The Little Prince: Novel Summary :Section 21-25
Summary of Section XXI
Then the little prince meets the fox. The fox addresses him, and the little prince asks him to come and play with him because he is sad. The fox says he can’t because he hasn’t been tamed. The prince explains he is looking for people, but the fox says people have guns, and they have chickens, which is the interesting thing about them. He wonders if the prince is really looking for chickens. The little prince says he is looking for friends and asks what “tamed” means. The fox says it means to create ties. Right now, he is just a little boy like any other, and the fox has no need of him, but if the boy tames him, they will need each other. The little prince begins to understand that he has been tamed by the flower.
The fox says his life is monotonous because he chases chickens, and hunters chase him: “All chickens are just alike, and all men are just alike” (p. 59). If the little prince tames him, “my life will be filled with sunshine. I’ll know the sound of footsteps that will be different from all the rest” (p. 60). The fox begs the little prince to tame him, but the little prince says he hasn’t time; he is looking for friends. The fox tells him that people are too busy to be his friend. He shows him how to tame him by being patient and returning at the same time each day: “if you come at four in the afternoon, I’ll begin to be happy by three” (p. 61). There have to be “rites” to create something special, one day or hour different from another (p. 61). The little prince tames the fox, and they become friends.
When it is time for the little prince to leave, he is worried that the fox will be lonely and will have gotten nothing out of all this trouble. The fox says he will always have “the color of the wheat” (p. 61). He advises the little prince to go look at the garden of roses again to understand that his rose “is the only rose in all the world” (p. 63). The prince looks at the rose garden and discovers, “You’re lovely, but you’re empty . . .
my rose . . . is the one I’ve watered” (p. 63).
When he says good-bye to the fox, the fox tells him a secret: “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes” (p. 63). The little prince repeats the teaching. The fox impresses on him that he is responsible for his rose because he has tamed it.
Commentary on Section XXI
This is the central section of the book where the fox becomes the little prince’s spiritual teacher and passes on the secret of life. Saint-Exupéry raised a desert fox of which he was fond when he was in Africa, possibly the model for the fox in the story. The fox teaches the boy the essentials of relationship, and how when one has a relationship with something, it creates a sense of responsibility. If there is not much sense of responsibility in the world, it’s because there is a lack of relationship, with others, oneself, and nature. He also teaches the boy to look at life with his heart, not his eyes. The real things are invisible. Love cannot be seen or counted. The preciousness of the boy or the rose cannot be proved, only felt. If the world, like the geographer, wants physical proof of everything in order to count it real, then most of life will be missed. The majority of people can only see the outside of things. Everything looks like a hat to them or a common rose.
Summary of Section XXII
The little prince goes on his way to put this knowledge to the test. He meets a railway switchman who “sort[s] the travelers into bundles of a thousand,” (p. 64) sending trains to the left or right. The prince says everyone is in a hurry and asks what they are looking for. The switchman does not know but claims people keep traveling because they are not satisfied. The little prince says that the children are the only ones who know.
Commentary on Section XXII
This and the next scene fulfill the snake’s prophecy that the little prince would find just as much loneliness with people as in the desert. The grown-ups are in a senseless hurry, always dissatisfied, not knowing what they are seeking. The little prince claims only the children know. It is only innocence that can seek and find and create relationship. It is the same as Christ’s teaching that unless you be as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. The switchman only sees the humans as bundles of a thousand each. There is nothing special in any of them.
Summary of Section XXIII
Next the little prince meets a salesclerk who is selling pills invented to quench thirst. If you take one a week, you don’t need to drink and save fifty-three minutes a week. The little prince says he would rather spend fifty-three minutes walking slowly towards a well.
Commentary on Section XXIII
There are actually such pills to take away thirst or give thirst. The world of advertising and modern conveniences is all too familiar. People are sold various items supposedly to keep them satisfied, but an artificial fulfillment is not the same as walking to the well and drinking for oneself. People believe they are being fed what the advertising promises and receiving a substitute or illusory life instead. Like the drunkard, they consume to forget. They cannot even be bothered to be responsible for their own thirst. The little prince no longer needs to spend much time on all these grown-ups. He is sure of his own direction.
