The Little Prince Themes
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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Deceptively simple and apparently a story for children, The Little Prince addresses most major social concerns of Saint-Exupery's day and of modern times. The lack of childlike simplicity in a sophisticated and materialistic civilization is portrayed from the very first page, when the author shows a drawing of a boa snake that had eaten an elephant to uncomprehending adults, who believe it to be a hat. Adults, especially the materialistic generation, continue to judge by appearances; the Turkish astronomer who discovered B612, the Prince's planet, is rejected by the scientific community until he appears in Western clothes. Adults are enamored of statistics and numbers, and prefer to know how much money a person makes rather than know the sound of his voice. Such adults are reflected in the businessman who counts stars which he claims to own, to prove his wealth. Even the problem of drug addiction and alcoholism appears in the drunkard, who drinks to forget that he is ashamed to drink. The compartmentalization of knowledge, too prevalent in today's world, is evident in the geographer, who is not an explorer, and therefore cannot know what is really on the earth's surface. The world of authority and power comes to life in the king who considers everyone his subject, a universal image, but only too true in occupied France in 1943.

On the more positive side, Saint-Exupery shows the world of love within people, symbolized by the special flower chosen and protected by the Prince, no doubt also the classical symbol of feminine beauty in the form of a rose. There is the story of friendship in the person of the fox who needs to be tamed before he can become a friend, and who explains to his little friend the necessity of ritual in all relationships, the importance of the invisible, and of responsibility toward those with whom one has created a relationship, or "tamed."

The cosmos, the world of outer space, was very important to Saint-Exupery, who in all his works speaks of the splendor of the clouds, the stars, and the sky, of a new vision of the earth. Little wonder then that his hero would come from another world. It was to return to his unearthly world that the prince made friends with the serpent, the eternal symbol of death. Saint-Exupery points out the importance of the invisible, the world of the spirit beyond this visible world, where people will live in peace and harmony. A true humanist, his ultimate concern was with human brotherhood and happiness.