Chapter 14 Summary
The fifth planet is smaller than any of the others, and the man there spends all his time lighting a streetlamp and putting it back out. The little prince finds this odd, but he also thinks the man’s work is the best of all the jobs he has seen so far. After all, lighting a lamp is “like bringing one more star to life, or one more flower.” This is more interesting and more “useful” than giving orders to nobody, asking for admiration, drinking, or claiming to own stars.
The lamplighter tells the little prince that he spends all his time lighting his lamp and putting it out because he has orders. He does not or cannot say where these orders come from, just that they require him to light the lamp at dusk and put it out at dawn. He says his job used to be okay because he had time to sleep and rest, but every year his planet turns a bit faster. Now the planet turns so quickly that a day and a night only last a minute. This means the lamplighter has to spend all his time on his work. He is unhappy, but he cannot stop. “Orders are orders,” he says.
The little prince watches the lamplighter for a long time and eventually decides that he likes the man. His faithfulness to orders is a good thing, as is the fact that he spends his time focused on something other than himself. The little prince suggests that the lamplighter avoid his job for a while by walking in one direction so that he stays in the sun. That way his day will last as long as he wants, and he will not have to do his work.
The lamplighter rejects the little prince’s suggestion because what he really wants is sleep. He cannot walk and sleep at the same time, so he might as well stay in one spot and keep lighting and putting out the lamp. The little prince accepts this. In some ways, he wishes he could stay on this planet, but it is far too small for two. As he leaves, the little prince feels a twinge of sadness. He is not only leaving behind the chance to make a friend; he is also leaving a planet that is “blessed with one thousand, four hundred forty sunsets every twenty-four hours!”