The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Stars show up over and over again in The Little Prince. No, not the kind the paparazzi chase. The twinkle-twinkle kind.
There are more stars in this book than we can see in our city sky, for sure. Let’s look at a few instances:
- The king thinks he reigns over them. The prince asks him, “And the stars obey you?” The king replies, “Certainly they do.” (10.28-29)
- The businessman thinks these “little golden objects that set lazy men to idle dreaming” (13.15) belong to him. He is counting them to own them.
- According to the prince, even the lamplighter is connected to the stars: “When he lights his street lamp, it is as if he brought one more star to life, or one flower. When he puts out his lamp, he sends the flower, or the star, to sleep…” (14.2).
- When the narrator uses his Drawing Test on new acquaintances and they fail it, he says: “Then I would never talk to that person about boa constrictors, or primeval forests, or stars.” (1.10)
It is clear that stars are important symbols in this book. They represent what is most important to each character: to the prince and the narrator, they are symbols of magic and beauty; to the king, they are subjects who obey his every command; and to the businessman, they are wealth. So stars mean different things to different people, depending on what a person values most.
Right before the little prince departs from the earth, the little prince makes this idea more explicit:
“All men have stars,” [the prince said.] “but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all these stars are silent. You—you alone—will have the stars as no one else has them—”
“What are you trying to say?”
“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!” (26.18-20)
Laughing stars sound pretty amazing, don’t they? So for the narrator, the stars come to signify what is closest to his heart: his dear friend, laughing.