The Little Prince

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Exploration vs. Narrowmindedness Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Relationships Theme Icon
The True and the Essential Theme Icon
Exploration vs. Narrowmindedness Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Little Prince, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Exploration vs. Narrowmindedness Theme Icon

The two main characters of the book—the pilot and the little prince—are both explorers, in a very literal sense, but also in a figurative sense. Compared to those characters that inhabit only their own tiny planets and homes, the pilot and the prince have traveled and gained more perspective on life and the universe. While the others are caught up adding sums, drinking, ruling over imaginary subjects, or completing other futile projects, these two explorers observe, talk, and listen, learning lessons that the narrator passes on to us. They have a willingness to travel outside of their comfort zones and mental boundaries that the other characters don't have—and through this willingness, they develop in the story.

One of the main lessons the characters learn on their journeys is about what's truly essential. By leaving their homes and the relationships they've already formed, they learn the value of those ties. It's not until the little prince leaves his rose and explores the universe, for example, that he realizes how important his time with his flower really was.

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Exploration vs. Narrowmindedness ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Exploration vs. Narrowmindedness appears in each chapter of The Little Prince. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Exploration vs. Narrowmindedness Quotes in The Little Prince

Below you will find the important quotes in The Little Prince related to the theme of Exploration vs. Narrowmindedness.
Chapter 2 Quotes

When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey. Absurd as it might seem to me, a thousand miles from any human habitation and in danger of death, I took out of my pocket a sheet of paper and my fountain−pen.

Related Characters: The Pilot/Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

The pilot has crashed in the desert and has met the little prince, who is insisting that he draw him a picture of a sheep. The pilot is confused and disoriented. He's not sure where he is and has no idea how he might get back to civilization. However, although he is certainly concerned with such practical matters, the pilot also reveals himself to be open-minded enough to acquiesce to the little prince's request. 

One of the markers of childhood, as opposed to adulthood, is a whimsical desire for beauty that has nothing to do with fixation on a certain task or goal. Most adults might find that the little prince's desire makes no sense, and is exasperating: while the pilot (an adult himself) is similarly confused, he is willing enough to humor the little prince, opening himself to whatever might happen next. 


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Chapter 7 Quotes

"I know a planet where there is a certain red−faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: 'I am busy with matters of consequence!' And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man—he is a mushroom!"

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The Businessman
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

The little prince is growing increasingly frustrated with the pilot, who is, in turn, frustrated with the prince for distracting him while he attempts to fix the motor of his plane. When the pilot finally exclaims that he is dealing with "matters of consequence," the prince is appalled: he has thought that the pilot was unlike the grown-ups he has seen, but now he realizes that the pilot reminds him of a particularly unsavory grown-up - the "red-faced gentleman" who does nothing but add up facts and figures. 

The prince has nothing but scorn for this gentleman, who believes that nothing in the world could be more important than his work. In reality, according to the prince, the man is so narrow-mindedly focused on his job (a job that, in the scheme of things, isn't actually all that important) that he is unable to see the fascinating, inviting world around him. Not only does the man remain fixated on the meaningless numbers before him, but he is also unable to develop true relationships with others, since these figures are all that concern him. The businessman is a reminder to the pilot, once again, of how perilously easy it is for him to slip out of the mentality of childhood and embrace the sorry, limited concerns of adulthood.

Chapter 10 Quotes

"But there is nobody here to judge!"

"We do not know that," the king said to him. "I have not yet made a complete tour of my kingdom. I am very old. There is no room here for a carriage. And it tires me to walk."

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The King (speaker)
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

The little prince is beginning to get bored by his time on the planet with the king. It is increasingly clear that the king doesn't have the ultimate authority that he claims to have, and the prince is able to see through such empty claims. Here, though, the problem that the prince has with the king is slightly different. It has been evident from the beginning that the king doesn't actually have any subjects: he rules over an empty planet. But while this seems obvious to the prince, it is not so to the king.

