The Last Lesson


Alphonse Daudet

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The Blackboard Symbol Analysis

The Blackboard Symbol Icon

The blackboard on which M. Hamel writes the words “Vive la France!” (“Long live France!”) at the end of the last lesson represents the power of patriotism and resistance. That the blackboard is located within the classroom itself alludes to the relationship between education and resistance. The blackboard represents resistance through education, and reflects the story’s broader emphasis on language and communication as tools of both liberation and oppression. The words the teacher writes on the board are words that privilege freedom and autonomy. They are a direct denial of the claims of the Prussian occupiers, who have invaded the French region of Alsace-Lorraine, where the story is set, and staked it for their own. That the teacher writes these words on the blackboard is significant, because this board recalls and contrasts with the bulletin-board Franz sees at the beginning of the story. While the bulletin-board represents the oppression of the Prussian occupiers, who post their restrictive dictates there, the blackboard functions as a space of liberation, one where M. Hamel—and the villagers—can assert their resistance and patriotism in the face of foreign invasion.

The Blackboard Quotes in The Last Lesson

The The Last Lesson quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Blackboard. 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

All at once the church-clock struck twelve. Then the Angelus. At the same moment the trumpets of the Prussians, returning from drill, sounded under our windows. M. Hamel stood up, very pale, in his chair. I never saw him look so tall.

“My friends,” said he, “I—I—” But something choked him. He could not go on.

Then he turned to the blackboard, took a piece of chalk, and, bearing on with all his might, he wrote as large as he could—

Vive La France!

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

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Blackboard 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
...addressing the class as “My friends,” but is unable to continue. He turns to the blackboard instead, and with a piece of chalk he writes in large letters, “Vive La France!”... (full context)