Summary of the book The Little Prince: Our perception of the world around us is totally subjective. However, through the tales and the adventures of the protagonist, the Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry nudges us into thinking about life’s everyday situations that will without a doubt change the way we see things.
By Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943, 93 pages.
Note: This is a guest chronicle written by Kevin BODEVING of the “tondefi” blog
Chronicle and summary of The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a writer, aviator and poet. He took an interest in planes and became a pilot during his military service in 1922. He went on to be hired by a postal company. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry started writing by recounting his experiences as an aviator. He joined the air force in 1939 and disappeared during a reconnaissance mission aboard his plane in 1944.
When he was in New York during the war, he wrote “The Little Prince” in two versions, French and English. The book was published in 1943 in the United States and in 1946 in France. It has since become a classic work of literature, even an iconic book. The book, with its almost poetic quality, has known worldwide success. It is available in almost 300 languages, and is one of the best-selling and translated books in the world.
“Draw me a sheep”
Told from the first-person perspective, we first meet the narrator, an aviator who has just broken down in the middle of the Sahara desert. There is damage to his plane, so he tries to fix it up to fly off again. During the repairs, he makes the surprising acquaintance of the Little Prince. This strange little fellow with golden hair from another planet tells him about his various previous adventures and encounters.
At first glance, “The Little Prince” may seem to be a children’s book, but we will see that behind the many analogies, this story could very well change the way you see things.
Saint-Exupéry points out that adults have forgotten that they too were once little. The narrator tells us that at the age of six, he drew an elephant inside a boa, without the elephant being clearly visible, just the bump it made in the snake’s belly.
However, adults mistook his drawing for a hat, and despite another explanatory drawing, they advised him to stop drawing to focus on mathematics, geography, etc…
What does this teach us? Antoine de Saint-Exupéry explains that our social environment can lead us away from what we would really like. We are conditioned to do what the world thinks is best for us. Over the course of the next three parts, we will see all the other lessons the Little Prince’s adventure teaches us.
- 1st part: Finding balance
- 2nd part: Why we should take care of our environment
- 3rd part: It is all about perception
Part 1: Finding balance
The Little Prince is a little boy who is a bit shy and comes from another planet, asteroid B612. Before meeting our narrator on Earth, he had a number of other encounters. Through this means, we discover a little more about our hero’s philosophy and state of mind.
The Little Prince is a naturally curious character and never leaves a question without getting an answer. During each of his encounters, he questions the other party about the reason why they act in such a manner. His aim is to understand their behaviour. If you recognise yourself through these different situations, it will help you take a step back during future events.
On the first planet visited in the story, the Little Prince makes the acquaintance of a ruler. This ruler’s discourse is based on authority. After a few exchanges, we understand that authority can only be respected as long as it is reasonable. The ruler explains that if he were to order something impossible or unreasonable, it would make him a bad leader. He would be asking the impossible.
“Let your dream devour your life, not your life devour your dream.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Applied to everyday life, sometimes we can find ourselves in the king’s shoes. Showing reason when you give an order will considerably improve the results. In the same way, if someone gives us an order, taking a step back to determine if this order is reasonable will have an impact on the how the request goes. I’ll let that sink in and we will now move on directly to the next destination.
We make the acquaintance of the conceited man, a person who hides behind his pride. Blinded by his expectation of gratitude, he is alone and does nothing. The situation becomes absurd, because all the inhabitant of this planet does is wait for the Little Prince’s applause so he can tip his hat.
The approach here is interesting, because it shows that waiting for some form of gratitude for no reason will never be satisfactory. We will probably end up making the people around us sick of us. Pride and egocentricity are clearly values that hold us back in our positive development.
“[Grown-ups] never say to you: What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? “
Then comes the turn of the tippler. This man drinks to forget that he is ashamed… ashamed of drinking. Paradoxical, isn’t it? It can sometimes be easy to get caught up in a routine that we have created ourselves. If we cannot take the necessary step back to realise this, we will remain trapped forever.
You have the key to get out of a process that you have started. YOU made the decision to get into this habit. Here, the tippler decided to drink. To stop, he needs to make a new decision. This is where things become difficult.
