What differentiates adults from children in The Little Prince?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What is interesting about the presentation of adults and children in this excellent story is the way that being an adult is described as a state of mind, and some adults are able to retain their childish perspective and are still open to the forces of imagination and creativity that the majority of adults are not aware of. This is indicated most clearly at the beginning of the tale in Chapter 1, when the narrator draws a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Note what the adult he shows it to says about it:

But he would always answer, “That’s a hat.” Then I wouldn’t talk about boa constrictors or jungles or stars. I would put myself on his level and talk about bridge and golf and politics and neckties. And my grown-up was glad to know such a reasonable person.

The narrator here describes how he uses the picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant as a kind of indicator as to whether the adult is really an adult and dull and unimaginative, or whether he has retained some of his childlike ability to look with the eyes of imagination. The difference between being an adult and a child is not therefore based on age, but it is based on whether somebody possesses the faculty of imagination or not.

jarod-wong eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The difference between children and adults in The Little Prince is the growth from irrational and whimsical thinking to rational and analytical thinking.  Modern society constantly grows and sets new standards because of the the thinking of adults.  They are always seeking quantitative results and are asking too few questions.  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes a succinct real-world example of the contrast in thinking:

The Little Prince

If you were to say to the grown-ups: "I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof," they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all. You would have to say to them: "I saw a house that cost $20,000." Then they would exclaim: "Oh, what a pretty house that is!"

Grown-ups can often overlook the qualitative beauty in front of them for value and numbers. This is where the importance of a child's mind comes in.  Children help adults realize there is a different (and quite opposite) perspective of the world that can help them see the true worth of life.

Also, adults are attracted to the money, while children are less so.

Further Reading:
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The Little Prince

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