Here is our analysis of The Little Prince, the story for children which makes everybody cry and has sold at 175 million copies around the world.
The Little Prince – Story analysis – Chapter V – The drama of the baobabs
“As each day passed I would learn, in our talk, something about the little prince’s planet, his departure from it, his journey. The information would come very slowly, as it might chance to fall from his thoughts. It was in this way that I heard, on the third day, about the catastrophe of the baobabs.”
Structure: the introduction sentence gives the reader the program and the outline of the story to follow: one plot by day. It clearly indicates that from now, the narration will focus on the plot of the little prince, and no more on the plot of the narrator-airman. This narrative device reminds the one used in the Thousand and one nights: a framing plot contains a series of small included plots. The advantage of such a structure: it adapts easily to the limited attention and memorization skills of a young readership.
The third quoted sentence, “The third day, I got to know the drama of the baobabs”, gives the theme of the first step of the plot of the little prince.
With all of this, we almost forgot that the airman stays in a bad mechanic situation with scarce water in the middle of the desert… a drama that the author-narrator willingly forgets to feed for the moment, to come back to it later with even more power. The dream has replaced reality, and poetry and imagination have replaced the vulgarity of body needs, as drinking… Only the mention of the “third day”, linked to the information according to what the airman had only 8 days of water on hand, implicitly lets us calculate that there are only 5 days left before the airman starts dying of thirst…
The little prince asks the airman to confirm that “It is true, isn’t it, that sheep eat little bushes?” and when the airman confirms, the child seems satisfied. He then asks whether sheeps eat baobabs, and the airman asserts they don’t, but the little prince insists and the airman concedes that the sheeps do eat at least the very young baobabs. The airman stays stunned by these questions.
Structure: it is the exposition of a plot where the little prince is the Hero, confronted to a problem that we readers can not yet well understand.
Information distribution: as before, we share the point of view, and the level of knowledge – thus of ignorance – of the airman, while the thought of the little prince stays widely hidden to us, which contributes to install a suspense – we want to know, the enigma needs to be solved, which is an excellent way to hook us.
Style: let’s notice the remarkable semantic network created, with playfullness and fantasy, between the previous theme of the boas of the narrator as a child and the present theme of the baobabs of the little prince, two words and two things that sound and look exotic, amusing and dreamy. A psychoanalyst could perhaps identify in it two unconscious phallic figures… the little snake, then the big trunk…
The narrator then evokes the existence of two types of seeds and plants, the good ones and the bad ones, before revealing that seeds of baobab infested the ground of the planet of the little prince, threatening to germinate, grow and break the tiny asteroid into pieces.
New digression, we briefly leave the mode of narration to pass to speech mode.
Themes and intertextuality: this theme of the good and bad seeds reminds a similar metaphor in the New Testament, this parable that Jesus used to preach. This far echo confirms that the text is part of an old tradition of moral education.
The narrator then quotes the little prince, who says that every morning he has to clean his planet, and “ pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rosebushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth”.
Themes: first apparition of the theme of the rosebush, thus of the Rose, future character.
The little prince insists then to warn the children of planet Earth, in case they would travel, against the danger that consists in letting baobabs grow, quoting the example of a planet where a lazy man had left 3 baobabs growing, example that the airman (even though he pretends that he “does not like to speak like a moralist”) illustrated for us on a picture which shows a tiny planet on which 3 huge baobabs invaded the whole space.
Several remarkables effects in this part, written on speech mode:
The warning against baobabs from the little prince reinforces his connection to the reader through the airman’s narration, which flatters us – since the Hero cares for us, while we are reading his story – and flatters the airman, charged with such a noble mission, while underlining his main quality of humility, since he is nothing but the messenger of a child.
The sentence about the refusal to “take the tone of a moralist”, denies what we are yet stating: the author really had the intention to contribute to the moral education of his young reader, for example by condemning the lazyness that leads to the destruction of a planet. The adult reader yet does clearly see the trick: there is an inversion of roles – the author pretends to be the messenger of a little prince teaching morals, while he is in reality the creator of the little prince as a character. This paradox allows lecturing the audience a very soft, nearly invisible way.
Chapter V ends here. What was it made of? Of a mix of narrative elements (the base situation, the dialogues about baobab seeds and the necessity to remove young plants) and of speech elements (a short expose about seeds and vegetal growth, an ambiguous refusal of morals, and a new position taken in favor of pictures as proof and illustration of reality).
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