The Little Prince: Novel Summary :Section 6-10
Summary of Section VI
This section is a meditation on the sadness of the little prince’s life on his planet and begins with an apostrophe: “O LITTLE PRINCE!” The narrator begins to understand on the fourth day that the little prince is sad because his favorite amusement on his planet is to look at sunsets. He wants to see one now, but on earth, he has to wait for the sun to set. His planet is so small, he can just move his chair and keep seeing the sun set over and over. One day he saw it set forty-four times. He says that sunsets are wonderful when you are feeling sad.
Commentary on Section VI
This absurdity of watching the sunset forty-four times in a row poetically captures the loneliness and futility felt in modern life, especially during World War II when the tale was written. It seems to be a world of death and disaster, a world of endings instead of beginnings. This image of the sunset also foreshadows the death of the little prince. It sets the tone for why he had to leave his planet on a quest for life and friendship. Like the pilot, he is solitary and lonely. The exact trigger for his leaving asteroid B-612 is introduced in the next section.
Summary of Section VII
On the fifth day, the narrator learns an important secret of the little prince’s life. It has to do with his rose. The prince asks if sheep can eat roses, even roses with thorns, and the pilot says yes. The pilot is busy trying to fix the plane and is annoyed at being interrupted. He says without thinking that thorns are the flower’s way of being mean. This provokes the little prince, who says he does not believe the pilot: “Flowers are weak. They’re naïve” (p. 20). They just use the thorns to scare others off.
The pilot is irritated and says he is fixing the plane, which is “serious” work (p. 20). The little prince says that the pilot speaks like a grown-up and tells the story of the planet inhabited by the businessman who has never loved anything, only added up numbers, saying how “serious” he is. The prince declares that man wasn’t a man but a “mushroom!” (p. 20).
Then the little prince confesses he knows “a unique flower . . . enough to make him happy when he looks at the stars” (p. 21). But if the sheep eats the flower that he loves, then for him “it’s as if, suddenly, all the stars went out” (p. 21). To the little prince, this is the only serious thing, and he begins sobbing. The pilot drops his tools to console the little prince by rocking him in his arms. He promises to draw a muzzle for the sheep.
Commentary on Section VII
This is a turning point in the relationship of the little prince and the pilot, who wants to reach the child, but doesn’t know “where to find him . . . it’s so mysterious the land of tears” (p. 21). The boy has a need, and the adult responds, trying to comfort him. In this way, the little prince “tames” the pilot, or creates a bond with him. Suddenly, the pilot realizes he has his priorities wrong: “There was . . . a little prince to be consoled!” (p. 21). The pilot is caught in the act of being a hardened adult, and the little prince recalls him to what is most vital. The adult will always say that he is doing something too important to be able to attend to the needs of others. Whether or not the pilot thinks the rose is a major crisis, it is to the little prince, and so the pilot is made to open up and help him.
Summary of Section VIII
The story of the flower is elaborated. The prince had seen many flowers on his planet, but they bloomed and then were gone. This particular rose had been cultivated by the prince since it sprouted. He took the unique beauty of the rose as a “miraculous apparition” (p. 22). The rose is quite vain and plays games with the prince to make him admire her. She begins “tormenting him with her rather touchy vanity” (p. 23). She wants to be treated royally, with a screen to keep off drafts, a glass to protect her at night and so forth. The prince becomes disillusioned and distrusts the flower.
The little prince says to the pilot that one should not listen to what flowers say. Instead, he should have judged her according to her actions. She “lit up my life. I should never have run away!” (p. 24)
Commentary on Section VIII
This misunderstanding between the little prince and his flower has sometimes been taken to be purely autobiographical, with the rose standing for Saint-Exupéry’s wife, or for the author’s first fiancée. It can, however, symbolically refer to any relationship. The rose represents the beloved. The little prince says, “I was too young to know how to love her” (p. 25). He goes on his journey to learn how to love properly and to gain the wisdom of life.
The rose is acting up, trying to get attention, but she and the little prince truly love one another. This is a test of love the prince is too young to understand as yet. It is the first trial in true love.
Summary of Section IX
This section tells of the little prince’s escape from his planet to go on his journey. He believes he is never coming back, so he puts everything in order, raking out his active volcanoes so they won’t erupt. He has two very small active volcanoes, which we see by the drawings in the book, serve to cook his food and warm his tea. A third volcano is extinct, but he rakes that one too for safety’s sake. He says good-bye to his flower, who finally confesses her love and asks for forgiveness. She acts brave and says she is not afraid to be alone, for she has her thorns. The prince takes advantage of a passing flock of birds to fly off his planet.
Commentary on Section IX
The little prince leaves despite the flower’s confession and apology. She does not reproach him for leaving because she is “a proud flower” (p. 27). She refuses to have her protective glass put around her. She admits she should get to know the caterpillars if she wants to know butterflies. In this step, both “lovers” submit to the larger experience of separation and self-discovery. The little prince does not feel his life education is completed. Perhaps they have to submit to the caterpillars crawling on them, take their chances with life, so they can fully appreciate each other. The reference to caterpillars and butterflies evokes the image of transformation and growth. They are both immature at this point.
Summary of Section X
The narration switches to the little prince’s point of view in the third person now, summarizing his travels. The little prince visits the nearby asteroids, 325, 326, 327, 328, and 330 after leaving his own asteroid. The first planet is inhabited by a king whose ermine robe covers the entire small orb, so that the little prince cannot even sit down. The king considers the little prince his subject, thinking that he reigns over everything. He does not tolerate insubordination, because he is an absolute ruler. He claims even the stars obey him. So the little prince asks him for a sunset. The king explains that though he is an absolute monarch, one has to command what each is capable of. He will command the sun to set just as it is about to set. He offers to make the little prince a minister of justice if he stays, but the little prince says there is no one else to judge, for the planet is only big enough for the king. The king tells him to judge himself, the hardest thing one can do. The little prince says he can do that anywhere and prepares to leave. The king shouts after him that he’ll be his ambassador.
Commentary on Section X
At the time the author was writing, Europe was plagued with totalitarian governments such as Germany, Italy, and the Vichy government of occupied France. Similarly, this king allows no authority in the universe but himself, yet covers his selfish purpose with his “science of government” based on “reason” (p. 31). It is all nonsensical to the little prince, like speaking to the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, who yells, “Off with his head!” The king insists that the little prince as minister of justice could condemn the only rat on the planet to death and then pardon him and judge him again, because there is only one rat. He could recycle the rat. These pretenses do not interest the little prince who concludes, “Grown-ups are so strange” (p. 33). The king does say one true thing: “If you succeed in judging yourself, it’s because you are truly a wise man” (p. 32). This challenge for self-knowledge is something the little prince may achieve through his journey, but the king is certainly self-deluded.