The Last Leaf Essay

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“Mr. Pneumonia was not a chivalrous old gentleman. A mite of a woman with blood thinned by California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the old duffer.” This quote comes from a fictional short story called The Last Leaf by O. Henry. It tells the story of a woman, Johnsy, who is stricken with pneumonia and has chosen to let fate decide whether she will survive or not. The three things that stand out in this story are its conflicts, its suspense, and its theme.

The conflicts within this story are what produce its interesting story line. The main conflict is an external conflict; Johnsy fighting pneumonia. She has stopped fighting and the pneumonia is slowly making her weaker each day. She has decided that when the last leaf falls off the tree outside her window, she will fall along with it.

The suspense begins when Johnsy informs Sue, her friend and roommate , that her death is inevitable and the last leaf will decide her fate. The suspense builds as each day goes by and the reader wonders if the last leaf will fall and if Johnsy will die. The suspense continues to build as Johnsy decides to try to get better; the reader wonders if she will survive.

The most important aspect of this story is its theme. When Mr. Behrman, an old painter who watches out for the girls, hears of the severity of Johnsy’s condition, he decides to help. So Johnsy will be convinced to fight the pneumonia, he paints the exact image of the last leaf on the branch outside her window the day the last leaf fell. Mr. Behrman gives the story its theme: self-sacrifice and hope. He sacrifices his health for Johnsy’s, and he helps her gain hope that she was meant to live past her sickness.

This story’s conflicts, suspense, and theme are what make the it interesting. For everyday that the leaf was still there, Johnsy gained a little hope. It teaches the reader that you have to fight to hold on to life while you have it, or you will surely lose it.
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