The Last Leaf
By O. Henry
· The short story ‘The Last Leaf’ is written by O. Henry, an American story writer. He is one of the most renowned story writers in English language. He wrote with his pen name O. Henry. His real name is William Sydney Porter.
· This short story is an account of a young artist, Johnsy who linked the question of her life and death to an ivy whose leaves were falling rapidly due to autumn. Such beliefs can be disastrous. But, she with the help of her friend discovered a new light after the dark storm in her life.
· The story is great lesson to all the youngsters who get easily stressed and disappointed at hurdles and in the phase of difficulties. It conveys the message of optimism and positivity despite all the adversities in life.
· The story is remarkable to have employed all the elements of a wonderful story such as action, conflict, twist, climax, anti climax and surprise ending.
Summary / Synopsis
Sue and Johnsy were two girls who were artists and used to paint for their livelihood. They lived together in a small flat on the third storey of an old house. Johnsy was suffering from Pneumonia for a month but was not recovering. The doctor asked Sue if anything troubled Johnsy and told her that the medicine wasn't working as she had lost the will to live. Sue became worried.
Sue tried to observe. Johnsy was looking continuously outside towards an ivy creeper on the opposite wall. The leaves were falling rapidly because it was autumn season. Johnsy was counting backwards from twelve, eleven, ten and so on. Johnsy told her that she would die as and when the last leaf fell. Sue called it nonsense and told her that she would be all right soon. Sue tried her best to divert Johnsy’s attention, to bring her interest towards clothes and fashion, painting and life. Sue started painting and whistled while painting. Sue drew the curtain and asked Johnsy not to look outside as she wanted to finish her painting to earn money and needed light. Johnsy closed her eyes and tried to sleep and relax.
Sue went to Behrman who was a sixty years old painter. He lived on the ground floor in the same building. He had a dream to paint a masterpiece but could not succeed so far in fulfilling his dream. Sue told Behrman about Johnsy’s baseless belief about her death. Behrman and Sue went into Johnsy’s room and saw that the ivy creeper had only one leaf left on the creeper. It was raining heavily and wind was fierce. They felt the leaf would fall any time.
Johnsy woke up from her sleep and looked out of the window. She looked at the last leaf. It was green and healthy. It didn’t fall even in the stormy night and despite the fierce winds. After realising the struggle of the last leaf Johnsy was full of a rejuvenated will to live again.
Johnsy accused herself for her own sickness. She felt ashamed of being a bad girl. She realised that the last leaf had taught her that it is a sin to nurture a wish to die and disrespect life. She also asked for forgiveness as she didn't consider and respect her friend's care and efforts to look after her. She took a mirror, made her hair and drank hot soup also to get well soon.
Next morning Sue told Johnsy that Behrman who had been ill for only two days, died. His clothes and shoes were wet. A ladder, lantern, his painting brushes and colours were found near his bed. He had painted and tied the last leaf in that stormy night to save Johnsy. He caught pneumonia and died. Sue asked her to look closely and think why the leaf wasn’t not fluttering. Then, Sue told her that the last leaf was Behrman’s masterpiece. He painted it the night when the last leaf fell and after that he died.
The story teaches us all to be optimistic and positive in all the phases of our life. We must sustain the belief that after every night there is a new dawn, no matter how dark is the night. This story is a great lesson, especially to all the youngsters who get easily stressed and disappointed at various hurdles, difficulties, loss or failures and in the phase of adversities.