The Last Lesson

by

Alphonse Daudet

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Last Lesson can help.
French Symbol Icon

The French language is a symbol of French cultural identity. Franz’s teacher, M. Hamel, lectures the gathered pupils and villagers—who have just received news that Prussian occupiers have banned the teaching of French in the schools of Alsace-Lorraine—on the beauty of the French language, telling them that it is the clearest and most logical in the world. As M. Hamel himself argues, the French language is the key to French identity—so long as the villagers hold onto their language, then they can also hold onto their identity, and thus to their freedom, even in the face of foreign occupation. As such, the language is not only an embodiment of the villagers’ French identity, it is also the key to their liberation.

French Quotes in The Last Lesson

The The Last Lesson quotes below all refer to the symbol of French. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Culture and Language Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the National Council of Education Research and Training edition of The Last Lesson published in 2015.
The Last Lesson Quotes

[…] M. Hamel mounted his chair, and in the same grave and gentle tone which he had used to me, said, “My children, this is the last lesson I shall give you. The order has come from Berlin to teach only German in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. The new master comes tomorrow. This is your last French lesson. I want you to be very attentive.”

Related Characters: Franz (The Narrator) (speaker), M. Hamel (speaker), Prussian Soldiers
Related Symbols: The Classroom, French
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

My last French lesson! Why, I hardly knew how to write! I should never learn any more! I must stop there, then! Oh, how sorry I was for not learning my lessons, for seeking birds’ eggs, or going sliding on the Saar! My books, that had seemed such a nuisance a while ago, so heavy to carry, my grammar, and my history of the saints, were old friends now that I couldn’t give up. And M. Hamel, too; the idea that he was going away, that I should never see him again, made me forget all about his ruler and how cranky he was.

Related Characters: Franz (The Narrator) (speaker), M. Hamel, Prussian Soldiers
Related Symbols: French
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

“I won’t scold you, little Franz; you must feel bad enough. See how it is! Every day we have said to ourselves, ‘Bah! I’ve plenty of time. I’ll learn it tomorrow.’ And now you see where we’ve come out. Ah, that’s the great trouble with Alsace; she puts off learning till tomorrow. Now those fellows out there will have the right to say to you, ‘How is it; you pretend to be Frenchmen, and yet you can neither speak nor write your own language?’”

Related Characters: M. Hamel (speaker), Franz (The Narrator), Prussian Soldiers
Related Symbols: The Classroom, French
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

“Your parents were not anxious enough to have you learn. They preferred to put you to work on a farm or at the mills, so as to have a little more money. And I? I’ve been to blame also. Have I not often sent you to water my flowers instead of learning your lessons? And when I wanted to go fishing, did I not just give you a holiday?”

Related Characters: M. Hamel (speaker), Franz (The Narrator)
Related Symbols: The Classroom, French
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] M. Hamel went on to talk of the French language, saying that it was the most beautiful language in the world—the clearest, the most logical; that we must guard it among us and never forget it, because when a people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language it is as if they had the key to their prison.

Related Characters: Franz (The Narrator) (speaker), M. Hamel, Prussian Soldiers
Related Symbols: French
Page Number: 5-7
Explanation and Analysis:

After the grammar, we had a lesson in writing. That day M. Hamel had new copies for us, written in a beautiful round hand—France, Alsace, France, Alsace. They looked like little flags floating everywhere in the school-room, hung from the rod at the top of our desks.

Related Characters: Franz (The Narrator) (speaker), M. Hamel, Prussian Soldiers
Related Symbols: The Classroom, French
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

After the writing, we had a lesson in history, and then the babies chanted their ba, be bi, bo, bu. Down there at the back of the room old Hauser had put on his spectacles and, holding his primer in both hands, spelled the letters with them. You could see that he, too, was crying; his voice trembled with emotion, and it was so funny to hear him that we all wanted to laugh and cry.

Related Characters: Franz (The Narrator) (speaker), M. Hamel, Old Hauser
Related Symbols: The Classroom, French
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
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French Symbol Timeline in The Last Lesson

The timeline below shows where the symbol French appears in The Last Lesson. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Last Lesson
Culture and Language Theme Icon
Patriotism and Resistance Theme Icon
Education and Knowledge Theme Icon
Community and Solidarity Theme Icon
...crowd that he wants them to be very attentive, as this will be their last French lesson. (full context)
Culture and Language Theme Icon
Education and Knowledge Theme Icon
...as a shock to Franz because he suddenly realizes how little he knows of the French language. He barely knows how to write in French, and he is devastated that he... (full context)
Culture and Language Theme Icon
Patriotism and Resistance Theme Icon
Education and Knowledge Theme Icon
Community and Solidarity Theme Icon
...now the Prussian occupiers have the right to say to them, “you pretend to be Frenchmen, and yet you can neither speak nor write your own language?” (full context)
Culture and Language Theme Icon
Patriotism and Resistance Theme Icon
Education and Knowledge Theme Icon
Community and Solidarity Theme Icon
M. Hamel then goes on to speak about the beauties of the French language. He encourages the class to guard the language carefully, because, he tells them, when... (full context)
Culture and Language Theme Icon
Patriotism and Resistance Theme Icon
Education and Knowledge Theme Icon
Community and Solidarity Theme Icon
The teacher then proceeds to the French grammar lesson, reading from a book to the students. Franz understands everything M. Hamel says... (full context)