Book Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Written as a children’s book, I find myself unable to pin down firmly as to what makes The Little Prince such a universally likeable book, be it children or grown-ups. What makes it the Hotel California of literature?
Is it because most grown-ups secretly love being treated like kids? I think as a grown-up you ought to know better than that. Grown-ups like to be petted around now and then in jest, but that’s the end of it. Often, when grown-ups are indeed treated like kids and they’re not in the mood, there is a tiny matchstick inside each one of them, an insecure ego which flares up angrily like it has been wildly struck against a matchbox. In my experience, grown ups like to be taken very seriously. Very very seriously.
Is it the clear, simple language? No, it can’t be just that. There have been books that have been written with clarity and have been criticized by pedants and pontificating bores for their simplicity. Grown ups like to feel wise and learned by having claimed to read complicated texts that engaged them at an ‘intellectual’ level. They don’t like important things being pointed out to them in simple language, after all they’re the know-it-all grown-ups and don’t need anybody patronizing them.
Is it because the book is so short and grown-ups are always keen on finishing books real quick? No, it can’t be just that either. I know grown-ups who believe that a good book, like a well-mixed drink, must be held between the fingers and tended to lovingly at length to let it get to your head.
Is it the timeless lessons that the book cushions behind layers of delightful story-telling? Is it the sense of wonder that the book inspires in the most cynical, world-weary adult, if not for posterity then for a day or an hour? I don’t know, could be, could be. Worthy contenders they are, but I think I’m not still not home.
If I had to lay a bet on it, I’d say everyone adores The Little Prince because we are tired of meeting people from Earth everyday who speak the same dry language of numbers and would love to encounter a sunset-loving, wise prince from the room-sized planet of Asteroid B-612 who talks animatedly about butterflies, baobabs and volcanoes to the child inside us that we’ve buried long ago underneath the grey tomb of grown-up babble.
Kurt Vonnegut once expressed how laughable a critic taking himself too seriously is in these memorable words,
“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”
That is exactly how ridiculous critics who despise The Little Prince are. For The Little Prince is that hot fudge sundae garnished with generous toppings of lost innocence, shared loneliness, deliciously recycled perspective and lessons worth repeating to yourself to keep from succumbing to the unsavoury, contagious disease of adulthood.
To make your job easier, here are some lessons from the book worth remembering and repeating:
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,’ said the fox. ‘Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me.”
““Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? ” Instead they demand “How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? ” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”