Study Guide

The Little Prince Versions of Reality

By Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Versions of Reality

Chapter 2
The Narrator

The first night, then, I went to sleep on the sand, a thousand miles from any human habitation. I was more isolated than a shipwrecked sailor on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Thus you can imagine my amazement, at sunrise, when I was awakened by an odd little voice. (2.2)

When the narrator first crashes in the desert, he expects to be there alone. It’s kind of funny, isn’t it, that he compares himself—someone stuck in the middle of a desert—to someone stuck in the middle of a huge body of water? It’s as though anything from the natural world that’s expansive, whether it’s sand or water, treats small, helpless people in the same way.

Chapter 3
The Little Prince

“So you, too, come from the sky! Which is your planet?”

At that moment I caught a gleam of light in the impenetrable mystery of his presence; and I demanded, abruptly:

“Do you come from another planet?” (3.11-13)

Here, the prince points out what seems like a pretty important connection between himself and his potential new friend: they both “come from the sky.” But at the same time as he notices a similarity, he points to a difference. The narrator isn’t from another planet, and the prince is. Something that seems really normal to the prince (being from another planet) is actually incredibly surprising to the narrator.

Chapter 6
The Narrator

“For the sunset. We must wait until it is time.”

At first you seemed to be very much surprised. And then you laughed to yourself. You said to me:

“I am always thinking that I am at home!” (6.5-7)

In the prince’s version of how things are, it’s normal to see a sunset when you want to—you just have to scoot your chair over to the section of your tiny planet on which the sun is setting. But in our reality, things work differently, which the prince finds strange.

Chapter 9
The Narrator

So he cleaned out the extinct volcano, too. If they are well cleaned out, volcanoes burn slowly and steadily, without any eruptions. Volcanic eruptions are like fires in a chimney.

On our earth we are obviously much too small to clean out our volcanoes. That is why they bring no end of trouble upon us. (9.1-2)

Sounds so logical, doesn’t it? We almost believe it. Almost. Clearly, our narrator’s version of reality is also just a tiny bit warped. Don’t try to sweep out a volcano! You’d set your pants on fire.

Chapter 11
The Conceited Man

“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)

There are many ways to develop your own version of reality. It’s not just living on another planet (although this character does that too). Finding a different reality comes from just being the kind of person that you are. In this case, for the “conceited man,” being conceited shapes his understanding of all other people. To him, “all other men are admirers.” Even if they’re not actually admirers, he thinks they are. Guess that’s better than creating a reality in which everybody dislikes you, right?

Chapter 13
The Little Prince

“If I owned a silk scarf,” he said, “I could put it around my neck and take it away with me. If I owned a flower, I could pluck that flower and take it away with me. But you cannot pluck the stars from heaven…”

“No. But I can put them in the bank.” (13.42-3)

Here’s a big difference of opinion between two characters who inhabit different versions of reality. The prince sees the stars as they appear in the sky, or “from heaven.” You can see them but you can’t touch or hold them, like you could small objects like “a silk scarf” or a flower. For that reason, he thinks, people can’t possess the stars. But the businessman thinks you can own anything, just by saying you do. If you can count it, for example, you can own it.

Chapter 18

“Men?” she [the earth flower] echoed. “I think there are six or seven of them in existence. I saw them, several years ago. But one never knows where to find them. The wind blows them away. They have no roots, and that makes their life very difficult.” (18.6)

This is how this flower sees the world. Because she’s only encountered “six or seven” men in her lifetime, that’s how many she thinks there are. The parameters, or edges, of her world are really small. Just like the flower on the prince’s planet, who thinks the sun came into existence when she did, this flower thinks that the only men who exist are the ones she has seen. The flower has to make sense of what’s going on around her from her standpoint. So perhaps seeing things from only one point of view is not the best way to view the world.

Chapter 24
The Narrator

“Yes,” I said to the little prince. “The house, the stars, the desert—what gives them their beauty is something that is invisible!” (24.25)

This isn’t about entering a new world – it’s about looking at your own world differently. The narrator is finding “beauty,” now, in what he can’t see, rather than in what he can: in “something that is invisible.” That’s something the prince taught him – and something the fox taught the prince.

Chapter 26
The Little Prince

“All men have stars,” he answered, “but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travellers, 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 are 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)

Things can mean different things depending on how you perceive them. Because of their friendship, the prince is giving the narrator a chance to view the stars in a way that no one else can: as a clue to how the prince is doing, somewhere up in the stars, and as a means of finding laughter.

Chapter 27
The Narrator

Here, then, is a great mystery. For you who also love the little prince, and for me, nothing in the universe can be the same if somewhere, we do not know where, a sheep that we never saw has—yes or no?—eaten a rose… (27.7)

Is this the ultimate icebreaker/getting to know someone question? Even better than “Cat person or dog person?” In other words, this idea might provide a great test to show what kind of person you are: whether you can look at the “universe” the way the narrator does or not. Do you believe in the “great mystery”? Do you think the sheep has “eaten a rose,” or is that rose safe? It’s like asking whether you believe in magic, and beauty, and wonder.