(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Last Class” is the tender story of a young Alsatian boy and his last French lesson. The setting is an unnamed town in Alsace, and the story takes place near the beginning of the Prussian occupation of Alsace and Lorraine, about 1873. Little Franz is the narrator of the story. Having gotten a late start on this beautiful warm morning, Franz rushes to school. He is fearful that Monsieur Hamel will scold him because he is late and has not prepared his French lesson on participles.

On his way to school, Franz passes through the town square, and in front of the town hall he sees a small group of people reading notices posted on a grating. These are notices posted by the Prussians concerning orders issued from headquarters. While Franz is running across the square, Wachter, the blacksmith, calls to him that there is no need to hurry. Franz thinks that Wachter is teasing him.

Out of breath, he arrives at school. To his dismay, there is no noise or confusion to cover his entrance. Instead, this day, there is the silence and stillness of the Sabbath. Frightened and red-faced, he enters the classroom; instead of giving Franz a harsh scolding, however, Monsieur Hamel gently directs Franz to his seat.

Once settled in his seat, Franz begins to notice the differences that this day has brought. Monsieur Hamel is all dressed up in his Sunday best, the clothes that he wears when prizes are given or on inspection days. Franz’s classmates are especially solemn this day. Then his attention is drawn...

(The entire section is 624 words.)