UBC Theses and Dissertations
Vision poetique de Saint-Exupery dans Terre des hommes Taverner, David
The grandeur of Terre des hommes lies in the beautiful poetry which Saint-Exupery has suffused into his descriptions of the earth and the universe, and into his reflections upon humanity. He wants to awaken us to the poetry of life. This is one of the main purposes of Terre des hommes and is the role of the author's "vision poétique.” The three chapters of this thesis are studies of Saint-Exupery*s poetic view of life. The first chapter introduces the universe which the author reveals to us in the first half of his book, where he is above all the poet of the earth. The world he depicts is largely a symbolic and spiritual one. Mermoz slowly wends his way through the temple of a storm at sea, following the rays of moonlight which creep in through the rifts in the clouds. And when Saint-Exupery is searching for his friend Guillaumet in the Andes, he flies through a cathedral of snow. These symbols take on a richer meaning, when in his fourth essay Saint-Exupery recalls how he used to land on plateaux of virgin sand on the borders of the Sahara. These plateaux remind him of the columns of a temple, and as he explores their surface, he discovers the presence of small black stones shaped like rain-drops which, he realises, must be meteorites fallen from the heavens. This rain of fire causes Saint-Exupéry's spiritual life to spring up in his soul and leads him to link his destiny with the stars. The peace of the desert where he loves to dwell, the wondrous firmness of the sand he lies upon, contemplating the stars, bring to his mind the memories of his childhood and of all that has been most precious to him in life. The universe is then a cathedral which will lead all men to a discovery of their inmost spiritual resources. The second chapter studies mainly the second half of Terre des hommes in which Saint-Exupery tries to communicate with all men; in this part of his book, he is truly the poet of mankind. He describes two little girls who live in a cottage full of nooks and who are as full of life and as mischievous as two fairy princesses. The miracle of man is fostered and nourished in childhood, whose spirit man must keep alive within himself and so be eager to explore the new possibilities of life. Saint-Exupery has already described the bureaucrat on his way to work, for whom life is nothing but a set of routines, and his old governess whose incredulous ears he loved to shock with his tales of far-away countries. The men like Mermoz and Guillaumet, on the other hand, really keep alive the spirit of their childhood and fulfil their destinies as men in their constant struggle with the unknown as they discover new air-routes over the sea and the mountains. In his sixth and seventh essays, Saint-Exupéry describes life in the desert where men, confronted with themselves, live in a more spiritual world than those who dwell in crowded cities. The Arab chieftains dream of vanquishing their legendary enemy, Bonnafous. The slave, Bark, clings steadfastly to the hope that he may one day live again the life he remembers of shepherd and king of flocks. Saint-Exupery tells us that his three days in the desert with hardly anything to eat or drink brought him to grips with life and revealed the spiritual life which dwells in all men and whose deep springs the challenge of the unknown alone can release. At the end of his book, the author marvels at the human miracle which man can realise by developping the gifts with which the Spirit has endowed him, for the discovery and the nourishment of the spiritual life, of that which will never die, will give true meaning to the lives of men. The third chapter presents a study of the poetic art of Saint-Exupery. The first section studies a passage of his poetic prose from the seventh essay of Terre des hommes, where the author is flying over the desert at nightfall. The earth seems to mingle with the sky. These are two worlds which are merging in Saint-Exupery himself as he wends his way amidst the stars, the worlds of the philosopher and worldly knowledge, and of the poet and divine knowledge. The words are full of music and are proof of Saint-Exupéry's quest for the beauty of the world of the spirit. The images the author uses form the second subject of study. Essentially concrete in nature, they express the way in which Saint-Exupéry battles with the elements as he flies through storms of snow and rain, and fights against the icy desert winds. The snow blowing from the mountain-top is like a scarf around its peak. The winds the author feels in the desert; are as cutting as sabres. But Saint-Exupéry’s imagery also expresses his search for the light of the spirit. The lamp in a farmer’s cottage on the mountain-side for example is a light-house for the pilot. The third section of the chapter concerns the allegories of the desert, the sea, the winds and the stars. The desert symbolises man's need for solitude and meditation, while the sea is the symbol of human life itself, and the winds blowing off the sea, bring to man the taste of its freshness which is the taste of life and freedom. The stars are the symbol of man's highest aspirations and represent the world of the Spirit where all men will find their fulfillment and Joy. The conclusion emphasises the two tendancies of Saint-Exupery's soul which are ever present in Terre des hommes and which unify his "vision poétique." There is on the one hand, his desire to be free and a poet to see and absorb as much of life as possible, and on the other hand, his love of being a part of a team of men, of having a wife he can return to after his wanderings, his love of belonging to the earth. These two tendancies bring unity to Saint-Exupery*s "vision poétique" for, as a pilgrim, a wanderer and a poet, he discovered the beauty of the earth, but it was as one who wants to belong, to linger and to meditate upon life's mysteries, that he set down his thoughts in such a wonderfully poetic way.
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