Jacqui Ghodsi

 

Saint-Exupery, Antoine De. The Little Prince. New York: Harcourt,  2000. 85pp. $8.00

 

Plot Summary

The Little Prince is a story of the encounter of a pilot, who has crashed in the African desert, and a little prince, who himself has landed on earth far away from his planet which can be seen above as a small star. A would-be artist at six years of age, the pilot had that career thwarted by the lack of imagination of grown-ups who could not understand, without explanation, his drawing of a boa constrictor eating an elephant, making him conclude that they are incapable of recognizing importance in anything except what lies on the surface. The little prince, through the relating of his own problems, asking the pilot to draw him a sheep, awakens the pilot to his own restricted sense of what is important, inducing him to conclude that he too is now like the grown-ups. The prince speaks of his planet, with the baobab sprouts that he has to dig up every day lest they should take over the planet; he speaks with great passion of his special rose, the only one of its kind due to his dedication to its well-being regardless of its taunting. The little prince also relates his journey to earth, stopping on the way at different asteroids on which grown ups (a king, a businessman, and a drunkard among others), appear to him very strange because of their resolved application to things that are only quantifiable and have no ultimate purpose. He speaks of the time he spent with the fox, learning the art of taming and rites, which turns what is common into a unique relationship. The pilot learns to love the little prince, as the latter loves the rose. At the same time the pilot has repaired his plane, the little prince is also ready to return to his planet, through the elixir of a snake’s poison. Yet the separation is only physical, for taming creates bonds that endure through time and space, such that the stars they each gaze upon will remind them of each other.

 

Age group: This book would appeal to 8 years and above (to those with an open mind and an accessible heart).

 

Important themes and issues: One of the predominant themes of The Little Prince is the treasure found in true friendship. Connected to this is the issue of “taming” with its associated “rites” which, in the discipline and responsibility it demands, cultivates the eternal bond that is the essence of friendship. Another theme, no less important, is that while children have imagination that is capable of understanding the essence of things, grown-ups have had their imaginations encumbered by attachment to the quantifiable. They have lost the curiosity of childhood, and their lives are bound by the here and now. What we see with our eyes is merely a shell; the essential reality of things is detected only by the heart. These themes and issues are also reflected and clarified in the simplistic but expressive watercolor illustrations by Saint-Exupery.

 

Writing style: The story is written in narrative style. It is sophisticated in a child-like manner: “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again” (2); “Flowers are so contradictory!” (25). The use of polysyndeton also emphasizes this child-like style: “And I’m a little off on his height, too. In this one the little prince is too tall. And here he’s too short. And I’m uncertain about the color of his suit” (13). In addition, the writing is imbued with a very intimate and pensive quality: “It’s so mysterious, the land of tears”; (21) “For you, who love the little prince, too” (83); “Don’t let me go on being so sad” (85). There is also sarcasm, but a sarcasm that is gentle and thought- provoking rather than cruel: “ I could tell China from Arizona at first glance which is very useful if you get lost during the night” (2); “And my grown-up was glad to know such a reasonable person” (3).The author also weaves a thread through the chapters by the repetition of similar statements alluding to the same idea: “That’s the way they are” (12); “Grown-ups are so strange” (32); “Grown-ups are certainly quite extraordinary” (40); “And no grown-up will ever understand…” (83). The themes of the story are reflected and clarified in the simplistic but expressive illustrations by Saint-Exupery.

 

Questions: What is the flower important to the little prince? What is the symbolism behind the baobabs? What is the reason for the response of the grown-ups to drawing Number One? What is meant by “taming”? What does the fox mean when he tells the little prince “One sees clearly only with the heart”?

 

Secondary sources: Commonweal, NY Times, Saturday Review, New Yorker, Time, Saint-Exupery in America 1942-1943, a Memoir, Saint-Exupery: Vol De Nuit, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

Question 1

 

The drawing Number One elicits a certain response from the grown-ups. What is the response and what is the reason underlying it? How does it contrast with the response of the little prince to the artist’s drawings when he is requested to draw a sheep?

