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The Last Leaf

By yermekovna Oct 12, 2011 936 Words
The Last Leaf (by O. Henry)
Analysis
O. Henry is one of the most famous American short story writers. His real name was William Sydney Porter and he was born on September 11, 1862. In 1894 was accused of stealing money and went to prison. While in prison Porter first started to write short stories. After Porter was released, he changed his name to O. Henry and published his stories in magazines. O. Henry’s short stories are famous for their surprise endings and humor. O. Henry's wrote such classic short stories as The Ransom of Red Chief, “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Furnished Room”. One of his stories with surprise endingis The Last Leaf. The theme of the story is hope belief and self-sacrifice. When Mr. Behrman 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. He sacrifices his health for Johnsy’s because he goes out at cold night and gets sick too. But he helps her gain hope that she was meant to live past her sickness. The last leaf is an short story, which is written from third point of view, which is clear from following lines: At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. or

One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, gray eyebrow. The story takes place in Greenwich Village in autumn. Sue and Johnsy met and decided to share a flat in May. In December, pneumonia started making the rounds in their neighborhood. Johnsy got sick, and the Doctor told Sue that Johnsy had a 1 in 10 chance in surviving depending upon her attitude. Johnsy was counting leaves on the vine outside of their window, and she told Sue that she expected to die when the last leaf fell. Later, Sue asked their old neighbor Mr. Behrman to pose for her painting, and they got into a discussion about Johnsy, and she told Behrman that Johnsy expected to die when the last leaf fell from the vine. Behrman who was an artist who’d never painted a master piece agreed to pose for Sue, but when they looked at the window at the vine they noticed that the pounding rain and ice has knocked the last leaf off of the vine. The next day when Johnsy demands to open curtains so that she can see the vine, she notices there is still a leaf. The leaf stays and stays, and Johnsy decides she’ll survive. The next day they learn that Behrman has died of pneumonia, and Sue tells Johnsy the leaf Behrman painted outside the window was his life’s masterpiece. There are two protagonists in the story: Mr. Behrman and Johnsy. He was a crusty old painter who lived on the ground floor in the same building as Johnsy and Sue. “He was past sixty and had a Michelangelo’s Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along the body of an imp.” Behrman was a “failure as a painter” – one of those artists who was always going to paint his masterpiece, but never quite got it done. He now earned his living by modeling for other art students. He drank too much gin. But, he was “a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff--in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.” When Behrman heard that Johnsy was planning to die as soon as the last leaf fell, he scoffed. Unknown to Sue and Johnsy, however, Behrman snuck out and painted his final masterpiece – a leaf.

Johnsy is a young woman, living in a community of artists and, she is an artist herself. She is very weak and does not have a strong constitution initially to fight off the weakness that her body had created after becoming ill. She essentially gives up; which does not seem to make her much of a fighter. She is well cared about and has good friends or the people around her, her roommate and the artist below, would not have tried so hard to help her. Once she sees the leaf lasting Johnsy begins to change. She mentally becomes a stronger person as she tries to endure like the leaf had endured. The antagonist of the story is a killer disease described as “Mr. Pneumonia”. Johnsy gets sick with it and Mr. Behrman dies from pneumonia. To me, the main idea of this story is that a person's attitude is what matters the most in life. And the given title describes what that attitude was influenced by. The title implies that the most important thing about the story is the leaf. On the one hand, this makes sense because it is the leaves that make Johnsy think she is going to die and it is the last leaf (as painted by the old man) that makes her live. The story is very interesting in different ways. It keeps the reader questioning himself when the leaf falls and it makes him somehow scared of happening that. The ending is so surprising because reader believes just like Johnsy that leaf didn’t fall, but it did and it was Mr. Behrman who painted it and died later. This leaves reader in thoughts which means that the story was really good.

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