The Last Lesson by Alphonse Daudet is set in the days of the Franco-Prussian war in which France was defeated by Prussia led by Bismark. The French districts of Alsace and Lorraine passed into Prussian hands. The two protagonists of the story, M. Hamel and Franz, are from Alsace. M. Hamel is a French teacher and Franz is one of his students. The story revolves around how the war plays a pivotal role in their lives.
Important Questions with Answers
Q. What was Franz expected to be prepared with for school that day?
That day Franz was expected to be prepared with participles. M. Hamel, his French teacher, had said that he would question the class on participles. But poor Franz didn’t know even the first word about them.
Q. What did Franz notice that was unusual about the school that day?
Usually, when the school began, there used to be a lot of commotion, which was missing that day. His teacher, M. Hamel had on his ceremonial clothes. But the most unusual thing was that the village people were sitting quietly on ‘the back benches, which were usually empty.
Q. What had been put up on the bulletin-board?
The bulletin-board notified the general public about an order from Berlin. It stated that only German was to be taught to students in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. The new teacher would join the school from the following day.
Q. What was the order from Berlin and what changes did it cause in the school? Or What changes did the order from Berlin cause in school that day?
The order from Berlin stated that only German will be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. This meant that French would no longer be taught in the school.
The order from Berlin caused many changes in school that day, Instead of the usual commotion, there was silence all around. The students sat at their desks silently. The teacher did not scold Franz for coming late to the class. He behaved with the same unusual kindness all through the day. He wore his beautiful dress which he never wore except on inspection and prize days.
The whole school seemed so strange and serious. However, the strangest thing was the presence of the villagers in the class. They were occupying the back benches which were otherwise always empty. The former mayor, the former postmaster and many other villagers were present. Old Hauser had with him an old primer. He held it open on his knees. Clearly he had come to study that day. Everybody looked very sad. The order from Berlin had hurt their feelings. It had awakened in them the love for their language.
Q. How did Franz’s feelings about M. Hamel and school change?
Before this day of the last lesson, Franz had never loved his French lesson nor ever admired M. Hamel. He was of course afraid of his teacher M. Hamel and his terrible iron ruler. He had often missed school for enjoying himself. He had been seeking birds eggs or going sliding on the Saar instead of learning his lessons.
Today he felt sorry for all that. Till then his books had seemed such a nuisance to him. Grammar and the history of the saints seemed too heavy to carry. Now these books seemed like old friends which he couldn’t give up.
He had all along hated M. Harnel’s ruler and thought him cranky. The up. thought of his going away made him forget all that. He feels much pity for him. He repeatedly calls him a ‘poor man’. He realises M. Hamel’s love for the school where he had spent 40 years of his life. Finally Franz says that M. Hamel had never before looked so tall. Thus Franz’s feeling were completely changed on the day of his last French lesson.
Q. The people in this story suddenly realize how precious their language is to them. What shows you this? Why does this happen?
The people in this story suddenly realise how precious their language is to them. This shows the human nature of not properly valuing the things which are easily available. Their presence is taken for granted. It is just as it happens with our environment. Human beings did not realise the importance of a clean environment until they made it so polluted that living in it became a health hazard.
M. Hamel in the story blames everyone for having put off the learning of French thinking that there was enough time to do. Even the old people of the village weep when they learn that their children will not be taught the language any longer.
This shows how people resent the change of language. It happens because every person loves his mother tongue and considers it to be the best language in the world.
Q. What was unusual about M. Hamel’s dress on his last day in the school?
M. Hamel’s dress on his last day in the school consisted of his beautiful green coat, frilled shirt, and a little black silk cap, all embroidered, that he never wore except on inspection and prize days.
Q. Who occupied the back benches in the classroom on the day of the last lesson? Why? Or Who were sitting on the back benches during M. Hamel’s last lesson? Why?
The old men of the village were sitting on the back benches during M. Hamel’s last lesson because they were sorry that they had not attended school more often. They also wanted to thank their teacher for his forty years of faithful service and to show their respect for the country that was theirs no longer.
