What is the meaning of the following quote in The Little Prince: "It is only in the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

This famous quote from The Little Prince essentially means that the "heart"—which might symbolize the soul or spirit, or one's internal moral compass—can see what truly matters in life. While we usually associate "sight" with eyes, our eyes can actually be deceived by appearances and surface-level characteristics or frivolous things. Inside us, we know what is actually important, real, and good. The fox in the story understands this when he is able to see the prince's true nature after growing to care for him.

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This quote from the fox encapsulates a theme that runs throughout The Little Prince and is explored in the story from different angles. In the opening of the story, seeing from the heart allows the Little Prince to understand that the drawing the aviator shows him is not a hat, but an elephant that has been swallowed by a boa constrictor. He can perceive this largely invisible reality because, like the aviator, he has a child's simplicity and clarity of heart and vision.

The Little Prince has had only limited experience with life when he arrives on Earth, because the asteroid on which he has lived most of his life is very small, and most of his visits to other planetary bodies have been fleeting. On Earth, he encounters for the first time the reality that his rose is not unique, as she has told him she is. He sees the wall of a house covered in roses that look, on the outside, identical to his own rose. This is a deeply shattering experience for him, until the fox advises him that the outward appearance of the rose does not matter as much as what is within: what the heart can see, not what the eyes see. The prince's rose matters to him because of the loving (and sometimes vexing) relationship they have developed. That is what matters.

Finally, as the Little Prince makes the decision to allow the snake to bite him so he can die and return, hopefully, to his own asteroid, the fox says he will grieve the prince's departure. This seems masochistic to the Little Prince, who doesn't understand why the fox would do this. At this point, the fox states,

It is only in the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

In other words, emotions don't have to make logical sense. The fox will grieve the prince because he has established an emotional bond with him that causes him to value his company. That bond is invisible but no less real for being invisible, and breaking it will cause the fox pain.

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In chapter 21 of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, this piece of in-depth advice is shared with the prince by a fox. The prince was somewhat exasperated by the encounters he had with flowers and even by the fox's requests to be tamed.

After he tamed the fox, the prince was preparing to leave when the animal told him that he would cry. The prince was somewhat confused by the remark and told the fox that he brought his sadness upon himself. At this, the fox told him that it was indeed so, but that it was better. He then told the perplexed prince that he would share a secret with him if the prince went back to look at the roses and came to say goodbye.

When the prince returned, the fox shared the quote with him:

It is only in the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.

What this means is that the true nature of things can only be seen and understood if one perceives it with feeling. This suggests passion and care, which the fox experienced when the prince tamed him. The flowers did not experience any of that since their perception was limited. They saw only themselves and their beauty; because of their numbers, they could not be truly loved. There was no real depth to what was felt and, therefore, the prince could not care much for them, either.

The fox is saying that what one sees is not necessarily what one loves, for the perception has no depth and is shallow and meaningless. One needs to feel something for something else to truly understand and appreciate it, as he did for the little prince. They had developed a relationship and, thus, the fox's perception of the prince changed. He felt sorrowful about the prince leaving, as he had grown to care about him.

Simply put, it is what one feels that is the most important, not just what one sees.

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The quote is talking about the inability of most adults to be able to believe in things that they cannot see with their eyes. By the time we have reached adulthood, we have lost that child-like quality that allows us to imagine what can't be proven. As adults, we see only the outward appearances of people and things. We no longer see a person's inner beauty, for example, or appreciate the beautiful things in nature. As adults, we have become cynical and have lost our child-like innocence. We concern ourselves with the daily, "serious" subjects of life, such as paying bills, getting a better job, or buying a bigger, better car. The love we feel for other people in our lives is not something we can see, but we know that it's there because we feel it within our hearts. The differences between our childhood and our adulthood are vast. As a child, we use our imaginations and feel wonder at such small things that most of us as adults don't see anymore. The child can see the magic in the world and believe in it. Unfortunately, most of us lose that by the time we have become adults.

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