The Last Lesson

The Last Lesson Study Guide

Alphonse Daudet's 1873 short story "The Last Lesson" is about Franz, an Alsatian schoolboy who arrives late to school one morning to learn that Germany, having annexed the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France, has decreed the French language will no longer be taught in Franz's school. With a grave sense of nationalist pride, Monsieur Hamel leads the class through their last French lesson. The usually apathetic Franz follows the lesson with an air of solemn duty, regretting that he didn't pay closer attention to his studies when he had the chance. Hamel ends the lesson by writing "Vive La France" on the blackboard and, hanging his head in defeat, sending his pupils on their way.

Collected in Daudet's 1873 book of stories Contes du lundi (translated as Monday Tales), "The Last Lesson" is set during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Franz's village is in the annexed territory of Alsace, over which Germany gained control as an outcome of the conflict.

Illustrating how international conflicts impact civilian populations and threaten to erase local culture, "The Last Lesson" remains a widely taught story about the value of education and the inextricable relationship between language and identity.