Character and O. Henry

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Critical Analysis of “The Last Leaf”

"When the last one falls, I must go too." Jonsy the protagonist, stricken with pneumonia, of

"The Last Leaf" by O. Henry makes this bleak, morbid statement to her friend Sue. In a brief but

powerful burst O. Henry uses setting, characterization, and imagery to eloquently show the folly of

wishing for death.

In O. Henry's “The Last Leaf” the story is set “In a little district west of Washington Square

where the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called “places”.” This setting

description helps to set the mood, and tone of the story which help to impose the authors theme, and

motive upon the reader. The setting also helps to describe the resources at hand to “combat” the

pneumonia mentioned later in the story, because they are in a small district in a large city they find

themselves unable to “combat” the pneumonia effectively with traditional methods.

Also, in “The Last Leaf”, O. Henry uses characterization frequently, by telling the reader what

Jonsy is thinking and also by telling us directly how she is or what she is doing. One example of the

indirect characterization is when Jonsy tells Sue how she feels about dieing and that she feels she is

ready to die. Though the author also directly states that sue is distraught by what Jonsy has said to her

about death.

Imagery is also employed in “The Last Leaf”, whether it is sight imagery or sound imagery

“The Last Leaf” contains it all. An example of sight imagery is how Jonsy seems to feel about the ivy

vine outside her window, she feels as though the leaves on the vine are her clock to death. Then an

example of sound and touch imagery are when Jonsy and sue both describe the howling wind outside

as “beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood

out against the brick wall one ivy leaf.” the significance of the imagery employed...
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