The story ‘The Last Lesson’ highlights the human tendency that there is plenty of time to do things; hence, man keeps postponing the lessons of life, oblivious to the fact that life is subject to change. The people of Alsace always thought they had plenty of time to learn the lessons; therefore, they did not give much importance to school. They preferred their children to work on the farms and mills instead of having them learn the lessons. Even Franz, the narrator, always looked for opportunities to skip the school and collect birds’ eggs. However, the unexpected happens and an order is received from Berlin regarding compulsory teaching of German in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. It is then that they realise that they would be deprived of what they had been evading all this while.
The last French lesson taught by M. Hamel symbolizes the loss of language and the loss of freedom for France. It becomes an emotional lesson rendered by M. Hamel to the villagers, signifying the changing order of life and its impact on the sensibilities and emotions of people. The marching soldiers under the windows represent the dawn of Prussia in France, defeat of the French people and the resultant threat to their language and culture.
The story is aptly titled as it evokes the consciousness in the reader not to put off things and do what one can do that day. M. Hamel’s bold ‘Long live France’ on the blackboard becomes substantial evidence of his sadness, patriotism and finality that is reflected in his motionless posture, his fixed gaze on things in the classroom and his eventual words- ‘School is dismissed – You may go’.