The Last Leaf

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The Last Leaf

In his wonderful short-story The Last Leaf, O.Henry depicts a really admirable person - old Behrman. The story depicts the lives of artists in America at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. At that time arts people were massively settling in Greenwich Village attracted by eighteen century gables, Dutch attics and low rents, making this district an arts hub of this huge city.

Two young artists Sue and Johnsy meet at a café. They become friends and find their tastes and opinions so congenial that they decide to have a joint studio and move to the top of a squatty, three-story brick house.

November comes and Johnsy falls ill with pneumonia. She lies on her bed looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house. The doctor sees that his patient has made up her mind that she is not going to get well and tells Sue privately that Johnsy has a one-in-ten chance of survival and "that chance is for her to want to live…. If you get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five Chance for her, instead of one-in-ten".

Johnsy has a high temperature; she mishears the doctor's words and thinks that when the last of the ten leaves of the ivy vine on the brick wall in front of their window falls down she will die, too. After a while Sue arranges a board and begins to paint a pen-and-ink drawing that she has to finish for the next day. She hears Johnsy's low voice, several times repeated, goes to her bedside and sees her looking out of the window and counting backwards. Johnsy explains that she is counting the remaining leaves on the ivy vine and tells her "when the last one falls I must go, too… Didn't the doctor tell you?"

Sue tries to persuade her that the doctor said exactly the opposite, and then asks her not to look out of the window until she goes and brings old Behrman who she needs as a model for her painting.

Old Behrman is an artist living on the...
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