The narrator’s discussion in Chapter V of the baobab trees can be read as a condemnation of Nazi Germany and of the blind eye the rest of the world turned to the actions of Adolf Hitler. Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince in New York in 1942 as he watched World War II tear his native Europe apart. In the novel, the narrator explains that the world contains both good seeds and bad seeds, and he says it is important to look constantly for the bad seeds and uproot them because the trees will otherwise grow and crush everything around them. Yet the narrator points out that on Earth, baobabs do not pose a problem. It is only on smaller planets like Asteroid B-612 that the baobabs are dangerous. Therefore, some see the baobabs as symbols of the everyday hurdles and obstacles in life that, if left unchecked, can choke and crush a person. This interpretation explains the narrator’s statement that people wrestle with baobabs every day, often without even knowing it.
Saint-Exupéry stresses personal responsibility as the solution to the problem the baobabs pose. In doing so, he continues a classic tradition within French literature that links responsibility to gardening. For example, the final line of the French author Voltaire’s well-known novel Candide states, “We must cultivate our own Garden. . . . When man was put in the garden of Eden he was put there so that he should work, which proves that man was not born to rest.” The metaphor of gardening recurs throughout The Little Prince.