The Last Lesson

by

Alphonse Daudet

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

The Classroom Symbol Analysis

The Classroom Symbol Icon

The classroom in which the narrator, Franz, gathers with other pupils and villagers to hear M. Hamel’s last lesson represents the power of education. It is there that the blackboard is located; and the blackboard itself, of course, is a symbol of resistance via education, as reflected in the subversive message that M. Hamel inscribes on it at the end of the story, “Vive La France!” Thus, it is within the space of the classroom that the gathered crowd receives a lesson from M. Hamel not only in the French language, but also in patriotism and resistance. In this way, the classroom in which the lesson takes place symbolizes education’s capacity to shape committed French citizens, citizens who can withstand foreign occupation of their region of Alsace-Lorraine by holding on to their French cultural values and identity.

The Classroom Quotes in The Last Lesson

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

For a moment I thought of running away and spending the day out of doors. It was so warm, so bright! The birds were chirping at the edge of the woods; and in the open field back of the sawmill the Prussian soldiers were drilling. It was all much more tempting than the rule for participles, but I had strength to resist, and hurried off to school.

Related Characters: Franz (The Narrator) (speaker), M. Hamel, Prussian Soldiers
Related Symbols: The Classroom
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Usually, when school began, there was a great bustle, which could be heard out in the street, the opening and closing of desks, lessons repeated in unison […] and the teacher’s great ruler rapping the table. But now it was all so still! I had counted on the commotion to get to my desk without being seen; but, of course, that day everything had to be as quiet as Sunday morning.

Related Characters: Franz (The Narrator) (speaker), M. Hamel
Related Symbols: The Classroom
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] the thing that surprised me most was to see, on the back benches that were always empty, the village people sitting quietly like ourselves; old Hauser, with his three-cornered hat, the former mayor, the former postmaster, and several others besides.

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

[…] 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:

“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:

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:

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:
Get the entire The Last Lesson LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Last Lesson PDF

The Classroom Symbol Timeline in The Last Lesson

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Classroom appears in The Last Lesson. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Last Lesson
Education and Knowledge Theme Icon
...arm. The narrator, terrified and blushing, is forced to open the door and enter the classroom in front of everyone. (full context)
Patriotism and Resistance Theme Icon
Education and Knowledge Theme Icon
Community and Solidarity Theme Icon
The atmosphere of the classroom today is strange. There is a solemnness in the air. Not only that, but Franz... (full context)