Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Night sky. Saint-Exupéry’s metaphors repeatedly depict the night sky as an ocean traversed by the pilots in their airplanes, ships heading to port and weathering the storms. The airmail pilots are depicted as sea divers who descend to the sea floor in search of the sea’s mysteries, then make their way back to the surface, but the principal arena of their battle is the night sky above South America, symbol of humanity’s reach into the unknown.
In the sea of darkness that the pilots confront in their journey to and from Buenos Aires, the chief enemies are the darkness itself, which blinds them and threatens always to lead them off course, and the weather, whose powerful squalls, wind currents, and sudden changes constantly challenge pilots to perform heroically. The central issue of the narrative is whether humans can prevail against nature in their quest to extend the range of their activities, expand their presence in nature, and enlarge their significance in the universe. In the sky, especially the night sky, these heroic warriors are opposed by nature, which represents death, ignorance, and weakness.
The pilots represent the human struggle to advance against the darkness, and one of them, Fabien, gives his life in the struggle, waging war against a cyclone from his cockpit in the dark sky above Patagonia. His death demonstrates not only the hazards of night flight but the tremendous power of a natural force to overwhelm a mere mortal. The storm and the dark sky are his field of battle, which stands for any place in which humans struggle to survive in a noble cause.
Fabien’s home. As he prepares for one of his night flights, Fabien is depicted as a warrior suiting up for battle, his wife in admiring attendance. This homely scene balances the heroic drama taking place in the pilot’s cockpit and Rivière’s offices. This location symbolizes domesticity, motherhood, marriage, and personal happiness. To Rivière, it represents a truth that he cannot deny but, at the same time, cannot allow to enter his world, which places the struggle against nature above personal happiness.
The brief scene inside Fabien’s home contrasts sharply with the solitary, hard, unforgiving world of the pilot. This place is especially important, for it represents the powerful forces that home and family represent and shows that they are not diminished by the heroic battle in the night sky. One of the dominant images in the book is that of a solitary plane, deep in an ocean of stars and darkness, journeying toward home.