Question: How can you estimate M. Hamel as a man with a ruler and as a man with a gesture?
Answer: In ‘The Last Lesson, Alphonse Daudet presents M. Hamel’s character with due sympathy and respect. Initially, he is presented in the mould of a traditional schoolmaster. He used his terrible ruler under his arm. Everyone could hear the rapping of the ‘great ruler’ on the table even outside in the street. Franz reminds us ‘how cranky’ M. Hamel was. The students used to dread their schoolmaster. Franz was scared of being scolded as he had not prepared his lesson on participles. For a moment he even thought of running away from school. Mr Hamel was a hard taskmaster. He maintained discipline in the class. The other side of Mr Hamel’s character is seen after the order from Berlin came. He had been transformed now. He became soft and gentle towards his students. He didn’t scold Franz for coming late. He did not even use his ruler when little Franz got mixed up and confused when his turn to recite came. He declared that it was his last lesson in French as from the next day German would be taught in the schools of Lorraine and Alsace. He would leave the next day. A new teacher would come in his place. He wore his best dress in honour of the last lesson. M. Hamel was given respect not only by his students but even by the village elders. He was totally dedicated to the cause of teaching. He had been teaching for forty years in the same school. The village elders came to pay their respect to such a grand teacher. They sat on the backbenches to listen to his last lesson.
M. Hamel loved France and French from the depth of his heart. He regarded French as the most beautiful language in the world. He told the people to guard it among themselves and never to forget it. On hearing the sound of trumpets of the Prussian soldiers under his window, patriotic feelings overpowered him. He mounted the chair and tried to speak however something choked him. He wrote “Vive La France” with a piece of chalk on the blackboard and dismissed the class.
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