(Name) (Professor) (Subject) (Date) Answers to Questions regarding Alphonse Daudet’s “The Last Lesson” 1. In what ways does the narrator demonstrate the significance of language for cultural identity? The narrator, Little Franz, demonstrate the significance of language for cultural identity in a number of ways…
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Most of all, according to the words of M. Hamel, language is the key to freedom. This means that, as long as people do not forget to speak their language, their identity and their culture can never be truly controlled by anyone. During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the Germans subdued a portion of France and subsequently banned the use of the French language in schools. In the story, Little Franz, despite his age, somehow shows the urgency of this situation by narrating the events of how the school’s language has to change from French to German. Nevertheless, all throughout the story, Little Franz echoes the optimism of his French teacher, M. Hamel. Another way that Little Franz demonstrates the value of language for cultural identity is through his use of logic. In the midst of the silence that ensues from the full concentration that the students give their French grammar class, Little Franz hears the coos of the pigeons on the roof and thinks to himself, “Will they make them sing in German, even the pigeons?” (Daudet 44). The question may seem outright stupid at first, but a closer look into it reveals a seemingly sharp sarcasm from Little Franz. The truth is that he believes that the Germans may be able to force the French people to speak German but these Germans will never be powerful enough to make even the pigeons speak German. Another interpretation of the line is that, perhaps, for the narrator, Little Franz, the pigeons of France represent the French people themselves – the Germans may actually be able to make the French speak German now, but actually will never be able to do so, for like pigeons, the French people are meant for freedom. Lastly, Little Franz’s question may also express a sort of sulky indignation towards the new German rule. Perhaps he is thinking about how cruel these Germans would be if they actually even made the pigeons sing in German! Little Franz may liken himself to a boy who, after being beaten up by bullies, would scream at them “So, after beating me up, will you now even kill me?” Nevertheless, however this line may be interpreted, it remains to bear witness to the idea that language, by virtue of the natural connection between it and its speaker, is indeed significant for cultural identity. A third way that Little Franz expresses how important language is to maintaining cultural identity is by expressing his own personal sentiments on the imposition of the new rule and narrating his own regrets about wasting his time not learning French. Upon hearing M. Hamel say, “My children, this is the last lesson I shall give you,” Little Franz expresses his guilt as he says, “Oh, how sorry I was for not learning my lessons” (Daudet 44). Instead of studying his French lessons, he has sought birds’ eggs and done other things. Now, it is too late for him to learn it, and it is only then that he has somehow agreed with M. Hamel that the French language is the “the most beautiful language in the world – the clearest, the most logical” (Daudet 44). In short, Little Franz has made known to the reader that through his regrets, he has realized the value of language. It is also only then that he is able to realize that French is so easy: “I was amazed to see how well I understood it [and that
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