The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Conceited Man
The second planet the prince visits is inhabited by this character. Both allegorically and literally, this guy takes an adult obsession with an adult thing—that same obsession we see character after character repeat—to the max. He believes that everybody he meets should think he is awesome:
“Ah! Ah! I am about to receive a visit from an admirer!” he exclaimed, from afar, when he first saw the little prince coming.
For, to conceited men, all other men are admirers. (11.2-3)
The conceited man can’t think of a scenario in which this isn’t true, or in which he isn’t the center of attention.
In fact, the conceited man even changes the meanings of words to make them more about himself. When the little prince asks him, “‘What does that mean—“admire”?,’” the conceited man doesn’t say, “Admire means to think something or someone is awesome.” Instead, he defines the word “admire” in relation to himself, explaining, “‘To admire means that you regard me as the handsomest, the best-dressed, the richest, and the most intelligent man on this planet’” (11.14-15). It’s not exactly the same thing, is it?
Back to allegory: In his own way, the conceited man’s approach to the world is as narrow as the king’s. In other words, the conceited man thinks the prince should admire him, just as the king assumes the prince is his subject. Each of these guys thinks the world revolves around him. And, as many critics observe, each of their worlds actually does. They are isolated and live on their own little planets.
So, every one of these grown-ups that the little prince meets defines the world around him according to his own terms—each of them sees the world only as he thinks it is. They don’t realize what it means to see with the heart. In fact, they wouldn’t know the first thing about that.