   

 Drawing Number One elicits an unsuspecting response from the grown-ups. Upon presenting his “masterpiece” and enquiring if his “drawing scared them” (1), the grown-ups reply, “Why be scared of a hat?” (2). Upon presenting his drawing Number Two, the viewer sees it is actually an elephant inside a boa constrictor. Why didn’t the grown-ups see that in the original drawing? Maybe because grown-ups only accept what is sensually obvious. They do not perceive with their inner eye, their imagination. Nor do they seem to possess the desire, or make the effort, or the time, to enquire as to the reason, the essence, or the purpose of what is before them. This is portrayed well by the businessman who merely counts stars to ensure his ownership of them. The use is simply a quantitative one that is devoid of meaning. The grown-ups have a purely mimetic relationship with the world around them. According to the six-year-old, would-be artist, children have to fill in the gaps because “grown-ups never understand anything by themselves”, and therefore they “always need explanations” (2).    

     On the other hand, children’s minds exist in a wondrous realm for they marvel at the perceptible (as the young artist did when he read about the boa constrictor), which acts as a trigger for the imagination to seek ever further into the realities that lie hidden from immediate view. Children, whose vision is pure and keen, perceive the hidden subtleties behind what they see with their eyes. Their imaginations have not yet been stifled by the world of dust, which blemishes the vision. They are “press their noses against the windowpanes” (65), eager, and capable, to see through that physical barrier, and to learn through the way of a palimpsest.

     The little prince, upon being shown the drawing of the so-called hat, recognizes it immediately as an elephant inside a boa constrictor. With his vision unencumbered by the preconceptions of a quantifiable world that bind the grown-up mind, he is able to fill in the gaps. Everything that emanates from the imagination is as real as the tangible world. Indeed it endows that world with life. The various sheep that the aviator draws at the request of the little prince bring forth from him a remonstrance that the sheep already possess predefined characteristics – sickness, old age, a ram – that make them redundant for his use. A crate is impatiently drawn, and the aviator is amazed to see the delight of the little prince as he peers into the crate and sees the sheep. With his imagination, the prince has breathed life into the immediately perceptible, and in so doing has given it a reality that truly exists.

     But the prince “never explained anything”, and so, being now a grown-up, and in need of explanations, the artist “cannot see a sheep through the sides of a crate” (13).

 

Question 2

 

What does the baobab tree represent? Consider the text and the emphasis made with the illustration.

 

     On the little prince’s planet there were “terrible seeds…baobab seeds” (15) that infested the soil. He was most earnest to find out as to whether the sheep would eat baobabs or not. If the sprouts were not dug up or eaten soon enough they would overgrow the entire planet and their “roots pierce right through” (15). This enquiry carries a sense of urgency that has greater implications than meets the eye. Just as good and bad seeds lie latent in the soil, so too do seeds of unknown potential lie in the recesses of the mind. Should the good seeds sprout and grow, then the thoughts, the imagination, free of fetters, give forth wondrous fruits.

     However, should the imagination be thwarted by the constrictions of the tangible world, by overemphasis on the importance of those things that bear only upon our senses, then indeed, “it’s always a catastrophe” (16).  It is the result of the “seed of a bad plant” that has not been recognized early enough. If “you attend to a baobab too late, you can never get rid of it again” (15), for once it has grown, no force, (not even elephants), can remove it because it has sent its roots so deep.   

     The grown-ups like those who don’t recognize drawing Number One have had their imaginations stifled by the baobab trees, by the limitations of the physical realm. They resemble the lazy man whose planet was overtaken by baobabs. He had “neglected three bushes” (16) and, as shown in the illustration, his entire planet is constricted by the roots of the baobab trees…just as a boa constricts his prey…like a mind is constricted by the tangible.

     The artist vividly conveys the biggest of his drawings due to his own “sense of urgency” regarding the matter. He feels the responsibility of alerting the children, at the behest of the prince, to “a danger which they, like myself, have long been unaware” (16). For the artist himself, was he not, unable to see a “sheep through the sides of a crate” (13).

     Thus it is imperative to get rid of the baobabs early lest they take over your realm. And like a planet that provides the things necessary to survival, the imagination is a realm of existence necessary to life as it seeks out the hidden essence of all created things.

 

Question 3

 

Why is the flower so important to the little prince? Explore the relationship, and discuss the characteristics of the rose, especially in terms of its symbolism.

 

     The other flowers on the little prince’s planet are simple, possessing only a single row of petals so that they “got in no one’s way” (22). They would last but a day, leaving not a trace. But the rose possesses a dazzling beauty that entrances the little prince. It also had thorns to protect its vulnerability believing, naïve and as weak as they are, that their “thorns make them frightening” (20). The little prince learns this the hard way as he accepts the pain of her thorns through her torments of vanity, lies, contradictions, and pretensions. Realizing too late that her boastful words were born of vulnerability moves him to remark that he “ought to have realized the tenderness underlying her silly pretensions” (24), for “Language is the source of misunderstandings” (60). The rose “perfumed my planet” (24) with the essence of her being which is far more potent than words. For words are merely symbols and have no lasting value except what we allude to them.

