The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Solemn and Careful
The tone of The Little Prince is solemn and careful. The whole book is set in the past—the narrator is telling us about something that happened to him six years before he decided to sit down and write the book. He explains early on that his intent to write the book comes from a really solemn place: “I do not want any one to read my book carelessly. I have suffered too much grief in setting down these memories” (4.13). The Little Prince is like a memorial to the prince—not just to the prince, but also to the time the prince and the narrator had together. The subjects in this book are important to the narrator, and he takes them very seriously.
Indeed, the last thing the narrator wants is “careless” readers, so it makes sense that all his words would be chosen with care and that he would take special pains to make sure he’s representing things exactly as they happened.
In one instance, the narrator tries to exaggerate about how many lamplighters Earth has, but he pulls back almost immediately, saying:
“When one wishes to play the wit, he sometimes wanders a little from the truth. I have not been altogether honest in what I have told you about the lamplighters. And I realize that I run the risk of giving a false idea of our planet to those who do not know it.” (17.1)
A statement like this is solemn, too. A piece of exaggeration could have dire consequences—it could “giv[e] a false idea of our planet.” And that would be terrible. For truth is important. Seeing things as they are is really important.