This month, my book club is reading The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I remember reading it as a kid, but I never knew it was semi-autobiographical. Upon reading it again, the symbolism kind of hit me in the face. But more on that later. Here is my review.
Tear Level: 5/5 shed tears…I cried at the end.
Synopsis: A pilot, stranded in the desert, meets a young prince from a different planet, which is the size of a house. The two form a friendship, as the prince shares the story of his travels with the pilot.
Background: Saint-Exupery was an expatriate of France. He wrote this book as he was traveling around North America, and it is quite apparent that he experienced much of the same emotions of the little prince upon leaving his home. Despair, loneliness, maybe even regret. The entire book mirrors the life of the author, which is amazingly sad.
Tone: Somber. Lonely.
What I Liked Most: THE ILLUSTRATIONS!!!! I can’t even remember the last time I read a book with pictures in it. I thought they added a lot to the story, as it’s true what was said in the book–adults lack the creative insights of children. It felt nostalgic to look at the drawings and remember when I used to appreciate the simplicity of picture books, without delving into all the complications of themes and symbolism and literary devices.
What Book Club Members Liked Most:
The people the prince meets on his journey because they portray characteristics of adults.
The fox because he says the most important line in the book.
The ending because it shows that this book isn’t just a children’s book. The allegory and philosophy were mind-blowing.
The book made me think about the difference between children and adults. Children are innocent, trusting, creative, and curious. Adults no longer ask questions about why they do things…they just do them.
The adults the little prince meets are unimaginative and corrupt, caring only about numbers. They can’t see the elephant inside the boa constrictor that the narrator draws. It made me wonder about myself as a child versus now as an adult.
I used to ask “why?” after any answer my mom would give me. I used to question things, and I used to appreciate my imagination more. As an adult, I no longer question why I do certain things. I just do them because it’s what “I’m supposed to do.” Would I be able to see the elephant inside the boa constrictor, or the sheep inside the crate? Or would I, like the adults who see the narrator’s drawing, simply tell him to stop trying to draw because he has no talent?
It’s kind of like the decision children eventually make when they must choose a major. Do they continue to follow their dream, or do they quit because adults tell them they aren’t talented enough? And then, do these children grow up to be jaded adults who forget about these dreams and their creativity as they pursue something “more practical” that makes them more money?
There’s a ton more to talk about, but that would take days. This book brought up so much that I never appreciated or understood when I read it as a child. Again though, is that merely the difference of reading it through the eyes of a child versus as an adult? Was this book meant to be appreciated simply as imaginative and fantastical, as a child would take it? Or was it meant to be overanalyzed by adults?
Favorite Symbolism: From the baobab trees to the rose to the fox, everything represented something from the author’s own time period and life. The baobabs, which threaten to take root and destroy the planet, are said to represent Nazism. The vain, beautiful rose that the prince leaves behind on his planet to fend for herself, is a symbol of Saint-Exupery’s wife, and the field of roses the prince sees is representative of the author’s unfaithfulness with other women.
The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.
You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.
People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.