     The flower is important to the little prince inasmuch as he has watched it grow and labored, in love, to provide for and protect it. It is a “unique flower, one that exists nowhere in the world except on my planet” (21). Yet the little prince did come across five thousand such flowers in a single rose garden during his visit to earth. Initially deeming his rose to be ordinary, and focusing on the sheer quantity of roses before him, he despairs of his wealth and his position on his little planet.

     But the little prince learns from the fox, a special friend, since he has tamed him from among all the “hundred thousand other foxes” (59), that the ties created by patience and responsibility are unique and unbreakable. Hence, his rose is important; it is the only one of its kind “among all the millions and millions of stars” (21). He had tamed her, rendering them inseparable. He has tolerated her arrogance and complaints in his love for her, ritualistically providing the screen and the glass to protect her from the trials of drafts and the cold of night. This love transcends time and space so that, as he gazes up into the heavens he feels happy simply knowing she is there. It is as though the flower exists within him; his loyalty to the flower has engraved the “image of the rose…within him” (69) To learn of its demise would be tantamount to quenching the very existence of his soul “as if, suddenly, all the stars went out” (21). For, without the soul there is no life; and without that life, everything else ceases to exist.

 

Question 4

 

“The only things you learn are the things you tame” (60). What is meant by this statement of the fox to the prince?

 

     The fox tells the little prince that “tamed” means “to create ties” (59). These ties are created because taming requires patience, dedication, perseverance, and responsibility. When these virtues are put into practice for the sake of a fox among “a hundred thousand other foxes” (59), then an enduring bond is forged in the fire of sacrifice. Without taming, all things are merely quantities and have no meaning, no heart, which is the essence of life itself.

     For the king, “the world is extremely simplified: All men are subjects” (28). His rule is based on pure reason in order to justify absolute obedience to his command. He never demands anything that necessitates a step beyond pure logic. There are no sacrifices required and therefore no ties created.

     It is the same for the businessman who is so engrossed in counting the stars that he doesn’t even remember what he is counting. He “can’t be bothered with trifles” (36), those very trifles that he claims ownership to and the contemplation of which would deviate him from counting and thus jeopardize his serious work. His ownership of the stars is not based on having tamed them, but only on having deigned himself to be the first to count them and enrich himself with their sheer quantity.

     It is such scenarios that present only the outer shell of existence. Their lives are empty, worthless. They gain nothing from such pursuits for they sacrifice not one iota of themselves in order to understand that which they spend wasted hours in accumulating. What can it benefit a person who only accrues to himself what is pertinent to logic and not to the heart wherein lies the very essence of existence.

     Neither the king nor the businessman has “time to learn anything”. They present the epitome of the fox’s counsel to the little prince that people are prepared to do no more than “buy things ready-made in stores” (60). In this way no effort has to be put forth. It is like they have partaken of those pills “invented to quench thirst” (65), to quench the ardent desire of the heart and imagination, in order to become oblivious to the bitter sweetness of sacrifice which must occur in the acquisition of anything that has true value and eternal validity.

     Taming requires pain, for pain is that fire which melts reason and prepares the heart for learning the way of true friendship. This sacrifice is the language of love for mere words are the “source of misunderstanding” (60), as the little prince learns from his own experience with his flower. Such a lesson of friendship is acquired through the practice of rites, for both sides must succumb to the apprehension that accompanies its pursuit. One has to “be very patient” (60), as friendship is not a condition acquired otherwise. The other has the burden of waiting, both eager and anxious, for that precious moment of nearness as it approaches. Yet, the uneasiness associated with the proximity of that moment, generated by ritual, is profoundly satisfying, for the fox will “discover what it costs to be happy” and it is that cost that faithfully mirrors the depth of the friendship. The time of reunion, dictated by ritual, differentiates “one hour from the other hours”. Neither the king nor the businessman have rites; “the days (are) all…just alike” (61).

