The story is narrated by a French boy, Franz. He is lazy but sensitive and likes to play. He dislikes studying French and hates his teacher M. Hamel.
After overpowering their districts of Alsace and Lorraine in France, Berlin has ordered that German language instead of French be taught in the schools there.
It is the last day of their French teacher M. Hamel, who has been there for forty years. He is full of grief, nostalgia and patriotism. As a mark of respect to his hard work, the village men also attend his ‘last lesson’. They are sad as they did not learn their mother tongue, French in their childhood.
Franz is shocked to know that it’s his last lesson, as he does not know French. Now, suddenly, he gets interested in learning it and understands everything taught on that day!
He develops an instant liking for the teacher, M. Hamel and respects him for his sincerity and hard work.
He feels sad at departing from him and is ashamed for not being able to recite the lesson of participles.
M. Hamel tells them that they all are at fault for not being eager enough to learn, putting it off to the next day. He blames himself for not teaching them sincerely.
His patriotism is reflected in his praise for the French language as being the most beautiful and most logical language in the world. He tells the class to guard their language as being close to one’s language is the key to escape from the prison of slavery. It will help them in getting free from the Germans.
They realize the importance of learning their mother tongue and that they have been defeated by the Germans because of their illiteracy.
Franz feels that it is not possible to take away one’s language from a person as it is natural to each being, may it be the “coo” to the pigeons or “French” to the Frenchmen.