The lamplighter is one of the many types of people that the little prince meets during his travels to other planets. He stands in contrast with the other figures that the little prince encounters. While the king, the businessman, and the geographer are all concerned with authority, power, and ownership, the lamplighter’s existence revolves around duty to a cause. He must consistently fulfill his one major responsibility – to light and put out the lamp. The little prince respects this dedication. While he notes that the lamplighter’s life and purpose are just as absurd as everyone else’s in the grand scheme of things, there is something honorable in his devotion to providing this simple service.

In this sense, the lamplighter’s character represents the working class, or any members of a community who perform physical labor or service jobs. Their work may be unglamorous, but it is foundational to maintaining a fully functioning society. Additionally, the lamplighter seems to be receiving his orders from an ambiguous yet powerful source, showing that he, like most laborers, is not in control of his own work or schedule. Like the working class of our own world, he is subject to the decisions of those who are higher up in the professional hierarchy. Despite the lamplighter’s lack of autonomy, he takes his duty seriously, although it’s unclear who or what benefits from the lighting of a singular lamp on a solitary planet.

The lack of reason behind the lamplighter’s job is a symbol of existential absurdism, a recurring philosophy in The Little Prince. The lamplighter represents all humans who perform menial, trivial daily tasks and habits without any sense of why they perform those tasks or how those tasks might fit into a greater purpose or plan. In the vastness of the universe, the lighting of the lamp is an ultimately meaningless or useless action, just as – through the lens of existential absurdism – all human action is ultimately meaningless or useless. That being said, the ultimate purposelessness of the lamplighter and all human life is not necessarily a cause for despair or hopelessness. The little prince is moved by the lamplighter’s dedication to upholding a ritual despite its overall uselessness, and learns throughout his travels that his own small rituals, like cleaning out his volcanoes and digging up the baobabs, as well as his beloved ephemeral companions, are all he needs to find meaning in an absurd life.

While the lamplighter’s chapter makes it clear that his work is to be appreciated, it also critiques the burden laid upon the working class in the modern day, as ever-changing industry standards force laborers to take on more and more work to survive. The lamplighter explains to the little prince that he’s never able to rest. When he originally started his lamp-lighting job, he had plenty of time between lighting the lamp at sunset and putting it out at sunrise. But over time, his planet began to spin faster and faster, causing the time between dawn and dusk to grow ever shorter. Yet the conditions of his position have not been changed to allow him additional rest time. In this sense, the lamplighter’s plight is symbolic of that of the modern laborer, whose wages, benefits, and living conditions – over which they have no control – only worsen as the high-tech, capitalist society they inhabit rapidly advances.