The next encounter is with the businessman. He is a character who claims to own the stars. A nice analogy with money. The Little Prince points out that it is useless to possess something if it doesn’t do us any good, and we don’t give any value to the thing we own.
Do not become a slave to your possessions. The businessman doesn’t appreciate our hero’s presence, because as a serious man, he must count the stars to possess them. What is the use of this possession? This is exactly the point that the Little Prince raises.
Next, we come to a tiny little planet. Here lives the lamplighter who switches the street lamp on and off because that is the order. Respectful of this order, he continues with his work that the Little Prince describes as useful. However, the lamplighter constantly repeats the same action and claims he is tired because he has no time to rest.
The Little Prince shows him a technique to be both respectful of the order and lazy. Nevertheless, his technique doesn’t satisfy the lamplighter. He only likes to sleep, and the Little Prince’s proposal does not allow this.
Optimisation of work thanks to some kind of automation to obtain freedom is the solution offered by our little man. All the other characters we have met so far would hate the lamplighter, because he is the only one who isn’t self-centred. The Little Prince advocates sharing and this is his first encounter with someone who shares his values.
On the following planet, we make the acquaintance of the geographer. Interested by the Little Prince’s visit, he tells us that he depends on explorers. They are the people who travel and talk about what they see, and this allows him to draw maps. This work is very unfulfilling if we are incapable of creating or moving forward by ourselves.
“For what you have tamed, you become responsible forever”
Once on Earth, the Little Prince meets a switch tender. He sends the trains and masses of people sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left. Our hero wonders what everyone is looking for and the switch tender answers that even the engine driver doesn’t know.
Through our little hero, we understand that children know what they are looking for. It is important to find a goal so we can guide ourselves. When we are small children, we dream of becoming astronauts, firefighters, painters… and then we forget. We need to take back control to be the master of our destiny.
What does Antoine de Saint-Exupéry teach us through all these encounters? Above all, it is an image of the workplace and the social environment. Each person interprets things differently, depending on their behaviour and their perception.
Some will act for gratitude, for their own interests, and others will be dependent on orders or external elements and will imprison themselves, giving up their happiness. Others will rule unreasonably. Every situation is subjective and will depend on each person’s motivations.
What we must remember is the importance of finding our balance, and being conscious of the position in which we find ourselves in order to thrive. We must open our mind to the world around us without forgetting our own wants and needs.
The Little Prince talks a lot about his planet and we are going to see how managing your environment can have an impact on your life.
Part 2: Why we should take care of our environment
As we progress through the book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry reveals more and more about our golden-haired hero’s origin. Through the Little Prince’s curiosity and the many questions he asks, we start to discover his planet.
It is the reflection of a number of thoughts about the environment and personal development. Let’s look at this in more detail.
The Little Prince likes to garden on his planet, to identify the good plants from the weeds. As he explains, a baobab would destroy his planet since it would be far too big and its roots would obliterate his tiny planet. To avoid this, it is essential to treat every plant and identify the good from the bad because before becoming huge, a baobab starts as a twig.
This is an analogy about problems. It is important to analyse everything that acts on our environment so we can identify what may become a problem. Detecting and controlling something that could become detrimental if left unchecked as soon as it appears, can save us from many worries. The right development of our environment relies on small, regular actions.
This idea of repeating actions to ensure smooth running is strengthened when we learn that our hero’s planet is occupied by three little volcanoes. He explains that he regularly sweeps them to avoid eruptions that could harm his planet. This is an invitation to avoid procrastination in order to prevent a situation from becoming sour and difficult to manage.
When he talks about planet, the Little Prince teaches us several things about feelings. When he is sad, he watches the sunset. As his planet is small, he can see up to 43 sunsets in one day. Diverting our attention from something can lift our spirits. If you’re sad, look for something that makes you forget your sadness. Like the Little Prince, find your “sunset”.
On our hero’s planet, there is one inhabitant who matters most to him – a flower. She is a rose that he has watched since she was a seed. She is coquette, and she likes to be taken care of. He places her under a glass globe, protecting her from the wind and regularly watering her whenever she wants. The Little Prince says that he was unhappy because he attached more importance to the rose’s words than to her actions.