     The little prince learns not only the friendship of his fox through taming but recognizes in this lesson “the tenderness underlying (the) silly pretensions” (25) of his flower. For did they not both suffer pain; he from the thorns of her words, and she from his misconceived judgment of her. Nevertheless, the ritual of the placement of the glass over the flower each night when it grows cold served to connect their existences together with a common purpose – to learn of their need for each other among all the other people and all the other flowers.

 

 

 

Question 5

 

The fox tells the little prince: “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes…It’s the time you spent on your rose that’s so important” (63). What are the meanings inherent in this passage?

 

     Seeing clearly with the eyes is not possible. Their vision is hampered by the physical world that is as a blemish tarnishing the essential nature of that upon which the eyes are cast. The eyes see the outer form: color, texture, and shape. The brain actively searches from a stored catalogue of information, surmises what the image most satisfactorily resembles, and the process is complete. For the six-year-old artist, his drawing Number One may have presented only the outer image. But what was important, what was essential, was that the boa constrictor was consuming an elephant! Surely such a remarkable phenomena would have evoked an emotional response from the grown-ups. It did not. Why? Because it was seen with the eyes. Grown-ups attribute importance to outer appearances, even refuting, as they did, to acknowledge the Turk’s discovery of Asteroid B-612 until he dressed in European clothes to deliver his speech. How many a wondrous discovery has gone unnoticed because of the bias of outer appearances that acts as a blindfold to the imagination.

          If one sees with the heart, then things becomes clear. When things are clear, it means they are transparent. The outer shell becomes irrelevant because one can see straight through it, as if it wasn’t even pertinent to its existence. The little prince speaks of this when he attempts to comfort the aviator in alluding to his approaching death. He tells him “There’s nothing sad about an old shell” (79). Instead the reality of his existence is as a star, shining throughout time and space. To see clearly the essential nature of something requires vision on the same dimension. The heart is the giver of life; therefore it is the perceiver of life. Yet it can only understand through taming, which involves great patience, perseverance and ritual. Such sacrifice through dedication and responsibility burnishes the heart from the rust of disuse and kindles love’s flame.

     The grown-ups avoid such exposure preferring instead not to “chas(e) anything” and to take pills “invented to quench thirst” (65), a thirst of the heart to love, of the imagination to wander.

     The little prince initially focuses on  “certain inconsequential remarks” of his flower and comes to “mistrust her” (24) despite his admiration of her beauty. Only too late, and to his utter chagrin, does he realize the “tenderness underlying her silly pretensions” (25).

But the little prince’s dedication to his flower, despite its seeming cruelty  “creates ties” that are unbreakable and serves to ignite their love, their need for each other. He learns, through his experience of taming the fox, that outer appearances, regardless of their appeal, are insignificant. He recognizes that his flower is unique even though she shares her appearance with the five thousand other roses on earth. The latter, are “lovely, but… empty” (63). His rose, on the other hand, is imbued with his love as he is with hers, making her so important that he would die for her.

     So too, the aviator recognizes, as he carries the sleeping prince, “only a shell” (68). The love that has been stirred in his heart during his walk through the desert in search of water moves him to see the very essence of the prince, the “image of a rose shining within him like the flame within a lamp” (69). It is this flame that is essential to the brilliance of the lamp; without it, the lamp is of no use, providing neither warmth nor light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 6

 

What is the significance of a snake at the beginning and the end of the The Little Prince. A polarity exists here that has relevance to one of the main themes of the story. Explain.

 

In the opening of the story a boa constrictor, mouth as wide open as it could possibly be in order to devour some unsuspecting beast, is illustrated. For boa constrictors, no chewing is necessary, just as grown-ups take no time to savor the essential nature of that which they see before them. Like the boa constrictor, they “swallow their prey whole” (1) without even a moment’s hesitation. Following what could be interpreted in human terms as a rather greedy, thoughtless act, this seemingly slovenly creature will “sleep during the six months of their digestion” (1), unaware of the great processes at work. The boa constrictor exists in sharp contrast to the moon-colored snake encountered by the little prince in the African desert, for it is acutely cognizant of what lies within a form.

     The little prince regards the thin snake with amusement, remarking, “You’re not very powerful”. However, this snake’s power lies not in its physical strength like the boa constrictor but in its poison which is an elixir that can send anyone “back to the land from which he came” (51), back to that from which the essential nature of all things have been molded. The body is not essential; indeed “It’s too heavy” (79), a burden to be carried to those realms that the heart so longs to reach. It is merely a shell that is a hindrance to seeking the answers to the riddles of life. An infusion of the snake’s poison can “solve them all” (51) inasmuch as the body is shed, like the old, worn skin of a snake, freeing the soul to traverse the limits of time and space, and to acknowledge the truth existing in all things.

