The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
When you read this book, were you surprised to find out that it was narrated by an adult? We were! To be completely honest, the book’s wonderful illustrations had grabbed our attention, and we were mildly disappointed that an adult narrator had wandered into its pages.
We shouldn’t have worried, though, because even though the narrator is a grown up, he’s a child at heart. And though he tells the story, the star of this tale is the little prince.
We don’t know the narrator’s name or age or even what he looks like because he doesn’t include a self-portrait in this book. What we do know is that he is a pilot, and that he is forced to land his plane in the Sahara because he has engine trouble.
The Lost Boy/ Man
The other thing that the narrator immediately tells us about himself is that he isn’t too fond of grown ups.
The narrator believes that adults are obsessed with the wrong things: money, ambition, facts and figures. He finds it impossible to relate to them, and as a result, leads a lonely life. The narrator believes that children have a keen insight into and understanding of the truly important things in life, which are imagination and beauty and friendship. He writes: “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them” (1.7).
Perhaps the narrator should have been an artist instead of a pilot. He thinks he could have had “what might have been a magnificent career as a painter” (1.7). Though he has turned his back on professional painting, he draws all the pictures in this book. Yay! And even as an adult, he still gauges new people by showing them the picture he’d drawn as a kid of a boa swallowing an elephant. He writes:
Whenever I met one of [the grown-ups] who seemed to me at all clear-sighted, I tried the experiment of showing him my Drawing Number One, which I have always kept. I would try to find out, so, if this was a person of true understanding. But, whoever it was, he, or she, would always say:
“That is a hat.”
Then I would never talk to that person about boa constrictors, or primeval forests, or stars. (1.10-12)
We can tell from this that the narrator has been in search of a friend and companion, and for the longest time, did not succeed in finding anyone who shared his ideas and ideals.
When the narrator meets the little prince, he finds a kindred soul in him: The prince is someone he can talk to, and who shares his worldviews. After the little prince leaves the Earth, the narrator writes this book in memory of him. He says:
“If I try to describe [the little prince] here, it is to make sure that I shall not forget him… if I forget him, I may become like the grown-ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures…” (4.13).
It’s because of the narrator’s fondness for imagination and friendship that he hits it off so well with the little prince. It’s easy for us readers to sympathize with the narrator’s disillusionment with a world that is obsessed with the wrong things. Even though he is an adult himself, the narrator questions the shallowness of the adults around him. He aspires for deeper connections with people, and for conversations filled with creativity and beauty. We can imagine ourselves in his place, drawing sheep and learning about asteroids and wishing, desperately, to hear a certain laugh one more time.The Narrator's Timeline