112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Saving Childhood: Pilot as Intermediary in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince

Elizabeth Hoyt, Kansas State University

The intermediary nature Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s pilot in Le Petit Prince can further critical discussion of representations of childhood and adulthood within literature, and help literary theorists understand the differences between fictional children and the adults who produce them. Readers are invited to re-examine whether or not “growing up” really necessitates the end of childhood.

Proposal: 

The emergence of children’s literature as a genre has precipitated an interest in the relationship between childhood and adulthood, between fictional children and the adults who produce them. Consequently, recent articles in Children’s Literature and The Lion and the Unicorn are dedicated to discussing this relationship in an attempt to clarify our perception of culturally constructed childhood. Claudia Nelson, for example, argues that “fictional children illustrate adult beliefs about what real children are and need” (223), concluding that, in consequence, children’s literature “traces a history of childhood that is simultaneously a history of adult wishes about childhood” (233). Similarly, Susan Shau Ming Tan laments that for children “coming-of-age often involves a recognition of a culturally defined childhood as well as loss: loss of innocence, loss of child-self” (55). Both scholars illustrate concerns that are prevalent in the current critical conversation. I believe Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince can assist us in addressing these concerns, and is, thus, deserving of critical attention. In order to prove this I intend to show that the pilot within the story acts as an intermediary character who bridges the gap between childhood and adulthood by inviting readers to do three things: he asks them to consider what distinguishes childhood from adulthood in order to show that they are related to one another; he encourages them to examine the difference between wonder and fact in order to determine which of the two represents the essential, and he asks them to question whether or not “growing up” really necessitates a death of childhood.