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The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

A Harvest Book

Harcourt, Inc.

83pp.

 

Synopsis (general):

            Alone in the Sahara Desert, a stranded pilot meets "an extraordinary little fellow," who has traveled far and wide across the solar system learning many important life-lessons. These lessons he imparts to the pilot as the two develop a deep bond of friendship. The hardest lesson, perhaps, is that even dear friends must part ways, but that nothing can take away what exists between them.

           

Discussion Questions:

 

Part 1 - Chapters I-IX

 

 

Group Exercise - "Pictionary" - Have each student make a drawing to present to the class. It will be the class's job to try to guess what the drawing is (or represents).

 

1.     In the first chapter the pilot explains how, when he was six, grown-ups thought his "drawing number one"  looked like a hat, even though he had drawn a snake digesting an elephant.

a)   When you look at the clouds, what do you see? Have you ever seen an animal or a person? If you see a dog and a friend sees a sailing ship, is your friend wrong? Are you?

b)   The pilot says "Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves." How does he know this? What do you think about what the pilot says about grown-ups?

 

2.     When the pilot first meets him, the little prince asks him to draw a sheep.

a)     Why is the sheep-in-a-box "just the kind [the prince] wanted"? Why do you think he prefers this one to the others the pilot drew?

b)    What kinds of things could the prince do with his sheep-in-a-box?

 

3.     In chapter v the pilot learns about the Baobabs - enormous trees that sprout up on the prince's planet. The prince is concerned with whether or not sheep eat bushes.

 

Prince: Isn't it true that sheep eat bushes?

Pilot: Yes

Prince: And therefore they eat Baobabs, too?

Pilot: But Baobabs are trees

Prince: But they start out little

 

a)     Do you think that sheep eat Baobabs? Why or why not?

b)    Imagine that you know sheep eat bushes but not Baobabs, does this mean that Baobabs are not bushes?

c)     If you eat sunflower seeds, does that mean that you eat sunflowers?

 

4.     On the prince's planet there are good plants and bad plants. "The good plants come from good seeds and the bad plants come from bad seeds. But the seeds are invisible."

a)     Could a good plant come from a bad seed? Could a bad plant come from a good seed?

b)    The problem with Baobabs is that when they are young they look a lot like rosebushes (which are good). What would you do? Would you risk having your planet overrun by Baobabs for the sake of saving the rosebushes or would you risk pulling up some rosebushes for the sake of getting rid of all the Baobabs? Be sure to give reasons for whatever you decide.

c)     Imagine that someone gives you a packet of seeds. Inside are good seeds and bad seeds but there is no way to tell them apart by looking at them. The good seeds will grow into beautiful flowers while the bad seeds will grow into harmful weeds that will take over everything. What ways can you come up with to deal with this problem?

 

Part 2 - Chapters X-XV

 

 

5.     After leaving his own tiny planet, the little prince visits six nearby planets (asteroids) to "keep himself busy and to learn something."  On the first planet is a king. When the prince arrives the King says: "Ah! Here's a subject!

a)     Why does the King think the prince is a subject?

b)    The king says, "I am entitled to obedience because my orders are reasonable." Are the kings orders reasonable because they are obeyed? Or are they obeyed  because they are reasonable?

c)     What makes a king a king?

 

6.     On the second planet the prince meets a "very vain man," who thinks everyone is an admirer.

a)     The very vain man tells the prince: "To admire means to acknowledge that I am the handsomest, the best-dressed, the richest, and the most intelligent man on the planet." Do you agree with this definition?  Think of someone you admire. Why do you admire that person? Does the person know you admire him/her? Is it good to be admired?

b)    Do you like to be admired? Does everyone?

 

 

7.     The next planet the prince visits is home to a drunkard. They have the following brief conversation:

P: What are you doing?

D: Drinking.

P: Why are you drinking?

D: To Forget.

P: To forget what?

D: To forget that I'm ashamed.

P: What are you ashamed of?

D: Of drinking!

 

a)     What would you say to the drunkard? Would you be satisfied with his answer to the question Why are you drinking? Why or why not?

 

8.     The prince next comes across a businessman counting stars he says he owns.

 

P: What good does owning stars do you?

B: The good of being rich.

P: What good does that do?

B: It lets me buy other stars if somebody discovers them.

