The gesture of drawing in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 'The Little Prince'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Although commonly understood as a children’s book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince offers a sophisticated meditation on being human. When the book is read more seriously than other bedtime tales, it is typically understood as a philosophical allegory. This understanding of the text ignores its tropological function. An interpretation of The Little Prince as a moral tale is more precocious than it appears. Central to grasping The Little Prince’s tropology is an examination of drawing’s critical function for the text. With respect to the book, the gesture of drawing creates the potential from which narrative can take place. To reiterate: Storytelling takes place (in or as a life). Drawing makes (living in) place possible. The unsuccessful attempts at drawing in The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry and by the text’s narrator point toward a more general failure with respect to images for the book in that they always require explanation. Explanation and drawing form the framework for the entire book as long as its dedication and postscript are understood as operating outside of the proper narrative. Drawing outside of the narrative functions as a test that forces the reader to critically engage the narrative and to recognize the book’s function as a response to the general failure of adults to be properly human. Drawing within the narrative, however, is an ethical act that opens up the potential for a story to be. The successful gesture of drawing, as defined by the little prince, is the drawing of an empty box. The narrative arises only within the boundaries of this empty container. The prince fills the bounded vacuum with ever more emptiness whether that emptiness be possible books, planes, sheep, or deserts. The narrator draws empty boxes so that the little prince can demonstrate that the emptiness is full. 
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReading Architecture: Literary Imagination and Architectural Experience
EditorsAngeliki Sioli, Yoonchun Jung
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9781138224261
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Cite this