A lesson about love: the more we have feelings for someone, the more difficult it will be to put things in perspective between words and actions. Sometimes we only realise this when it’s too late. In this passage, the rose apologises to the Little Prince and tells him she has been silly.
Our feelings can be detrimental to our communication. Realising this is already a great start to ensuring balance in our relationships and to act without regret.
Before going into this in more detail, we should look at a passage between the Little Prince and the aviator. The aviator couldn’t draw very well because he never had the chance to practice. At the age of six, grown-ups had put an end to his career as a painter following the failure of his first two drawings.
Imagine his surprise when the Little Prince asked him to draw a sheep. Dissatisfied with his sketches, the aviator ended up drawing a box with holes in it, explaining to his young critic that his sheep was inside it. Amazed, the little man thanked him. Imagination allows us to create whatever we want. The only limit is subjective and it depends entirely on yourself.
Our golden-haired hero was happy to learn that sheep eat shrubs. This gave him a solution to the baobab problem. However, this solution would lead to a new problem: the safety of his flower. He then wonders what is the point of flowers having thorns if this cannot stop a sheep from nibbling on them.
The narrator is getting angry over his plane’s repairs and he answers the Little Prince curtly. Paying more attention to a bolt than our hero’s question, he answers that thorns on roses are of no use and only serve to justify their malice.
Offended, the Little Prince points out to him that he is speaking like grown-ups do and that he is incapable of putting things in perspective. Then he breaks down in tears. Our aviator now finds himself with repairs that are not making progress and a Little Prince to console.
“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! “
Here is a second example of how our feelings can adversely affect communication. When he answers angrily, the narrator hurts our young hero. We tend to focus too much on something to the detriment of our environment and the people who are dear to us.
To ensure better balance, it is essential to measure your environment. When we communicate, if we give all our attention to the other person, this will avoid many poor situations. External elements often skew our judgement.
True, the approach here is philosophical and psychological, but it is above all an invitation to re-evaluate our behaviour. To support his point, the aviator tells us the story of an astronomer. The scientist held a conference to present his revolutionary discoveries. However, as he was oddly dressed, people took him for a clown and no one picked up on what he was saying.
His credibility was undermined by his appearance. Several months later, he made the same speech, only this time he wore an elegant suit. His whole audience was receptive, and astounded by his research. Here, communication is above all an act of presentation.
The narrator informs us that grown-ups like figures in order to understand things. Being capable of imagining a situation without numbers as a reference is fundamental to understanding life. Why? Love, feelings and relationships are things that cannot be measured with numbers.
Through his characters and the situations he describes, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry invites us to develop a particular state of mind. We are brought up in a rational world, but to get the best out of our environment, we need to look beyond certain basics such as numbers and live in the moment, listen to our relationships. Why not watch a sunset?
Being aware of our actions and our environment is essential to our good development. Throughout these different passages, we have seen that, depending on our choices, the outcome will be very different. Taking a step back and reacting in fully consciousness will allow us to avoid poor situations. Most of all, it will make our environment much more pleasant.
In the third and final part, we are going to see how perception can change everything.
Part 3: It’s all about perception
The Little Prince arrived on planet Earth in the middle of the desert, searching for humankind. He had several encounters that help us to understand the meaning of the journey we have taken with our little hero.
The first encounter Antoine de Saint-Exupéry introduces us to with the Little Prince is with the snake, who represents the key to another world. The snake informs our young hero that whether we are in the desert or among people, we are always alone. It is an invitation to define solitude.
This passage is even more interesting today, because with technology, we are always surrounded by others, but we can still feel this solitude. It is important to be authentic. This is what the Little Prince will go on to teach us.
He met a flower and she told him that six or seven humans existed. This judgement was solely based on her past experience. Continuing on his quest to meet humans, the little man climbed a mountain to see things from above. He called out, but an echo was the only reply.
He then thought that humans only repeated what they were told. When we don’t know something, it is very easy to base our judgement on the little information we have, and thus be completely in the wrong. The importance of searching for understanding rather than judgement will allow us to avoid false beliefs.