The king makes a variety of excuses about why he cannot make an exploration of his planet to find any possible subjects, but his excuses seem to either suggest that the king is refusing to believe what he knows, deep down, to be true, or else that the king is so single-mindedly focused on his own power that he doesn't care enough to see what else is present even on his own planet. In the king's excuses there is also an implied criticism of adult's in general: they they not only can no longer see what is important and real in the world, but that they actively try to stop themselves from seeing such things as a way of making themselves feel more important. 

Chapter 14 Quotes

"It may well be that this man is absurd. But he is not so absurd as the king, the conceited man, the businessman, and the tippler. For at least his work has some meaning. When he lights his street lamp, it is as if he brought one more star to life, or one flower. When he puts out his lamp, he sends the flower, or the star, to sleep. That is a beautiful occupation. And since it is beautiful, it is truly useful."

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The King, The Conceited Man, The Businessman, The Lamplighter
Page Number: 57-58
Explanation and Analysis:

The little prince observes the lamplighter on a small planet with no other inhabitants, who nonetheless lights the lamp each morning and each night. Here, the prince attempts to distinguish this task from the tasks of the king, conceited man, and businessman, and asks himself why such tasks seem so different. He settles on the notion of beauty.

For the prince, use and ownership are not only related to a sense of care and protection: they also gain meaning by supporting beauty in the world. However, for him beauty is also something that only makes sense in terms of relationships - allowing another person to experience beauty is one of the greatest gifts he can imagine. This sense of generosity, as well as the creative mind that allows the prince to think in such a way, is another reminder of what distinguishes him from grown-ups.

"That man," said the little prince to himself, as he continued farther on his journey, "that man would be scorned by all the others: by the king, by the conceited man, by the tippler, by the businessman. Nevertheless he is the only one of them all who does not seem to me ridiculous. Perhaps that is because he is thinking of something else besides himself."

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The King, The Conceited Man, The Tippler, The Businessman, The Lamplighter
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

The lamplighter, according to the questions that the little prince has asked him, is not a saint: he is growing frustrated by the shorter and shorter length of the day on his planet, and he does complain to the prince. However, the prince believes that the lamplighter is more dignified and important than any of the other people he's met, people who believed themselves to be so essential despite their narrow-mindedness. T

The lamplighter's entire profession is based on a task whose sole purpose is to light the way for others, to ease a journey and to help people to see. For the prince, this emphasis on others is something that too many grown-ups have lost (it's also ironic that the king and business man would almost certainly look down on the lamplighter, thinking his menial job is beneath them).

Chapter 15 Quotes

"Exactly," the geographer said. "But I am not an explorer. I haven't a single explorer on my planet. It is not the geographer who goes out to count the towns, the rivers, the mountains, the seas, the oceans, and the deserts. The geographer is much too important to go loafing about. He does not leave his desk. But he receives the explorers in his study…"

Related Characters: The Geographer (speaker)
Page Number: 63-64
Explanation and Analysis:

Upon reaching the geographer's planet, the little prince thinks he is in for something more exciting: a geographer, after all, must know useful, relevant, and fascinating knowledge about the world around him. All too soon, however, this geographer also disappoints the prince's expectations. The geographer may not treat the prince as someone lesser than he - instead, he happily welcomes the prince into his study as an explorer - but it becomes clear here that he does indeed consider himself as more important than the explorers who go "loafing about." 

As readers, we are meant to understand that the geographer simply has things backwards. His insistence on staying inside and learning about things only second-hand is not a strength but a severe limitation, preventing him from the true learning that happens when one goes out into the unknown. We thus are given another example of the weaknesses of adults compared to children: grown-ups are all too willing to be satisfied with second-hand "authority," rather than being curious and brave enough to seek it out for themselves.

Chapter 17 Quotes

All humanity could be piled up on a small Pacific islet.

