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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
Other than the first and last chapters, which serve as an introduction and epilogue, the plot of The Little Prince is unified mainly by character and theme. The novel begins with an introduction to the main idea of the book. The narrator explains the drawings of boa constrictors that he made as a young boy. None of the adults who viewed the pictures were able to see the meaning of the drawings. As a result, at an early age, the narrator discovered that most people do not look beneath the surface to see the real message, beauty, or importance of a thing. This becomes the central theme of the entire book.
The plot of the book really begins in the second chapter when the narrator meets the Little Prince. The airplane of the narrator crashes in the desert. As he works on repairing it, the Prince approaches him, seemingly out of nowhere, and asks him to draw a picture of sheep. He also asks the narrator to draw a picture of a muzzle for the sheep. The Little Prince goes on to explain that he is worried that the sheep on his planet will eat his special flower, which he judges to be unique and beautiful.
From the second chapter onward, the book focuses on the Little Prince and his search for answers about life. Although the story is told chronologically, it is repeatedly interrupted by flashbacks as the Prince tells of his adventures after leaving his star. He visits five planets, and on each he learns something new about life. He shares these visits and lessons with the narrator. Even though much of the rising action of the novel jumps back and forth between past and present, the plot of the story is easy to follow, for the focus is always upon the Little Prince.
Once he lands on Earth, the Prince meets two important creatures: the snake and fox. The snake assures him that whenever the Little Prince is ready to return to his star, he can be of assistance. At the end of the novel, the Prince seeks out the help of the snake, drawing the end of the novel to the beginning into a tight unity. After meeting the snake, the Prince encounters the fox, who teaches him a most important lesson. Just when the Prince has realized that his special flower is really a common one, and therefore not of great value, the fox explains that a person must look beyond the surface to see the real value of a thing. If one looks with one's heart, not just with one's eyes, a person can see the hidden beauty of an object. He convinces the Prince that his flower is, indeed, very valuable, because it has been loved and tamed by the Little Prince.
By the time the Little Prince meets the narrator, he has learned the important lessons about life; but it is in telling the narrator about them that the lessons take on a real meaning for the Little Prince. After reviewing all that he has learned, the Prince accepts that he must return to his star in order to take care of his special rose; his acceptance of responsibility is the climax as the plot.
At the end of the book, the Little Prince goes to find the snake, which can bite him and return him to his planet. Before he makes the journey home, the Little Prince lets the narrator know he is departing. He tells him to look up at the stars and think of them as laughing. The Little Prince knows that when he looks at the stars, the narrator will also think about him. In truth, the narrator has grown very fond of the Prince and hates to see him go. When he is bitten by the snake and dies, the narrator is grieved to have lost a friend; but he feels certain that the Little Prince has returned home to his own little heaven. The end of the novel, therefore, helps to unify the plot, which has come full circle. The Little Prince has accepted responsibility and returned to his star to care for the flower, which had originally driven him away.
In the last chapter, serving as the conclusion and epilogue, the narrator explains how he looked for the body of the Little Prince on the next morning; however, it was no where to be found. In this brief falling action, the narrator convinces himself and the reader that the Prince has returned to his star. The narrator also explains that he has written the story of the Little Prince six years after he met him. Even though it has been a long time since the Prince's departure, the narrator's friendship with the mystical man from another planet has had a profound affect on him; therefore, he finally decides to write the novel in memory of and as a tribute to the Little Prince.
Because at one level, the novel is really a children's book, its language and style are simple. Because the plot and dialogue are easy to follow, a young person will find the book easy to understand. A child can also hear or read about the adventures of the blond-haired Little Prince and enjoy its meaning at an uncomplicated level. Beneath the simplicity, however, there is a sophisticated tale that deals with the important lessons of life. Just as the Little Prince finds answers to his questions, the reader also learns the answers to what is most important in everyday existence.