The Last Lesson Summary, Theme by Alphonse Daudet
The Last Lesson Summary
‘The Last Lesson’ is a short story written by Alphonse Daudet. In this story, the writer had used the first person narrative technique to tell his story. Here, the speaker is a little boy named Franz who is a resident of Alsace-Lorraine district of France that has been captured lately by the Prussians.
The story is set in Alsace, a not so popular town. Little Franz narrates the whole story. The story opens up with Franz, rushing to school as he has a late start on that beautiful warm morning, Franz. He is afraid of Monsieur Hamel because he thinks that he will be scolded for being late and not preparing his French lesson on participles.
On his way to school, Franz passes through the town square, and in front of the town hall he sees a small group of people reading notices posted on a Bulletin Board. These are notices posted by the Prussians concerning orders issued from headquarters. While Franz is running across the square, Wachter, the blacksmith, calls to him that there is no need to hurry. Franz thinks that Wachter is teasing him.
He reaches school, gaspingly but he gets upset as there is no noise or confusion to cover his entrance. Instead, this day, there is the silence and stillness of the Sunday. Frightened and red-faced, he enters the classroom; instead of giving Franz a harsh scolding, however, Monsieur Hamel politely tells him to go to his seat.
Gradually, Franz notices the differences that the day has brought. Monsieur Hamel is all dressed up in his Sunday best, the clothes that he wears when prizes are given or on inspection days. Franz’s classmates are especially solemn this day. Then his attention is drawn to the back of the room, where villagers are seated, and to Hauser, there with his old primer spread across his knees.
He couldn’t understand until Hamel declares the notice which is served from Berlin that now onwards no French would be taught in schools of Alsace and Lorraine because only German would be taught in the schools. Franz becomes shocked. Hamel emotionally requests students to be more attentive for their last French lesson. Franz now realises everything.
It is like a thunder has struck him. He couldn’t accept the fact that it was their last lesson. After that, there would be no French lesson. He repents for not paying much attention in learning French as he hardly learnt any. He feels sad about Mr Hamel. He forgets about his cranky nature.
Now he realizes that the teacher has worn this dress in honour of his last lesson. He also understands why older people were present in class as they were repenting why they never bothered to go to school and they were there to show their respect to their teacher, who served them for forty years.
When Franz’s name is called to recite the lesson, he makes mistakes and could even speak few words but M. Hamel does not scold him rather he advises him that one should not waste his precious time just by living under the impression that there is plenty of time and says about the French language that it is the most beautiful, clearest and most logical language of the world.
People must stick with their language and it will prove to be a key to their prison in case they are enslaved. Eventually, Mr Hamel stands up with a very heavy heart. He looks sad as he walks to the blackboard, takes a chalk and writes on it “Vive La France” that means “Long Live France” and declares that the class is dismissed.
The Last Lesson About the Author Alphonse Daudet
Alphonse Daudet was born in Mimes, as a child Alphonse Daudet experienced the heady delights of a sun-drenched Provence and the darkening contrasts of his family’s steadily worsening financial condition. His father, a silk manufacturer, had to abandon business there in 1849, moving the family north to Lyons; never fully recovering from the depression which followed the Revolution of 1848, the Daudets finally lost everything in 1857.
After a few months he was rescued by his elder brother Ernest, who brought him to Paris and generously encouraged the boy’s already evident literary talents. Until 1865 the young Daudet enjoyed financial security as a comfortable undersecretary to the Due de Momy a position accorded, in almost fairy tale manner, by a chance notice of the Empress Eugenie.
In these years he collaborated in writing a number of one-act plays helped toward the stage by the Due de Moray’s influence. Daudet decided to live solely by his pen after the duke’s death, and in 1866 the first of his regionalist sketches, or Lettres de mon moulin, based on Proven9al folklore began appearing in Paris papers.
Two years later Daudet’s first long work, Le Petit chose (The Little Good-for-nothing), was completed; largely autobiographical, this early novel speaks of boyhood joys and travails but in the end leads its hero to the failure and obscurity which Daudet’s recent successes were to forestall. He was Married in 1867.
During his last years Daudet suffered from the consequences of a venereal disease, which he had contracted in his youth. He depicted his own life in “Thirty Years of Paris” and “My Literary Life,” 1888. His satirical novel about the Academie Frangaise, “The Immortal,” 1888 was considered a revenge-Daudet was never elected a member. Daudet died in Champrosay, on 15 December 1897.
The Last Lesson Theme
The story The Last Lesson’ focuses on the importance of language to the people of a country. Here, the language around which the story revolves around is the French language. Through the story, the writer expresses that tt is the duty of every citizen to safeguard the language as it connects with the person’s identity.
“Chauvinism” i.e. devotion for or against someone or something, is also depicted here. If the language is of the ruling class, we notice “Linguistic Chauvinism”. Language defines the identity of the people. It shows the people their origin, culture and habits.
