look at the surface, failing to probe a deeper meaning.

When the Little Prince first comes to earth, he also suffers from looking at the surface of things. He leaves his planet because he is bothered by the vanity of his flower; he never stops to think how important they are to each other. When he sees the garden of roses, which look just like his special flower, he is crushed. He had imagined that his rose was unique and valuable; now he believes it is common and worthless. The fox, however, makes him realizes that his flower is unique. Because the Little Prince has loved and nurtured the flower, she is very special. Finally, the Little Prince understands that he must look beneath the surface to understand the true importance of things.

Throughout his book, Saint-Exupéry emphasizes the importance of looking beneath the surface to find true beauty in even common things. The star of the Little Prince becomes special and beautiful because it is home to his unique rose, made special by love. The narrator comments on the Little Prince’s love: “What moves me so deeply about this Little Prince, who is sleeping here, is his loyalty to a flower -- the image of a rose that shines through his whole being like the flame of a lamp, even when he is asleep.” What makes the Little Prince so special is this ability to love fully and completely. In the end, it is love that gives meaning to all existence. Without it, man is lost and alone on the desert, much like the narrator until he encountered and befriended the Little Prince.

Minor Theme

Throughout the book, Saint-Exupéry is very critical of many of the characteristics of mankind. He claims that humans are too preoccupied with wealth, power, and technology, missing the important things in life -- beauty, love, and friendship. Because they do not invest the time in loving others and noticing the small wonders of the world, people rush from place to place in search of something; but since they look for the wrong things, they are never happy with where they are and rush onward again, much like the trains that the switchman controls. People are also duped into believing that facts and figures are important, just like the geographer; however, the facts often hide the truth and cause a person to miss out on the true meaning of life.

In a similar manner, when a human succeeds and accumulates some wealth, they spend all of their time counting their assets instead of investing it in the important things of life. When they finally realize their lives have no meaning, people then turn to crutches, such as alcohol, believing that these things can supply the answer; in truth, the answer always lies inside if a person will only seek the truth beneath the surface.

 

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