Lohmann Barbara- The last leaf by O. Henry
THE LAST LEAF BY O. HENRY: A QUESTION OF HOPE AND SELFLESS SACRIFICE
O. Henry was an American writer who is known as "The master of the short stories". His writings are characterized by a witty narration with surprising endings. They usually talk about ordinary people and take place in New York City. In "The last leaf" the author uses two central ideas: hope and selfless sacrifice, to show that a diseased mind is even more harmful than the disease itself.
From the beginning, the author shows that Johnsy, a young artist, not only physically sick: "He was a bad sickness. Doctors called him pneumonia" but also she has no expectations of living. "I´ll do all I know how to do. But when a sick person begins to feel that he´s going to die, half my work is useless." Johnsy is really sure that she will die when the last leaf of the old tree falls, "when the last one falls, I must go, too." The tree is for the girl a symbol that represents life and that's why as the tree loses its leaves she becomes more and more ill. The girl's hope of recovering from her illness relies on one simply leaf. Near the end of the story, when she regains her faith she said "Sue, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples" O. Henry demonstrates that in cases like the story's protagonist, having lots of expectations for the future help to cure illnesses.
Another important theme that the author expresses in the story is the question of selfless sacrifice. This is clearly evident in Behrman, an artist who lives on Jhonsy and Sue´s house first floor. He always said: "Some day I shall paint my masterpiece." Knowing that the girl was badly ill, he decided to sacrifice himself painting an ivy leaf in the window when the real one fell to lift his friend's spirit. Beside this, he didn't want Johnsy to die negatively or with disbelief. "Look at the window, dear, at the last leaf on the wall. Didn't you wonder why it never moved when the wind was...
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