The Last Leaf Review

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O Henry always has me saying ‘O marvelous’! The gruesome plots, the careful work on the minutest of the minute details, the unpredictable surprise endings, the imaginative use of connotation and so much more. He dared to personify the dreadful Pneumonia as ‘the cold, unseen stranger’! THE LAST LEAF remains one of my favorite short stories written by him. The plot revolves around two artist girls – Sue and Johnsy - who have their own ‘studio’ in quaint old Greenwich Village. Their’s was a relationship fostered on mutual trust and their common tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves! All went hunky dory till Johnsy fell ill with pneumonia one cold November month. The disease seemed to drain out the last streaks of will and womanly taste from her being. She lay all day on her bed awaiting her death, looking out of the window listlessly. The doctor put her chances at one-in-ten, which he swelled up to one-in-five if Sue managed to get Johnsy to ask ‘one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves’! Here the author tries to cook up humor from a woman’s natural eye for fashion. Distressed by the doctor’s verdict Sue cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp – another typical womanly reaction! She, at no cost, wanted to lose a friend who had so much in common with her and who had, for the past one year, been her staunch companion in everything from her artistic conquests to her personal trivia. With a heavy heart she gathered her drawing board and paintbrush (and a great amount of will) and made her way into Johnsy’s room. Johnsy lay there still as death itself. Sue began working on an illustration for a magazine story. ‘Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature!’ Here the author has skillfully drawn a comparison between the two classes of strugglers and brought to light how the two, despite being so different in their genres, together make a wonderful piece! How...
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