’The last lesson’ written by Alphonse Daudet narrates about the year 1870 when the Prussian forces under Bismarck attacked and captured France. The French districts of Alsace and Lorraine went into Prussian hands. The new Prussian rulers discontinued the teaching of French in the schools of these two districts The French teachers were asked to leave. Now M. Hamel could no longer stay in his school. Still he gave lesson to his students with utmost devotion and sincerity as ever. One such student of M. Hamel, Franz who dreaded French class and M. Hamel’s iron rod, came to the school that day thinking he would be punished as he had not learnt his lesson on participles. But on reaching school he found Hamel dressed in his fine Sunday clothes and the old people of the village sitting quietly on the back benches. It was due to an order from Berlin. That was the first day when he realized for the first time that how important French was for him, but it was his last lesson in French. The story depicts the pathos of the whole situation about how people feel when they don’t learn their own language. It tells us about the significance of one’s language in one’s life for the very existence of a race and how important it is to safeguard it.
Gist of the lesson
- Franz is afraid of going to school as he has not learnt participles.
- He wants to enjoy 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.
- 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 teacher was dressed in his Sunday best and villagers sitting at the back.
- 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.
- Hamel overcome with emotions could not speak and wrote on the black board “Long Live France”.