Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The language that Daudet uses in “The Last Class” is straightforward and earthy, depicting with poetic simplicity the setting of the story and the people who are the heart of it. The tone and mood blend into a tender sadness yet maintain the intensity of purpose intended by the author. The reader is immediately drawn into and made a part of the story through Daudet’s skillful realism.

It is easy to visualize the scene and feel as Franz must feel on this beautiful, warm day. The temptation to enjoy the outdoors and the call to responsibility at school are so humanly portrayed that the reader can easily identify with Franz. The descriptions of the outdoors and of the interior of the school are indeed tableaux, but tableaux that radiate the warmth of the sun and encourage the reader to participate in the last lesson. One can share Franz’s embarrassment at not knowing his lesson, and one can participate in the emotional distress that marks Monsieur Hamel’s testimony to courage and patriotism. The reader is both an observer looking through the window and a student or villager sitting on a bench in the classroom.

An almost spiritual quality is felt when the Angelus rings—a sense of freedom. This is countered, however, by the trumpet blast of the Prussians—enforcing the realization that freedom must be won again.