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Chapter 1: The Last Lesson
Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) was a French novelist and short-story writer. The Last Lesson is set in the days of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) in which France was defeated by Prussia led by Bismarck.
Prussia then consisted of what now are the nations of Germany, Poland, and parts of Austria. In this story, the French districts of Alsace and Lorraine have passed into Prussian hands. Read the story to find out what effect this had on life at school.
I started for school very late that morning and was in great dread of a scolding, especially because M. Hamel had said that he would question us on participles, and I did not know the first word about them. For a moment I thought of running away and spending the day out of doors.
It was so warm, so bright! The birds were chirping at the edge of the woods, and in the open field back of the sawmill, the Prussian soldiers were drilling. It was all much more tempting than the rule for participles, but I had the strength to resist and hurried off to school.
When I passed the town hall there was a crowd in front of the bulletin board. For the last two years, all our bad news had come from there — the lost battles, the draft, the orders of the commanding officer — and I thought to myself, without stopping, “What can be the matter now?”
Then, as I hurried by as fast as I could go, the blacksmith, Wachter, who was there, with his apprentice, reading the bulletin, called after me, “Don’t go so fast, bub; you’ll get to your school in plenty of time!” I thought he was making fun of me and reached M. Hamel’s little garden all out of breath.
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NCERT Solutions Class 12 English Chapter 1 The Last Lesson
1. The people in this story suddenly realize how precious their language is to them. What shows you this? Why does this happen?
The French districts of Alsace and Lorraine had fallen into Prussian hands, according to the story. As a result, they received an order from Berlin mandating that only German be taught in Alsace and Lorraine schools.
It was at that point that they all realized the importance of their language. The usual commotion at school was replaced by the peace of Sunday church. The students’ sincerity was evident by the fact that they all began working quietly.
The only sound in the room was the scratching of pens across the paper. Even the villagers came in and sat quietly as students in the class. Everyone appeared to be depressed. M. Hamel, who was otherwise disliked, instilled in the students a sense of regret.
Franz regretted not paying close attention to him, whereas M. Hamel, who was heartbroken at the prospect of leaving, had never explained everything with such patience.
He almost seemed to want to tell them everything he knew before leaving. In his words, he adequately captured the mood. ‘We all have a lot of things to be ashamed of.’
2. Franz thinks, “Will they make them sing in German, even the pigeons?” What could this mean?
Franz’s question about whether pigeons can sing in German demonstrates that humans can impose their will on other humans but cannot impose it on nature.
It suggests that human power is always limited. They cannot have complete control over the world. Similarly, Prussians can control their schools and learning patterns, but they cannot kill their pride in their country and language.
Talking About The Text:
1. “When a people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language it is as if they had the key to their prison.” Can you think of examples in history where a conquered people had their language taken away from them or had a language imposed on them?
“When people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language it is as if they had the key to their prison.” Examples of conquered people having their language taken away or having a language imposed on them can be found throughout history.
1. Imposition of English in India during colonization by Britain.
2. Imposition of Chinese in Tibet
3. Arabization in North Africa (imposition of Islam and so, imposition of Muslim languages)
4. Imposition of French in Britain (Francization)
5. Turkish imposed on Kurds
2. What happens to a linguistic minority in a state? How do you think they can keep their language alive? For example:
Punjabis in Bangalore
Tamilians in Mumbai
Kannadigas in Delhi
Gujaratis in Kolkata
In any state, the linguistic minority is easily identified and faces the same discrimination as religious, social, or ethnic minorities.
However, there is a significant disparity between the treatment meted out and the level of acceptance displayed by the majority community in that region. Some cities, such as Delhi and Mumbai, have a cosmopolitan outlook.
The linguistic minority attempts to preserve its identity through intimate contact, interaction, and language preservation in social gatherings, family functions, and regional festivals.
Adherence to social customs and traditions in family gatherings and women’s meetings fosters unity among members of the linguistic minority. In a nutshell, they have built a mini-Punjab in Bangalore, a mini-Chennai in Mumbai, a mini-Bangalore in Delhi, and a mini-Surat in Kolkata.
3. Is it possible to carry pride in one’s language too far? Do you know what ‘linguistic chauvinism’ means?
People often take quite enough pride in their native tongues and repress others. This is incorrect as we should treat all languages and cultures equally.
Linguistic chauvinism refers to a person’s excessive pride in their native language. Being overly aggressive and fanatical about one’s language is referred to as carrying pride.
The Last Lesson NCERT Textbook With Solutions PDF Free Download