The grown−ups, to be sure, will not believe you when you tell them that. They imagine that they fill a great deal of space. They fancy themselves as important as the baobabs. You should advise them, then, to make their own calculations. They adore figures, and that will please them. But do not waste your time on this extra task. It is unnecessary. You have, I know, confidence in me.

Related Characters: The Pilot/Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 68-70
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator shifts his focus from the prince's adventures on the tiny planets he has visited to the planet Earth, where in the story he is about to land. He has just contrasted Earth to the small planets and their solitary inhabitants, but now he suggests that, although humans take up a great deal of space as they live now, they could in fact be confined to almost as small a surface as those minuscule planets. 

That grown-ups would refuse to believe this statement, according to the narrator, is not because they are skeptical of such mathematical calculations – indeed, the pilot notes how much adults adore such figures – but because they have such an inflated sense of self-worth. In the minds of adults, in addition, taking up physical space is equivalent to being important – an equivalence that is just another reminder, in the book, about the silly mistakes that can stem from adults' narrow-minded focus on what is in front of their eyes, as opposed to what is really valuable. 

Chapter 20 Quotes

And he was overcome with sadness. His flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in all the universe. And here were five thousand of them, all alike, in one single garden!

Related Characters: The Pilot/Narrator (speaker), The Little Prince, The Rose/Flower
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

In wandering around the planet Earth, the prince has stumbled upon a garden with thousands and thousands of roses. Although this garden is beautiful, the prince is horrified. He had believed his own rose when she had claimed she was unique in the universe: indeed, he had taken such good care of her in large part because he believed that she was irreplaceable. Now, the prince must grapple with the difficult realization that the flower that he loves, that he has tended to with such care, is literally one among thousands. 

At the moment, the prince cannot do anything other than cry. He is too distraught to fully come to terms with what this realization means. This scene, however, can be thought of as a turning point, in that the prince must now think about how to value what he loves for reasons other than that the object of his love is unique. Indeed, what it means to be unique, beyond simply one-of-a-kind in the universe, will be a question that he will return to.

Chapter 21 Quotes

"To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world..."

"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower... I think that she has tamed me..."

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The Fox (speaker)
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

Still recovering from the painful realization about the roses, the little prince nonetheless is granted a chance to learn how he can reconsider what it means to value and love something as unique. The fox helps the little prince along in this understanding by explaining to him what "taming" means: by choosing one fox out of thousands to teach and to relate to, the prince chooses to treat it as unique in the universe, even though it may not be literally unique.

This is thus a more complex view of the value of relationships than the one the prince originally had. People choose to love and respect each other not necessarily because they cannot imagine finding anyone else similar to or even better than them, but because there is value in the choice itself. In some ways, this is another example of the point that the book has been making about the importance of valuing something in and of itself, rather than based on what it can do for you. 

Chapter 27 Quotes

Here, then, is a great mystery. For you who also love the little prince, and for me, nothing in the universe can be the same if somewhere, we do not know where, a sheep that we never saw has—yes or no?—eaten a rose...

Look up at the sky. Ask yourselves: is it yes or no? Has the sheep eaten the flower? And you will see how everything changes...

And no grown−up will ever understand that this is a matter of so much importance!

Related Characters: The Pilot/Narrator (speaker), The Little Prince, The Rose/Flower
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

As the narrator comes to the end of his story, he directly addresses the reader, asking us to align ourselves with the world view that he has developed through his relationship with the little prince. Throughout The Little Prince, we have seen a contrast between two ways of thinking: there is the grown-up way of thinking, which chooses what to value based on strange, distanced, and close-minded calculations; and there is the child's way of thinking, which chooses what to cherish based on essential, real values. Children do not need to think about whether what they love is "valuable" in economic or political terms: instead, their very act of choosing to love is what creates value. 

If the sheep has eaten the flower, this will undeniably be a great, painful loss for the prince, and the fact that even one person has loved the flower should make it a loss for us too. As he closes, then, the narrator challenges us to think about what is essential and what is truly valuable, and to break out of the way of thinking that most adults are condemned to follow.