Summary of Section XXIV
It is now the eighth day since the pilot’s crash landing, and he hears the story about the water and the pills as he drinks the last drop of his water supply. He has not repaired his plane. He reminds the prince they are going to die of thirst. The little prince says it is good to have had a friend, even if you’re going to die. He is glad he had a fox for a friend. The pilot thinks the boy naïve; he doesn’t understand their danger. Just then, the little prince says he is thirsty too, and they should find a well. The pilot wants to tell the little prince it is absurd to just start walking in the desert hoping to find a well, but he gives up and goes along with it. They walk until night falls and the stars appear. They sit down, and the little prince keeps talking about the beauty of the stars and desert. The pilot begins to notice, despite his thirst.
The little prince says, “What makes the desert beautiful is that it hides a well somewhere” (p. 68). Suddenly, the pilot understands. He once lived in an old house that legend said held a hidden treasure buried in it. It made the whole house magic for him. He agrees that what makes anything beautiful is invisible. The prince falls asleep, and the pilot picks him up and carries him, as though he is a fragile treasure. He looks down at the prince realizing that his body is a shell, and the precious part is invisible. He loves that the little prince carries within him the image of his rose, like the flame of a lamp. They find the well at daybreak.
Commentary on Section XXIV
The narrator begins to speak again in the first person, after the long section of the little prince’s adventures narrated in the third person. This is another key section as the little prince passes on the secret of life to the pilot. The pilot thinks the boy naïve at first for not heeding their danger, but he is enchanted into seeing that “something sings in that silence” of the desert (p. 68). The little prince suddenly becomes that buried treasure he once felt was in his house, and he wants to protect him. The pilot begins to see that each thing and person has that buried treasure within it, that invisible essence of life. The well they find quenches the spiritual as well as the physical thirst, as the little prince had said: “Water can also be good for the heart” (p. 67).
Summary of Section XXV
The well looks like a village well, but there is no village. The pilot thinks he is dreaming, because everything is ready for them—the pulley, bucket, and rope. The little prince begins pulling the rope, and the well groans. The little prince says they have awakened the well. Everything is beautiful—the pulley makes a song, and the sun is shining. The little prince says he is thirsty and begins to drink. The pilot understands the little prince’s thirst, for it is more than a mere drink of water—this water they are drinking has the music of their search, the stars, the song of the pulley, and the effort to draw the bucket in it. It does the heart good as much as the body.
The little prince remarks that people are looking for something so desperately, but what they want can be found in a single rose or drop of water if they look with the heart. When the pilot drinks the water, he feels easier for the moment and then realizes he is sad but doesn’t know why. The little prince tells the pilot he must keep his promise to draw a muzzle for his sheep. The pilot draws it, while the little prince laughs at his attempts, but says they are all right, for children will understand his drawings. The pilot gives the drawing to the prince with a heavy heart, accusing the little prince of making plans that he knows nothing of.
The little prince says he landed near this spot a year ago. The pilot is full of grief. He understands that the little prince was walking towards this place when he met him. The prince tells him to go work on the plane; he will meet him here tomorrow night.
Commentary on Section XXV
The pilot is overjoyed to share the water of life with the little prince. He understands that the physical water hides something even dearer—the shared music of the walk to the well. The pill sold to quench thirst would not have the desert or stars in it or the little prince’s company. The walk and the sharing of water do the heart good, “like a present” (p. 71). The pilot’s uneasiness is not explained but only hinted at. He knows he will soon be parting from the little prince who is walking back to the spot where he fell to earth a year ago. The little prince is blushing when the pilot asks questions. The pilot realizes, “You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed” (p. 73). This is a great fear and why people often avoid relationships—the sorrow of parting.