What examples are there proving that Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince is not just for children, but for adults as well,  and exposes the reality of life?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The Little Prince exposes the reality of life by exposing many social issues. Among those issues are materialism, vanity, problems of absolute authority, conceit, and drunkenness. Saint-Exupery argues that rather than all of these problems, what is really important in life are the things that can't be seen, such as love and faithfulness. Below is a discussion of a couple of the social issues Saint-Exupery exposes.

Saint-Exupery especially exposes the issue of materialism in the first chapter of the book through the use of the pilot's drawing of a "boa constrictor from the outside." The fact that the adults who viewed his picture did not have a keen enough ability to interpret minor details, but rather saw the image as a material object, such as a hat, shows us that the problem he is trying to expose is materialism. In addition, the pilot asserts that he is able to discern a person's ability to reach "true understanding," an understanding of things beyond the corporeal (Ch. 1). Materialism is especially exposed through the businessman who can't be bothered to converse with the prince because he is "concerned with matters of consequence" (Ch. 13). In fact, he is busy counting the stars that he considers to be his own material objects that will make him very rich. He believes he owns the stars because he "was the first person to think of it," as we see in his subsequent lines of reasoning, "When you find a diamond that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you discover an island that belongs to nobody, it is yours" (Ch. 13).

The social issue of vanity is expressed especially through the prince's rose. Her vanity makes her very demanding and not at all appreciative. She demands a screen to keep out the draft and a glass globe to protect her from the cold night air. She torments the prince so much that he decides to leave her and his planet. Finally, she realizes her errors and asks for his forgiveness, assuring him that she truly loved him all the while, showing us just how dangerous vanity can be.

Hence we see that The Little Prince deals with many complex social issues and teaches many lessons, making it a very adult book told in a child's voice. In addition, Saint-Exupery shows us that these social issues are a way of life and that in rising above them we reach "true understanding." 


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