 

 

 

 

 

Jacqui Ghodsi

 

Saint-Exupery, Antoine De. The Little Prince. New York: Harcourt,  2000. 85pp. $8.00

 

Plot Summary

The Little Prince is a story of the encounter of a pilot, who has crashed in the African desert, and a little prince, who himself has landed on earth far away from his planet which can be seen above as a small star. A would-be artist at six years of age, the pilot had that career thwarted by the lack of imagination of grown-ups who could not understand, without explanation, his drawing of a boa constrictor eating an elephant, making him conclude that they are incapable of recognizing importance in anything except what lies on the surface. The little prince, through the relating of his own problems, asking the pilot to draw him a sheep, awakens the pilot to his own restricted sense of what is important, inducing him to conclude that he too is now like the grown-ups. The prince speaks of his planet, with the baobab sprouts that he has to dig up every day lest they should take over the planet; he speaks with great passion of his special rose, the only one of its kind due to his dedication to its well-being regardless of its taunting. The little prince also relates his journey to earth, stopping on the way at different asteroids on which grown ups (a king, a businessman, and a drunkard among others), appear to him very strange because of their resolved application to things that are only quantifiable and have no ultimate purpose. He speaks of the time he spent with the fox, learning the art of taming and rites, which turns what is common into a unique relationship. The pilot learns to love the little prince, as the latter loves the rose. At the same time the pilot has repaired his plane, the little prince is also ready to return to his planet, through the elixir of a snake’s poison. Yet the separation is only physical, for taming creates bonds that endure through time and space, such that the stars they each gaze upon will remind them of each other.

 

Age group: This book would appeal to 8 years and above.

 

Important themes and issues: One of the predominant themes of The Little Prince is the treasure found in true friendship. Connected to this is the issue of “taming” with its associated “rites” which, in the discipline and responsibility it demands, cultivates the eternal bond that is the essence of friendship. Another theme, no less important, is that while children have imagination that is capable of understanding the essence of things, grown-ups have had their imaginations encumbered by attachment to the quantifiable. They have lost the curiosity of childhood, and their lives are bound by the here and now. What we see with our eyes is merely a shell; the essential reality of things is detected only by the heart. These themes and issues are also reflected and clarified in the simplistic but expressive illustrations by Saint-Exupery.

 

Writing style: The story is written in narrative style. It is sophisticated in a child-like manner: “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again” (2); “Flowers are so contradictory!” (25). The use of polysyndeton also emphasizes this child-like style: “And I’m a little off on his height, too. In this one the little prince is too tall. And here he’s too short. And I’m uncertain about the color of his suit” (13). In addition, the writing is imbued with a very intimate and pensive quality: “It’s so mysterious, the land of tears”; (21) “For you, who love the little prince, too” (83); “Don’t let me go on being so sad” (85). There is also sarcasm, but a sarcasm that is gentle and thought- provoking rather than cruel: “ I could tell China from Arizona at first glance which is very useful if you get lost during the night” (2); “And my grown-up was glad to know such a reasonable person” (3).The author also weaves a thread through the chapters by the repetition of similar statements alluding to the same idea: “That’s the way they are” (12); “Grown-ups are so strange” (32); “Grown-ups are certainly quite extraordinary” (40); “And no grown-up will ever understand…” (83). The themes of the story are reflected and clarified in the simplistic but expressive illustrations by Saint-Exupery.

 

Questions: What is the flower important to the little prince? What is the symbolism behind the baobabs? What is the reason for the response of the grown-ups to drawing Number One? What is meant by “taming”? What does the fox mean when he tells the little prince “One sees clearly only with the heart”?

 

Secondary sources: Commonweal, NY Times, Saturday Review, New Yorker, Time, Saint-Exupery in America 1942-1943, a Memoir, Saint-Exupery: Vol De Nuit, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

Critical Review

     Upon reading The Little Prince, the reader is moved to confess that here lies something so pure, so simple, so tender, and yet so imbued with intricate significances. At least, it seems that is what should be recognized. If it touches the heart, then it has indeed reflected the very essence of what the story is telling in a gentle and subtle way. For a child’s heart to be touched by this story is not a difficult task, for they have as yet not had it tarnished by the trivial things of the world that grown-ups have succumbed to. For the latter, on the other hand, it may be a more painful experience as the realization of what Saint-Exupery is alluding to peels away those layers with which “something serious” (Saint-Exupery 20) has blemished the heart and imagination. Published as a book for children, it is nevertheless a book all adults should read. However, as difficult as it may be for the adult to allow its words to permeate past the outer shell into the heart, it is “so sad a story that only grown-ups can understand all that it means” (“Editor’s Choice”, The Commonweal, Ap 16 1943, 644).