Q. What announcement did M. Hamel make? What was the impact of this on Franz?
M. Hamel announced that from the next day they would have to learn German instead of French. When Franz heard this he realized that he had learnt nothing from his teacher and he regretted missing the school.
Q. Why is the order from Berlin called a thunderclap by Franz? Or “What a thunderclap these words were to me!” What were those words and what was their effect on Franz?
The announcement made by M. Hamel that there was an order from Berlin to stop teaching French, and that this was their last French lesson, seemed to be a thunderclap to Franz. He would no longer be able to learn French, his mother tongue.
Q. How did Franz react to the declaration that it was their last French lesson?
The announcement made by M. Hamel left a great impact not only on Franz but also other citizens. Franz was shocked to hear that M. Hamel was leaving and that it was his last lesson. He realized that he would not be able to read and speak his own mother tongue.
Q. What shows M. Hamel’s love for French language?
M. Hamel had taught French language in the school for forty years and was overcome with emotion when he realized that the villagers would not be able to learn it anymore. He wanted them to preserve the language with them, thus showing his love for the language.
Q. How were the parents and M. Hamel responsible for the children’s neglect of the French language?
Parents are not quite anxious to have their children learn. They put them to work on a farm or at the mills in order to have a little more money. M. Hamel got his flowers watered or gave them a holiday. He too neglected their lessons.
Q. Franz thinks, “Will they make them sing in German, even the pigeons ?” What could this means?
This comment of Franz shows a Frenchman’s typical reaction to the imposition of learning German, the language of the conquerors. Being deprived of the learning of mother tongue would mean cutting off all bonds with the motherland. Teaching the pigeons to sing in German indicates how far the Germans would go in their attempts of linguistic chauvinism.
Q. What did M. Hamel tell them about the French language? What did he ask them to do and why?
M. Hamel praised the French language, calling it the most beautiful, the clearest, and the most logical language in the world. He asked them to guard or preserve their language among themselves and never forget or lose it.
Q. How did M. Hamel say farewell to his students and the people of the town?
M. Hamel looked very pale and tall when he stood up in his chair. All the students were quiet. The village people — old Hauser, the former Mayor, the former postmaster and several others were present in the class room. The teacher told the villagers that French was the most beautiful language in the world. He ended the lesson by writing “Vive La France!” on the blackboard. He made a gesture with his hand to indicate that the school is dismissed and students could go home.
Q. Why does M. Hamel reproach himself for his students’ unsatisfactory progress in studies?
M. Hamel reproaches himself for his students’ unsatisfactory progress in studies because he has given them his own personal work to do during school time. Besides, he also gave them a holiday when he wanted to go fishing. He also tells the villagers that they should reproach themselves for not having learnt their language.
Q. What made M. Hamel cry towards the end of his lesson?
M. Hamel cried towards the end of his last lesson because he loved the French language and felt pity for the villagers, as they would not be able to learn their mother tongue any longer.
Q. Why did M. Hamel write ‘Vive La France’ on the blackboard? Or What words did M. Hamel write on the blackboard before dismissing the last class? What did they mean?
M. Hamel wrote the words ‘Vive La Franco’ in big letters on the blackboard before dismissing the last class. These words meant, ‘Long Live France!’ This shows his patriotic nature.
Q. Why were the old men of the village sitting in the classroom on the last day of the lesson?
M. Hamel was taking the class of last French lesson. That is why elders of the village were sitting in the classroom to attend it. It was done not only to pay respect to M. Hamel but to pay respect to his own language.
Q. How different from usual was the atmosphere at school on the day of the last lesson?
The order from Berlin that only German will be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine henceforth changed the atmosphere at school, as an unusual silence prevailed, compared to the normal hustle and bustle earlier at the start of school every day. M. Hamel had changed into a soft-speaking teacher from his harshness and strictness earlier. M. Hamel had also dressed differently, wearing the clothes reserved for inspection days and other important occasions. The whole school seemed so strange and solemn to Franz. But the strangest thing was that the villagers even attended the school to show respect to M. Hamel, as they had realized the importance of their language. Everybody looked sad that it was going to be their last lesson in French.