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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors
used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
As a pilot, the narrator attaches importance to stars
because he depends upon them for navigation. After the narrator
meets the little prince, he finds the stars hold new meaning for
him because he knows that the prince lives among them. The stars
in The Little Prince also symbolize the far-off
mystery of the heavens, the immensity of the universe, and at the
end, the loneliness of the narrator’s life. The narrator’s final
drawing, which accompanies his lament of his loneliness, is of a
single star hovering over the desert landscape in which the prince
fell. In this one image, the presence of the star both highlights
the prince’s absence and suggests his lingering presence. The star
is also a reminder of the large and densely populated universe beyond
Earth that the prince recounted visiting.
The novel is set in the Sahara Desert, a barren place
ready to be shaped by experience. The desert is also a hostile space
that contains no water and a deadly serpent. In this capacity, the
desert symbolizes the narrator’s mind. Made barren by grown-up ideas,
the narrator’s mind slowly expands under the guidance of the little
prince in the same way that the deadly desert slowly transforms
itself into a place of learning and, once the well appears, refreshment.
The trains that appear in Chapter XXII represent the futile
efforts we make to better our lot. The train rides are rushed voyages
that never result in happiness because, as the switchman informs
the prince, people are never happy where they are. Also, the trains
rush at each other from opposite directions, suggesting that the
efforts grown-ups make are contradictory and purposeless. Again,
it is children who grasp the truth. They see that the journey is
more important than the destination and press their faces hungrily
against the windows as they ride, taking in the scenery.
By the story’s end, the drinking of water emerges as a
clear symbol of spiritual fulfillment. The narrator’s concerns about
running out of water after he first crashes into the desert mirror
his complaint that he has grown old. Later, when he and the prince
find the mysterious well, the water the narrator drinks reminds
him of Christmas festivities. His thoughts of Christmas ceremonies
suggest that his spirit, and not his body, is what truly thirsts.
The salesclerk sells a thirst-quenching pill, but the little prince
reveals that there are no true substitutes for real spiritual food.
The pill may quench one’s desires, but it has little to offer in
the way of real nourishment. The prince declares that he would use
the minutes saved by the pill for getting a cool drink of water,
the only real spiritual fulfillment for which one can hope.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Little Prince!