The Last Lesson By Alphonse Daudet

Introduction

The Last Lesson by Alphonse Daudet was written in the days of the Franco – Prussian War in which France was defeated by Prussia led by Bismark. The French district of Alsace and Lorraine passed into Prussian hands. It showcases the fact that the oppressor wants not only territory but also dominates over the language and culture of a particular country thus, taking away even the identity of the subjugated people.

Summary and Explanation

“I started for school very late that morning —————– respect for
the country that was theirs no more.”

The story tells us that on that very morning Franz started very late to his school and he had a fear of being scolded by his teacher M.Hamel. M.Hamel had said that he would question them (the class) on participles. The day was warm and so bright, in the open field back of the sawmill, the Prussian soldiers were drilling. But he did not pay any attention to all these and made his way towards the school.

When he went past the town hall he noticed a crowd in front of the notice board. He thought that some bad news must be there. There was a great silence in the school. He thought that he would reach his desk without being seen, but on that day everything was still like Sunday’s morning; He had to open the door and go inside the classroom.

M.Hamel saw Franz and said kindly that he should go to his place. The whole school was looking so strange and serious. The thing that surprised Franz most was to see the benches behind the class were packed by village people. Everybody looked sad.

“ While I was wondering about it all, M. Hamel —————– a great deal to reproach ourselves with ”

The story tells us that when Franz was wondering about all this, M. Hamel sat on his chair, and in a grave and gentle voice, he said, “my children this is my last lesson, which I want to teach you. The order has come from Berlin to teach only German in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. I want you to be very attentive.”

Franz hardly knew how to write French and he would never learn any more French now. He was not happy. When Franz knew that his teacher M.Hamel had also to leave from here and he would never see him again he forget about the ruler and his teacher’s eccentricity. M.Hamel had put on his Sunday clothes.

The old men of the village were also sorry that they could not learn more and now they were showing their respect for their country. While Franz was thinking all this his name was called. He could not understand the difficult rules of participles, so he could not answer. His heart beating and not daring to look up. M.Hamel said that he would not scold him, but every day we say that we have plenty of time to learn and keep it for tomorrow. It is a problem of Alsace that it leaves everything for tomorrow.

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“Your parents were not anxious enough to ———– school is dismissed you may go .”

M.Hamel said that your parents were not worried about your study. Then he went on the talk of French language and said that it was the most beautiful language in the world. We must guard it. When people are enslaved, if they stuck to their language they had the key to their prison,i.e, they could get freedom.

After grammar, there was a lesson in writing M.Hamel had new copies for them and the words written in beautiful round hands ‐France, Alsace, France, Alsace were looking like the flags floating everywhere in the classroom, everyone set to work and it was quiet. On the roof, the pigeons cooed very low and Franz thought in himself, “Will the Germans able to sing the pigeons in German”?

M.Hamel was sitting motionless in his chair. He was only gazing things and it seemed that he wanted to fix in his mind how everything looked in that schoolroom. He had his own garden outside the window. Everything was there in the same place. Seeing all this his heart broke.

After writing they had a lesson in History. At once the church clock struck twelve. M.Hamel stood up and wanted to say something but he could not go on. Then turning towards the blackboard he wrote: “Vive La France”! and said that the school was dismissed and they might go.

GIST OF THE LESSON

• Franz is afraid of going to school as he has not learnt participles.
• He wants to enjoy the beauty of nature. The bright sunshine, the birds chirruping in the woods,

Prussian soldiers drilling but resisted.
• Bulletin board: all bad news, lost battles, the drafts and orders of the commanding officers: wondered what it could be now

• The changes he noticed in the school.
– Instead of noisy classrooms, everything was as quiet as Sunday morning

– The teacher does not scold him and told him very kindly to go to his seat

– The teacher dressed in his Sunday best.
– Villagers occupying the last benches
– To pay tribute to M. Hamel for his 40 yrs of sincere service and also to express their solidarity with France.
• M. Hamel making the announcement that that would be the last French lesson; realizes that, that was what was put up on the bulletin board.
• Franz realizes that he does not know his own mother tongue
• Regretted why he had not taken his lessons seriously.
• Also realizes the reason why the teacher was dressed in his Sunday best and villagers sitting at the back.
• M. Hamel realizes that all three, the children, the parents and he himself are to be blamed for losing respect and regard for the mother tongue.
• Always keep the mother tongue close to your heart as it is the key to the prison of slavery.
• Atmosphere in class: teacher teaching sincerely and patiently, students and others studying with utmost sincerity.
• Franz wonders sarcastically if Prussians could force pigeons to coo in German.
• M. Hamel overcome with emotions could not speak and wrote on the blackboard “Long Live France”.

Comprehension questions

Question 1. What was Franz expected to be prepared with for school that day?

Answer Franz was expected to be prepared with participles that day for M Hamel, their teacher was to question them on the topic. Franz had not learnt his lessons and feared scolding from him.

Question 2. What did Franz notice that was unusual about the school that day?

Answer When Franz reached school he noticed there was no great bustle which could otherwise be heard out in the street. No sound of opening or closing of desks could be heard. It seemed as quiet as Sundays. There were no lessons being repeated in unison nor the rapping of the ruler of the teacher on the table could be heard.

Question 3. What had been put up on the bulletin board?

Answer. Since the last two years, the bulletin board had news of lost battles, the drafts and the orders of the commanding officer. That day a notice had been put up stating that only German language would be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine.

Question 4.What changes did the order from Berlin cause in the school?
Ans. There was an unusual silence all around the school. Many village people sat on the back seats of the class of Franz.

Question 5. “Will they make them sing in German, even the pigeons”?What could it mean?

Ans. The Germans have imposed their own language on the French people, When Franz listens the pigeons cooing from the roof of the school room, he thought whether Germans will make the pigeons sing in German.

Question 6. What changes did the order from Berlin cause in the school that day?

Answer. The order from Berlin caused many changes. That day the school was enveloped in an eerie silence. People realised the importance of learning their language and their patriotic feelings were aroused. Even people who had been busy earning their livelihood, come back to the school as a mark of respect for the teacher. Everybody had a streak of repentance and guilt in their heart.

Question 7. How did Franz’s feelings about M Hamel and school change?

Answer Franz never liked going to school. His books seemed to be a nuisance to him. Learning was a burden so he had come unprepared to school that day. He wanted to be merry, never worrying about anything. He felt his teacher M Hamel; was a hard taskmaster and cranky.

On that historic day, however, his feelings about his teachers and the school changed. He was taken aback when told that it would be his last French lesson. He regretted having not learnt his lessons and being deprived of the opportunity to learn his own mother tongue. Franz was ashamed of the fact that he did not know how to write. His books suddenly became ‘old friends’ whom he could not abandon. The very thought of Mr M Hamel going away made he forget about his ruler and cranky nature.

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People always feel there is plenty of time to learn—so also in Alsace—now no time—parents not keen—preferred children, work in farms, mill—Franz looked opportunity to escape school—never
serious—receive orders from Berlin—people realize the importance of their language—attend the last lesson by M. Hamel.

The Last Lesson by Alphonse Daudet Summary, Explanation and Questions Answers

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