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The Perspective of a Child: The Little Prince

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In The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry champions the perspective of a child. But for the adult reader, the story presents a dilemma: how to reconcile the novel’s characterization of the “grown-up” with one’s adult self; how to achieve the little prince’s naïve wisdom and simplicity of perspective while still being a grown-up.

The little prince sees the world purely and beautifully, and questions the mysteries of the universe. He sets out on a journey to discover more about life. His perception is naïve because he hasn’t narrowed his mind; he hasn’t formed the preconceptions about the world that grown-ups have. Consequently he only sees the most essential truths of the universe. The little prince’s idealistic perspective is the author’s homage to childhood, the stage of life at which the world is new and mysterious and full of questions.

On the other hand, Saint-Exupéry presents the grown-up as a narrow-minded being who thinks in figures, facts and answers. Yet he does not condemn grown-ups for living like they do. It is possible to be grown-up and still live a virtuous life. After encountering the lamplighter, the little prince remarks, “‘Nevertheless he is the only one of them all who does not seem to me ridiculous. Perhaps that is because he is thinking of someone else besides himself’” (p. 51). The other grown-ups the little prince encounters are characteristically narrow-minded. They live on their separate planets without interacting. They are each defined in one word: a king, a conceited man, a tippler, a businessman, and a geographer.

However, The Little Prince assures the reader that being grown-up is not an inevitable destiny. Rather, it is a perspective of life; it is a state of mind. Physically an adult, the narrator still retains characteristics of a child. He lives among grown-ups and behaves like one in their society. Yet as a pilot, both he and the little prince are explorers. The inquisitiveness of the little prince is reflected in the narrator’s exploration in the sky and on the sand.

Our narrator is not like the grown-ups. He sees in a way that the others cannot. He tests the grown-ups he encounters by “showing him my Drawing Number One, which I have always kept. I would try to find out, so, if this was a person of true understanding” (p. 9). Drawing Number One is of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant, but to grown-ups it looks like a hat. Perhaps he has learned for himself the lesson of the fox: he has the capacity to see with his heart what is essential in life. He can see the elephant inside the boa constrictor. His “true understanding” of what is essential reassures the reader that it is possible to be an adult while retaining a childlike mentality.

Yet the narrator also sometimes doubts his capacity to see naïvely. He remembers, “My friend never explained anything to me. He thought, perhaps, that I was like himself. But I, alas, do not know how to see sheep through the walls of boxes. Perhaps I am a little like the grown-ups. I have had to grow old” (p. 19). Perhaps the little prince never explained anything to him because such explanations are not essential. We learn from the fox that what is essential is really hidden. So the little prince and the facts surrounding his story remain unsaid. Like a child, the little prince beholds the world as a mystery. Unlike the snake, who solves all the riddles he presents, the little prince has a quality of insatiable inquisitiveness. Solving the questions is not as important to him as asking them.

Encountering the little prince brings out the child latent within the narrator. Through the little prince’s persistent questioning about his beloved rose, the narrator comes to realize for himself what is essential: “Of what moment now was my hammer, my bolt, or thirst, or death? On one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, there was a little prince to be comforted” (p. 28). Likewise, an encounter with The Little Prince can free the child within the closed-minded adult. It is a story that reveals itself to me more deeply every time I read it: only by seeing with your heart may you truly see the world.

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The Perspective of a Child: The Little Prince. (2018, May 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2023, from
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