Analysis of the Last Leaf, by O’ Henry

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The short story “The Last Leaf” portraits two young women named Sue and Johnsy living together in New York. Pneumonia has hit the area they are living in and Johnsy, not being used to the climate - as she is from California, is suffering from the disease. Sue takes on the role as the caretaker of Johnsy. Because Johnsy is terminally ill, she is therefore in need of medical help. The unnamed doctor, who is called in to Johnsys aid, is portrayed as a presumptuous and nonchalant man. He seems presumptuous by stating that he could increase Johnsys survival-prognosis if Sue got her “to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves”; implying that by being a woman you automatically have an interest in fashion. The fact that he also declare that Johnsy should think about finding herself a man, simply underlines my point further: For all he knew Johnsy could be a lesbian. It is not apparent that she is though, however there are innuendos throughout the story which could suggest that Sue and Johnsy are more than just roommates. The doctor gives Johnsy a ten-to-one chance to survive the illness in her current state. According to him she needs to have the will to live, to survive. On the grounds that Johnsy has started the countdown to her own death by the use of the falling last leafs of an ivy vine, one could declare that will basically non-existent. Sue convinces Johnsy to stop counting the falling leafs so Sue can paint to make money instead of watching over her beloved for a while. Sue – in the need of comfort and a model for her artwork - seeks Mr. Behrmans help and guidance. He is a sixty year old man who lives on the ground floor, directly beneath the girls. Mr. Behrman is also a painter, though he still has not managed to paint his masterpiece. The old man expresses great concern about Johnsys condition and initially, he helps Sue by posing for her portrait. He thereafter spends the rest of that night painting his masterpiece on the brick-wall...
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