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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTERS 17 & 18
When the Prince arrives on Earth, the first living creature he meets is a snake. He asks the snake where the men are located. The snake responds by saying that it is not important to find the men, for it can be lonely among them. Although the snake claims that it can solve all riddles, the Little Prince does not believe it and accuses the snake of being a weak creature. The snake replies that it has the power to send those it touches back to the star from where they have come from. It tells the Little Prince that he should find the snake if he ever grows homesick.
Leaving the snake behind, the Prince crosses the desert. Along the way, he meets a flower and asks her where to find the men. The flower tells him that there are only six or seven of them in existence, for that is all she has ever seen in the desert. She believes that men are weak because they have no roots, which makes life difficult for them. Since the flower is of no help, the Prince moves on through the desert.
The narrator begins the chapter by explaining that men occupy a very small place on Earth, even though they think they are very important. The Little Prince, however, has a very hard time finding any men. Instead, he encounters a snake, which has the power to harm the Prince. The snake, however, does not strike, for it judges the Prince to be too innocent and pure. When he asks the snake where to find them, the creature warns the Prince not to be occupied with finding men. Even in their company, the snake warns that he will still feel lonely. Saint-Exupéry is criticizing man's tendency to not care for or interact with his fellow man.
The snake has a very high opinion of itself. It tells the Prince that it can solve all riddles. It also explains how it has the power to bite other creatures and send them back to the planets from where they have come. This information is useful to the Little Prince later in the book.
As the Prince continues across the desert, he longs to meet some other men, for he feels very lonely. When he meets a flower with three petals, he asks her where to find some men who can keep him company. The flower claims that there are only about six men in existence. Her opinion cannot be trusted, for her thoughts are shaped by her limited exposure; in a similar manner, men with little exposure also have very limited points of view.
The flower goes on to explain, from her point of view, why there are so few men. She says that since humans have no roots, their life is very difficult, and they cannot survive for long. Saint- Exupéry is obviously criticizing the fact that men often do not put down roots and establish firm values about what is important in life. As a result, they are blown across the hot desert of life, never knowing who they are or what they stand for.