Symbols And Their Meaning in The Little Prince
A symbol is something that at first seems to have no special meaning, but if one knows what to look for, has a hidden message or purpose. The Little Prince is a book composed almost entirely of symbols. In this novel, a rather simple plot is rife with many diverse symbols relating to life and human nature. It can be read by a child or an adult with equal appreciation for its simple storyline and developed characters, though many symbolic elements will not appear immediately. It may be necessary for a younger reader to become more developed in age, understanding, and knowledge for them to recognize these symbols. As one matures, more parallels between this book and world issues, both past and present, can be drawn.
The Little Prince himself symbolizes childlike innocence. While he makes decisions an adult might make in the course of the story, they are made with the same objectivity and common sense that a young child possesses. Innocence is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact it helps other people to see the world from a unique and beneficial point of view. Perhaps it has received a negative stereotype because so often it is taken advantage of, or those possessing it are not taken seriously because “they do not know what they are talking about for they have not experienced it.” Innocence is someone’s reflections on their observations of the world which are untouched by the bias of acceptance into the society of grownups. The need or desire for acceptance erodes a good deal of imagination and instills stereotypes that can be damaging to previously important personal beliefs that are now considered childish or ignorant. This concept is vitally important to the storyline; for it is the Little Prince, the epitome of innocence, who brings the pilot back to his reality after it was nearly polluted by frustration over his damaged engine. This occurred when the Prince became upset over the pilot’s lack of concern for his sheep, and the resulting conflicting interest of “matters of consequence.”
The Little Prince’s planet symbolizes a child’s world. It is used quite literally as well; the Little Prince is a child and lives on this small world. Abstractly, though, it is a child’s mind and view of the world. It is very small and simple, but good and pure. Certain ideas (or baobab trees, if you will), if not grown or weeded correctly, can lead to its shattering and destruction. This is seen when all too soon the Prince’s wisdom and knowledge are put to the test as he tames his rose. Complicated questions generated by this relationship require answers outside that of his small world. He decides to take a trip around the universe in order to develop his wisdom.When he leaves it to search for knowledge, he is shocked by the very size of the entire universe, as well as the plethora of undesirable qualities that grownups possess. He wonders if he really should have left his planet, because he hasn’t really learned anything at all. He notices that his views are not taken into very much consideration, and he is put down when he asks legitimate questions. All of us, whether we have just put down our dolls and toy trucks or if we are feeble grandparents, need to empathize with children and attempt to look at their views the same way that they do, for they are looking at only a very small area of the entire picture.
The pilot’s plane is also a symbol, and perhaps it is the most often overlooked. When one thinks about it, the plane is the cause of the story. Without the plane, the pilot would not have crashed, and so he would not have met the Little Prince, which is the basis of the plot. The plane can symbolize an attempted escape from the world. When the pilot is discouraged in his artistic endeavors, he turns to flying as his occupation. As he grows older, he continues to feel disconnected from the thinking of his peers, and his flying lets him escape from contact with them. Humans need human to survive, though, and this lack of friendship was not good for the pilot. It is likely that he would have grown up in a different way than the other grown-ups have if he had not crashed and met the Prince. He may have become somewhat of a hermit, and miss out on the good facets of life if it were not for the plane crash that enabled him to meet the Prince.
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