The Little Prince
How we cite our quotes:
That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. (1.7)
In this paragraph, the traditional ideas of experience and innocence get turned upside down. Actually this book seems to do that a lot! The young characters are the ones with the most wisdom, and it’s the grown-ups who, over and over again, appear not to “understand anything.”
They [grown-ups] are like that. One must not hold it against them. Children should always show great forbearance toward grown-up people. (4.10)
Sound familiar? This is one of the ideas we hear again and again in this book—the idea that children know more and have a greater understanding than grown-ups do. In the narrator’s opinion, this means that children basically have a responsibility to “show great forbearance,” which is a fancy way of saying “be patient with the grown-ups” rather than getting upset when the grown-ups display their ignorance.
“[…] And if I know—I, myself—one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing—Oh! You think that is not important!” (7.28)
To believe that a single flower and sheep are so important, or so vital, takes a certain kind of purity. Most people wouldn’t get upset about such a thing. Their experience has taught them to worry about things that seem more “important,” like bills and timetables and even having the right color backpacks. The narrator, for example, doesn’t seem all that bothered about the sheep because he’s thinking about fixing his plane…and that’s what upsets the prince so much. To the prince, something like a plane getting fixed isn’t nearly as important as safeguarding his flower from his sheep.