His journey continued and he arrived at a field of roses. He had thought himself rich with his single rose and three volcanoes, so he was quite surprised to see the truth before his eyes with this field of roses and these mountains. What he owned wasn’t unique at all, and this made him sad. He burst into tears.
This short, but emotional passage shows us just how much the truth can hurt sometimes. However, with the arrival of the fox, our hero’s perception changed. Let’s look at this in more detail.
The fox teaches the Little Prince what it means to tame. Through creating links, something that seems to be like everything else becomes unique. It isn’t a question of ownership, but of adding value, making ourselves grow.
A relationship works when both parties benefit from it. There has to be harmony. When the Little Prince leaves, the fox shows that he is sad, but thanks to the time they shared, every time he looks at a wheat field, he will be happy.
“The men where you live,” said the little prince, “raise five thousand roses in the same garden — and they do not find in it what they are looking for.”
We can easily make links and connections between things. The aspect of uniqueness comes from the act of appropriating something for ourselves. This is what I’m inviting you to do with this book. I am certain that you will see and understand things differently from what I’m describing to you here. The fox teaches the Little Prince why his rose is unique. The time he has devoted to it is what makes it so important in his eyes.
The aviator finishes his water, and with the Little Prince, they start to look for a well. We learn that the desert is beautiful precisely because it hides a well. The desert is simply the analogy of our interior.
In each of us, there is a well, a hidden treasure, and searching for this treasure makes everything wonderful. Becoming aware of this will allow us to move forward to find “our well”. Crossing the desert can be compared to the difficult moments in our life. We could give up and die of thirst or we can start walking to search for “our well”.
This is certainly a very abstract and philosophical approach, but it shows us that depending on our perception, a situation can look very different. What we are looking for is not always apparent. On the contrary, we tend to rely too much on what we see by focusing on a single moment, forgetting the entire process that brought it about.
The Little Prince explains to the aviator that once he leaves, all he will have to do is look up at the stars to hear him laugh. In the eyes of the aviator, all the stars will become little bells, whereas for others they will only be lights in the sky.
The narrator then realises that he forgot to strap the sheep’s muzzle. Perhaps the sheep will have eaten the Little Prince’s rose, and he will cry. Or maybe not. The aviator will never know the answer. Wondering whether it is “yes” or “no” will make him hear the stars laugh or cry. Perception is subjective and totally changes our vision of things.
We are the masters of our own perception. It is up to us to decide if we want to see life in a positive or negative way. The Little Prince shows us that our state of mind will guide our choices and our emotions. Our entire life is based on simple and personal choices.
Conclusion and analysis of the book The Little Prince
Reading The Little Prince literally changed my life. Why? It is a book that I read when I was younger. Later in life, I came across it again by chance and decided to read it again. This approach was completely innovative. In contrast to my first reading, this time I could understand the analogies.
I was able to make direct links to my life and the world around me, something I wasn’t necessarily able to do after my first reading.
As we have seen, through many characters and emotional passages such as the one with the fox or the many exchanges with the aviator, we, as readers, come to re-evaluate ourselves.
The Little Prince is not just intended for children to teach them about key principles. It is well and truly a journey to the very heart of ourselves.
Personally, apart from the questioning, this book allowed me to find answers. I invite you to write a simple sentence, a problem you are facing and to then read The Little Prince. It won’t give you a direct answer, but you will find a guiding line to point your search towards the solution for you.
I consider The Little Prince to be a “must-have”. It is so short that you can read it over and over again, each time finding something new. Although it is quite philosophical, it directly handles several concepts that are fundamental on the road to happiness.
In short, it was my first step towards personal development and I highly recommend it. Keep your mind sharp and read between the lines. Don’t limit yourself to a simple rose or a talking fox.
Strong Points of the book The Little Prince:
- It is a tale that is short and easy to read
- Each fresh reading of the story offers something more
- The book challenges us on many different levels
- The book is as rich as your imagination
- This tale goes beyond the confines of childhood and reaches everyone
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry created a unique piece of work, the most read in French and the most translated
Weak Points of the book The Little Prince:
- It requires consideration to put its teachings to use
- The insights of this tale are limited by your imagination
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry raises several issues without necessarily developing them very much
My rating :
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