          Essentially, however, this is, I believe, a book for adults. If they don’t see, like the writer of the book review in the New Yorker, May 29, 1943, then little have they realized the import of the story. This critic writes that it lacks the “simplicity and clarity all fairy tales must have in order to create their magic” (65).  It certainly appears as a fairy tale, with the little prince living alone on a small planet talking to his beloved flower, then traveling to various asteroids meeting their single occupants, and finally taming a fox after which he allows a snake to bite him in order to return whence he came. It is delightfully simplistic in this sense. It would appeal to children as they travel with the little prince, and are entranced by the whims of the flower, the friendliness of the fox, and the easy familiarity with the snake.

     The same critic writes that its “point is lost in cloudy and boring elaboration” (65). Maybe this is so because the grown-up is looking too hard at the words with his eyes and not allowing the imagination and heart to take over. Another critic, writing in the New York Times, April 11, 1943, writes that The Little Prince is “not the sort of fable that can be tacked down neatly at its four corners but rather reflections on what are real matters of consequence” (9). This speaks well to the attitudes of grown-ups as revealed in the story, grown-ups who are concerned only with numbers, with being able to neatly quantify things and feeling important and satisfied in doing so. Little does the critic of the New Yorker recognize him/herself reflected in the words of Saint-Exupery when the latter writes near the end of the story, “And no grown-up will ever understand how such a thing could be so important” (83).

     It is true that many grown-ups could be oblivious to the inherent beauty and meaning in the story’s allegory, as indeed most young children would be. After all, “It challenges man the adult” (Time, Ap 26, 1943, 100) and adults don’t necessarily like to be challenged. Are they not, as Saint-Exupery reveals in The Little Prince, like the king who seeks allegiance by only demanding what is possible, or the people in the train who are “not chasing anything” (65). The  critic just quoted correctly asserts that the “tale will have served its purpose” if the reader does care “whether the sheep has eaten the flower” (Time 100) because what is essential is “invisible to the eyes” and seen “only with the heart” (Saint-Exupery 63).

     However, for children, it wouldn’t be for lack of insight that the allegory may not be obvious. (Indeed, even for the adult wishing to pursue the essential wisdom within the story must use patience and perseverance. Only then will “the reader…have been “tamed”” (Time 100).) Children will recognize its intent with a simplicity that does not require analysis, for “Only the children know what they’re looking for” (Saint-Exupery 65) and they don’t need explanations like the grown-ups.

     This is so succinctly expressed by Maxwell Smith as quoted in Antoine de Saint-Exupery when he says, “To analyze in detail so lovely and fragile a tale would be like removing the petals of a rose to discover its charm” (Robinson, 120). Despite the unleashing of revelations gleaned from working on the reading responses for The Little Prince, I concur with Smith. I frequently had to reread the story during my working upon it in order to gather together the dispersed petals that I had, with my own writing, so callously plucked. As printed in “The Commonweal of April 16, 1943, “ A story is something you cannot touch without it falling to pieces”  (Editor’s Choice, 644).

     This book review is particularly revealing of the essence of the story for it expresses the essence of Saint-Exupery’s troubled exclamation in the voice of the little prince, “You talk like the grown-ups!” (20). Like Saint-Exupery who shies away from beginning his story like a fairy tale lest the book “be taken lightly” (12), the critic in “Commonweal” abstains from explaining and describing the story in terms of the heart and reverts to the “strictly academic” in order for it to be regarded seriously by the grown-ups as potential readers. Otherwise, how could a grown man admit in print that this story “could possibly be the kind of a story that would deeply affect his emotions” (644).

     Despite the book being regarded as a children’s classic and published as such, and enjoyed by the same, its intrinsic meaning can be particularly piquant to grown-ups who have the experience of childhood and find their serious attitude and assumed authority on life a mere foible, a point that is amply revealed in the story, making one particularly vulnerable such that “only grown-ups can understand all that it means” (Commonweal 644).