Although the rose appears only in a couple of chapters, she is crucial to the novel as a whole because her melodramatic, proud nature is what causes the prince to leave his planet and begin his explorations. Also, the prince’s memory of his rose is what prompts his desire to return. As a character who gains significance because of how much time and effort the prince has invested in caring for her, the rose embodies the fox’s statement that love comes from investing in other people. Although the rose is, for the most part, vain and naïve, the prince still loves her deeply because of the time he has spent watering and caring for her.
Much has been written comparing the little prince’s relationship with his rose to the relationship between Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his wife, Consuelo, but the rose can also be read as a symbol of universal love. In literature, the rose has long served as a symbol of the beloved, and Saint-Exupéry takes that image in good stride, giving the prince’s flower human characteristics, both good and bad. Because of the rose, the prince learns that what is most essential is invisible, that time away from one’s beloved causes a person to better appreciate that love, and that love engenders responsibility—all of which are broad morals that obviously extend beyond the author’s personal history.