The Last Leaf: Summary and Analysis

The Last Leaf by O.Henry is a story of an aged artist who saved the life of a young artist and gives her hope to survive.

The Last Leaf Summary

The story starts with Johnsy and Sue, the young artists and friends who live together in a small apartment. In November, Johnsy fell seriously ill. The doctor diagnosed her with pneumonia. Sue got really worried and put effort into cheering her up to make sure that she recovers soon. Somehow, she made up her mind that she would not recover and die soon. Seeing her condition worsen, the doctor asked Sue to free her of her worries, else the medicines would not respond to her illness.

Sue tried her best to cheer up Johnsy, but she was not interested in her surroundings and was completely non-responsive to all her efforts. One day, as Johnsy was in her bed, she observed an ivy plant through the window, and it was gradually losing all its leaves. She saw the tree in a bare condition, and she said that she would die on the day the last leave falls off the plant. The ivy plant has nothing to do with her illness, but Johnsy was too depressed to think positively about her recovery.

Sue was trying to convince Johnsy that she would recover soon and must not pin the journey of her survival on the last leaf of the ivy plant. As days passed, Johnsy was counting the remainder of the leaves of the plant each day. She could not bear the pain of her friend, so she approached Behrman, her neighbor, from downstairs. He was an old artist, and she explained Johnsy’s mental state to him. She told him how Johnsy had pinned everything on the last leaf of the ivy plant.

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Behrman soon came to visit Johnsy, but she was asleep. Sue pulled the curtains of Johnsy’s room, and they went to sit in the other room. It was raining heavily that day and Sue thought that the leave of the ivy plant would shed off soon. She reluctantly saw out of the window and saw just one left on the creeper, which would fall off any time. Behrman did not say anything and returned. He decided to do something for Johnsy and painted a similar leaf of the ivy plant and tied it on the creeper while Johnsy was sleeping. He fell ill because he was exposed to the cold weather and heavy rainfall outside. Two days later, he died of pneumonia. 

The next morning, Johnsy look out the window, post the vicious storm, and saw the last leaf clinging on to the ivy plant. This gave her the hope to live, and she understood that it was foolish to pin her survival on the last leaf of a plant. She understood that there must be a reason behind the last leaf remaining on the creeper, and it was wrong of her to think of dying at such a young age.

Post-Johnsy’s recovery, Sue informed her about Behrman’s death because of pneumonia. He got the disease because he was out in the cold and wet weather. He painted the last leaf to give Johnsy hopes that she would survive. Behrman had painted his masterpiece- the leaf which saved Johnsy’s life and gave her hopes to live longer. However, he sacrificed his own life in the process.

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The Last Leaf Analysis

The story has a serious and hopeless tone. It has several unexpected events and a very tragic end. It is about two artists and friends, Sue and Johnsy. The two have similar interests and struggles, but Johnsy gets sick and thinks that she will die soon. She becomes hopeless and counts the leaves of the autumn-stricken ivy vine and says that she will die when the last leaf falls.

The doctor says that her hopelessness is driving her away from her recovery. Her negativity compels her to only think about death. When Sue gives her hope, and she still finds the last leaf clinging on to the tree after a terrible storm, she gets the hope.

The story shows that one must think positively, even in the most challenging situations and severe illness. Positivity helps one fight the situation and provides moral strength.

The story gives the message that one must never give up. Behrman was a failure in the art for years. He does not lose hope and eventually paints his masterpiece. One must not stop dreaming and keep struggling. The story shows the true friendship between Johnsy and Sue. 

The Last Leaf Theme

The story is based on the theme that one must not lose hope easily. It says that it is foolish to pin everything on something that does not even make sense. It says that one must face tough times with courage and support people who need their help. The story reflects the triumph of the human spirit and appearance over reality and the interconnectedness of humans. It shows how important it is to maintain hope and connection with people, even in the direst circumstances. The story highlights Behrman’s sacrifice of life, which led Johnsy to get hope again.

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The Last Leaf Character Sketch

Behrman is an old man who lived downstairs in the same building as Johnsy and Sue. He was a failure in art and wished to paint a masterpiece but was unable to paint it for years. He poses as a model for the artists, and he earns a little. Although he cannot paint, he has the hope to paint it one day. He inspired Johnsy to start living again. He is optimistic, and his hopefulness helps him paint his masterpiece eventually.

Johnsy is an upcoming artist who wished to paint the Bay of Naples but falls sick and suffers from pneumonia. Owing to her illness, she gives up hope and thinks that she will die soon. She keeps track of the falling leaves of the ivy vine and tells Sue that with every leaf that is falling, she is getting closer to her death. She gets hope by getting inspiration from Behrman’s masterpiece, which was the last leaf that did not fall off.

Sue is an artist and Johnsy’s friend. She plays a major role in Johnsy’s recovery. She took very good care of Johnsy and encouraged her not to give up hope. She supported her both emotionally and financially.

The Last Leaf Analysis Key Points

The story has several lessons to impart and is quite twisted and surprising. It has a tragic ending, with the death of Behrman, the kind neighbor who manages to help Johnsy regain the hope to live life.