If a country loses its own language, people lose their own identity. This story also shows the importance of the mother tongue of the people, which is French here. The story proceeds further showing the grave concerns of the students when the lesson on French suddenly gets stopped by order.
The Last Lesson Title of the Story
Through the title of the story, ‘The Last Lesson’, the very theme of the story is clearly depicted. The story talks about the last lesson in French that M. Hamel was about to give as the Prussians order him to cease teaching French at once. In this story, we see Franz a little boy who was not at all interested in taking his lessons seriously.
But on that very day, when he learnt the news that the teaching of French would be ceased in school, he became awestruck. M. Hamel, who usually intimidated his students with an iron ruler that he used to slap on their desks, on that very day, appeared very gentle, solemn and reflective as it was his last lesson. The story ended on a very sad note where M. Hamel was seen writing “Vive La France!” on the blackboard that meant Long Live France. It was indeed his last lesson. Therefore the title of the story ‘The Last Lesson’ is apt.
The Last Lesson About the Story
The story “The Last Lesson” impresses on one’s love for language. Through this story, the writer preaches that one should take his mother tongue seriously and culture it with love and respect. In this story we see Franz, a little boy, who comes to know that that day will be the last day of their French lesson in school, by order. He becomes shocked because it is an unusual news to him.
He regrets for not being attentive in learning French and taking his lessons casually. The teacher Monsieur Hamel becomes very emotional and ends his last class on the French language emotionally. He looks sad as he walks to the blackboard, takes a chalk and writes on it “Vive La France” that means “Long Live France” and declares that the class is dismisse
The Last Lesson Characters
Franz is a little boy of school-going age who is the protagonist of the story and narrator as well. Franz often skips school and doesn’t prepare for lessons because he is not particularly interested in learning. One day he arrives at school to learn that the French language will no longer be taught in school after an order sent down from Berlin to the occupying Prussian forces. Franz feels very sad and repents for not paying attention to his lessons when he had the chance.
M. Hamel is Franz’s teacher and schoolmaster who teacher French in school. The Prussians order him to cease teaching French which breaks him down. While Hamel usually intimidates his students with an iron ruler that he slaps on their desks, on his last day, he is gentle, somber, and reflective as he conducts his last French lesson. At the end of the day, he writes “Vive La France!” on the chalkboard before sending the students away.
Hauser is an older gentleman Franz recognizes from the village. Franz is surprised to see Hauser sitting on the benches in the back of the schoolroom alongside several other adults from the village. By the end of the story, Hauser is in tears as he reads from a rudimentary language textbook and speaks simple syllables and letters aloud with the youngest students.
He is considered as a blacksmith in a village in the French region of Alsace-Lorraine. As he hurries to school, the narrator, Franz, passes Wachter standing in front of the town hall bulletin-board. Wachter tells him not to go sp fast, and Franz thinks the blacksmith is making fun of him. Later, it is unfolded the real reason behind Wachter’s words.
The Last Lesson Main Points to Remember
- Franz is not willing, rather afraid to go to school as he has not learnt participles.
- Franz just loves to enjoy the beauty of nature and does not care much about other things like learning.
- He reaches school late but is afraid as he has not prepared his French lesson. But after reaching school Franz notices unnatural silence that surprises him. Soon he comes to know the real cause.
- Hamel announces that that day is the last lesson in French.
- Franz is awestruck. He laments for not taking his lesson seriously.
- He now understands the reason why teacher is well dressed and villagers sitting at the back.
- M. Hamel realizes that all three, he himself, the children and the parents are to be blamed for losing respect and regards for the mother tongue.
- He glorifies the French language, becomes emotional and then writes on the blackboard “Vive La France” which means “Long Live France.”
- Franz remembers his last lesson and the story ends there on a sad note.
The Last Lesson Annotations and Vocabulary
Dread — to feel extremely worried or frightened about something
Drilling — a tool or machine that makes holes
Tempting — Appealing to or attracting someone, even if wrong or unwise
Apprentice — someone who has agreed to work for a skilled person for a particular period of time and often for low payment, in order to learn that person’s skills
Bub — a form of address used to a man, sometimes in a slightly angry way
Commotion — a sudden, short period of noise, confusion, or excited movement
Fright — the feeling of fear, especially if felt suddenly, or an experience of fear that happens suddenly
Embroidered — to decorate cloth or clothing with patterns or pictures consisting of stitches that are sewn directly onto the material
Primer — a type of paint that you put on a surface before the main paint is put on.
Grave — a place in the ground where a dead person is buried
Wretches — a person who experiences something unpleasant
Cranky — easily annoyed or upset
Terrible –very unpleasant or serious or of low quality
Twined — to wrap round an object several times
Chanted — to repeat or sing a word or phrase continuously
Angelus — prayers said in the morning, in the middle of the day and in the evening in the Roman Catholic Church
Vive La France — Long live France
Gazing — to look at something or someone for a long time, especially in surprise or admiration
Cooed –When birds such as doves and pigeons coo, they make a low soft sound
Reproach — to criticize someone, especially for not being successful or not doing what is expected.