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The Last Lesson Summary in English
By- Alphonse Daudet
The prose The Last Lesson’, written by Alphonse Daudet describes 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. The story describes the last day of one such French class under M. Hamel. M. Hamel could no longer remain in his old school. He gave his last lesson with utmost devotion.
One of his students, Franz, who played truant with French class and feared 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. On reaching school, he found M. Hamel dressed in Sunday clothes and all the old people of the village sitting there. (He later learned that it was due to an order on the bulletin board.) That was when he realized for the first time how important French was for him, that it was his Last Lesson in French.
The story ‘The Last Lesson’ highlights the human tendency to procrastinate and put away things for tomorrow; hence, the man keeps postponing the lessons of life, oblivious to the fact that life is subject to change. The people of Alsace always thought they had plenty of time to learn the lessons; therefore, they did not give much importance to the school. They preferred sending their children to work on the farms and mills instead of having them learn the lessons. Even Franz, the narrator, always looked for opportunities to skip the school and collect birds’ eggs. However, the unexpected happens and an order is received from Berlin regarding the compulsory teaching of German in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. It is then that they realize that they would be deprived of what they had been evading all this while.
The last French lesson taught by It Hamel symbolizes the loss of language and the loss of freedom for France. It becomes an emotional lesson rendered by M. Hamel to the villagers, signifying the changing order of life and its impact on the sensibilities and emotions of people. The marching soldiers under the windows represent the dawn of Prussia in France, the defeat of the French people and the resultant threat to their language and culture.
The Last Lesson Summary in English (2) :
The story ‘The Last Lesson’ is set in the days of the Franco-Prussian war. France was defeated by Prussia and districts of Alsace and Lorraine had passed into Prussian hands. The orders came from Berlin to teach only German in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. The story tells the effect of this transition on the people through the eyes of a young boy, Franz.
The story describes what is just another ordinary day for Franz who started very late for school that morning. In fact, he was reluctant to go to school as he had not prepared his French lesson on participles and his teacher, M. Hamel, was going to conduct an oral test on the topic in the class. Initially, he thought of spending the bright warm day outdoors enjoying the chirping of birds and drilling of Prussian soldiers at the back of the sawmill. But finally, he decided to go to school.
On the way, Franz passed the town hall, where he saw a large crowd reading the bulletin board which had been a source of all bad news. Franz didn’t stop there and rushed to the school.
When Franz arrived at the school, he found a strange quietness there. He found that his classmates were already seated in their places and the teacher had already started teaching. The back benches were occupied by the village elders who were grim and solemn. To his surprise, M. Hamel was in the formal dress that hewed to wear only on the inspection or prize distribution days. Franz found M. Hamel to be kinder than usual. He didn’tscold Franz for being late and allowed him to take his seat. Franz was shocked to get the news that it 105 w scold last lesson in French and the new German teacher would take charge on the following day.
He was full of regret for not learning his mother tongue and felt a sudden love for French. He even started liking M. Hamel and forgot all about his ruler and crankiness. When M. Hamel asked Franz to answer a question ac participle, he was not able to answer. Even then, M. Hamel didn’t scold him and remarked that the only trouble with people of Alsace was of putting off learning till the next day. He blamed parents for sending their children to earn money rather than to school. He also blamed himself for sending students to water his plants or to give them a holiday when he wanted to go fishing.
Hamel then talked of the French language, calling it the most beautiful language in the world. He told the class la to keep their language close to their hearts to feel free and happy. As long as an enslaved people held fast to their language, it was as if they had the key to their prison. Their language could liberate them forever. As the church clock struck twelve, M. Hamel with a choked throat wrote on the blackboard Vive La France!, ie. Long Live France and dismissed the class.
The story, written in historical background, is a beautiful depiction of the emotional bond of people with their mother tongue. It depicts the pathos of the situation that in order to conquer the minds of the people, it is not enough to win a country physically by force. In order to enslave a people completely, a conqueror needs to enslave their thoughts and make them devoid of their own mother tongue.