The Last Lesson

The Last Lesson Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Bulletin Board (Symbol)

The bulletin board outside the town hall in Franz's village is a symbol of Prussian power over the French region of Alsace-Lorraine. Normally used for communicating events and information vital to the townspeople, the occupying Prussian military co-opts the bulletin board as a channel for official decrees from Berlin. Franz becomes inured to the periodic arrival of yet more bad news communicated through the bulletin board, such that he loses interest in what the actual content is and hurries past the board on his way to school. By showing Franz's resigned reaction to the bulletin board, Daudet illustrates how the people of Franz's region are forced to assimilate their new reality living under the control of a foreign power.

Hamel's Garden (Symbol)

The garden Monsieur Hamel cultivates outside the schoolroom is a symbol of the time he has served as a teacher. During the cursive lesson, Franz observes his teacher calmly taking in every detail of the classroom and the view out the window. Franz imagines how heartbreaking it must be for Hamel to be forced by the Prussians to give up the space in which he has lived and taught for the past forty years. Franz comments that the only thing that has changed in that time is the wearing of the benches, the walnut trees Hamel planted growing taller in the garden, and the hops vine twisting around the window frames. In this way, the garden functions as a visual symbol of Hamel's time spent as a teacher.

Mr. Hamel’s Last Lessons (Symbol)

Monsieur Hamel’s commitment to continue teaching his French language lessons despite the futility of knowing it will be his last day of teaching renders the lessons into a symbol for the power of language. Hamel's pride as a teacher is evident when he advises his students and the assembled village people to never relinquish their native language, which he believes is a tool to battle ignorance and overcome oppression. On the eve of their language and culture being erased by the occupying Prussian forces, Hamel humbly and nobly performs the role he has always performed, hoping to instill in his pupils the same sense of duty to the language they have always taken for granted.