 

a)     Can someone really own the stars? What about the planets? Does anyone own the moon? The sky? The ocean? What kinds of things can you own? If you put your name on something, does that mean you own it? What does it mean to own something? Can everyone own something?

b)    The businessman says, If stars belong to nobody then "they belong to me because I thought of it first." Think of something that nobody currently owns and come up with reasons why you think you should be able to own this particular thing. At the same time, see if you can come up with reasons why you shouldn't (or couldn't) own that particular thing.

c)     The prince says to the businessman: "It's useful to my flower that I own [her]. But you're not useful to the stars." Do you agree or disagree with the prince? Does the prince own the flower? If he does in fact own the flower, how is he "useful" to the flower? Why isn't the businessman "useful" to the stars? Isn't counting them useful?

 

9.     On the fifth planet the prince meets a lamplighter (LL) whose job is to light and extinguish a street lamp every minute. The prince thinks that it is a "fine occupation…and therefore truly useful."

a)     Is the lamplighter's job a fine occupation because it's useful or is it useful because it's a fine occupation?

b)    The prince says of the LL : "That man would be despised by all the others…Yet he's the only one who doesn't strike me as ridiculous. Perhaps it's because he's thinking of something besides himself." Why does the prince think that the LL would be despised by the others? What do you think about the LL?

 

10.   On the sixth planet the prince meets a Geographer (G). When the prince asks him what a G is, the man tells him that a G is " a scholar who knows where the seas are, and the rivers, the cities, the mountains, and the deserts."

a)     When the prince asks the G about his planet, the G doesn't know whether there are any seas, mountains, cities, rivers, or deserts. How can he be a G if he doesn't know these things?

b)    The G learns about other places by talking to explorers and writing down what they remember. If the memories of the explorer "seem interesting to him," then he "conducts an inquiry into the explorer's moral character." If the explorer's moral character seems good, then the G investigates the explorer's discovery.

Š      Imagine two people with what you would call bad moral character - e.g. a thief and a liar. Each tells you he robbed a bank. Which one are you more likely to believe? Why? What if each tells you he saw an alien spaceship?

c)     G: "If he claims to have discovered a large mountain, he is required to bring back large stones from it."

Š      Would large stones convince you of the existence of a mountain? If so, how many would it take?

d)    Think of something you haven't seen but believe exists. How do you know that it exists? How can you be sure?

 

Discussion Guidelines

 

Representation - Group Exercise & Question 1

 

            The narrator's drawing #1 is supposed to be a snake digesting an elephant, but to grownups it looks like a hat. Which is it? Is representation strictly in the eye of the beholder? Can there ever be a definitive assessment of what something really represents?

            Representation has two major levels: the concrete and the abstract. In concrete terms, drawing #1 could be a hat or a snake that has just gulped an elephant, depending on how it is viewed or who is viewing it. At this level, it is nearly impossible to separate the artist's intent from what the work is. But what happens when we ask what a work of art means? Wherever there is interpretation involved, the viewer becomes much more actively engaged. So, what, if anything, makes one interpretation better than another? If two people are sitting on a hill gazing at fluffy clouds passing overhead, it is incredibly hard to give either one the upper hand. The clouds are an easy example because there is no one hand-fashioning each cloud to certain specifications. But again, with art this changes. Drawing #1 could have been loaded with specific symbolic meaning by the artist, or its symbolism could be unique to whomever happens to be looking at it at any given time. Alternatively, a work of art could have absolutely no intended symbolic meaning and could still become symbolic to someone, somewhere, sometime. Also, something mundane - such as a Campbell's Soup can - could be lifted from ordinary life and turned into art by someone who sees something significant in it, whether a commentary about the society that produced it or some type of beauty specific to the thing itself.

            Symbolism can  be perverted, often to serve the ends of a political or ideological movement. The Swastika, for example, is a mirror image of a Native American good luck symbol that became forever sullied by its association with Nazism. And today, brand names and logos - such as Mcdonald's (and its "Golden Arches"), Nike or Wal-Mart - can symbolize, very succinctly, the negative aspects of the proliferation of "American Culture" around the world. Therefore, since symbols are everywhere, it is important for kids to think about representation, not only in the sense of what something is or isn't, but what something means (in and out of context) and to whom.

            *This is no simple issue. Be prepared to spend a good deal of time exploring with the children the interplay of representation, meaning, context, and artistic intent. This is a good opportunity for an interactive and engaging (and possibly "multimedia") classroom experience. Have fun!