The Little Prince is a fable-like tale that mingles the story of a lonely, stranded narrator with the story of a young traveler facing his own troubles. The prince’s problem, an attempt to understand love, creates an embedded conflict-resolution plot line, but the unnamed pilot, who serves as first-person narrator, is the work’s protagonist. He is present at the story’s beginning, comments throughout its events, and writes its conclusion six years after events have passed. 

The prince’s conflict is revealed in his conversations with the narrator and is interwoven throughout the narrative. It arises from his inability to understand a rose—a singular but standoffish beauty that he is “too young to know how to love.” He leaves his planet to learn about life, seeking an answer, but meets unhelpful grown-ups who want him to serve them; they are so enmeshed in their own concerns that they hardly notice him; only a few bother to help. Finally, the prince learns his answer about love from the fox, who teaches him what it means to belong to someone. What matters, the fox says, is not what people can measure or see. Instead, what makes each being unique is invisible. This is why the prince’s rose matters to him, even in a world full of roses. Once the prince, after nearly a year of wandering Earth, has his answer, he can help the narrator with the larger story’s conflict.

The narrator, who crashed in the Sahara, faces an immediate conflict; he must survive against the elements. Yet a more enduring conflict troubles him. He, too, must learn that “[a]nything essential is invisible to the eyes.” He presents himself as someone who has never felt at home among grown-ups. He certainly did not as a child, and as an adult, he reports, “I lived all alone.” No one understands him—until he meets the prince. This meeting is the story’s inciting incident—not the crash or the race to fix the plane’s engine before the water runs out, but the five words that wake the pilot the day after the crash: “Please... draw me a sheep...”

The rising action is developed mainly in a series of conversations between the pilot and the prince that gradually establish ties between them, as the fox puts it, so that they come to belong to one another. The pilot recaptures the childlike sense of wonder that he had given up finding among grown-ups, as adult after adult fails the test of drawing Number One, a test the prince easily passes. 

Throughout the rising action, however, the “serious matters” of adult life repeatedly distract the narrator from the prince’s concerns. One conversation in particular highlights this conflict. The narrator, exasperated that he cannot repair the plane’s engine—a matter of life and death—snaps at the prince when the child expresses concern that the sheep may eat the rose. When the child weeps over his beloved rose, the narrator adjusts his own perspective and comforts him. The “serious matters” of adult life cause grown-ups to forget that nothing matters more than a relationship with the beloved, as painful and complicated as that relationship can be. This essential truth is reinforced as the prince describes the “very strange” grown-ups he meets during his travels, whose lives lack meaning because they do not belong to another person as the prince belongs to his rose, and she to him. As the prince describes these encounters, the narrator realizes that he has not found a place to belong in the grown-up world, which rejects his deepest desires as unserious.

Yet the threat to the narrator’s life persists as the action moves toward the climax. As the mysterious child leads the narrator through the desert to find a well, they speak of beauty hidden in secret places. The narrator loves the prince ever more deeply as he carries the sleeping child through the night. In the morning, they find a well where no well should exist, and the narrator understands that the search for the mysterious well makes its water more than physically satisfying. 

Having recaptured essential truths during his desert sojourn, the narrator is suddenly and somewhat mysteriously able to repair the plane. He can return to the adult world, but he must do so without the beloved to whom he now belongs. The story’s climax comes when the prince returns home to his rose. As the fox predicted, the moment of parting is painful. During the brief falling action, the narrator returns safely to his worried friends. He is so changed that his perception of life, too, is transformed. Relationships now matter more to him than “serious” adult concerns. 

The narrator’s deepened understanding of the beauty hidden in the heart of all things resolves the conflict that troubled him. Yet this resolution is incomplete because the narrator misses the prince desperately. He pleads with anyone who meets the prince to “[s]end word immediately” and end his grief. Because the narrator is still so lonely, and the prince’s return so unlikely, the story’s tone is bittersweet through to its final sentence.