The Last Leaf by O. Henry

Essay by aznXsa2587 October 2004

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"The Last Leaf" by O. Henry is an interesting short story about a sick girl who is deeply affected by a bare ivy vine. Johnsy thinks that she will die as soon as the last leaf on that vine falls. She becomes close to death, but a neighbor called Mr. Behrman, an artist, saves her life and dies. This paper will focus on different causes and effects involved in, first, Johnsy's case and, second, the death of Mr. Behrman.

First, many things lead Johnsy to be touched with the idea of death. When Johnsy becomes ill with pneumonia, she loses her strength and her body becomes weaker. That makes her think that it is the end of her life. She also believes that her doctor says she will not live very long. "I've known that for three days. Didn't the doctor tell you?" When someone loses hope, surely he will find everything around him unhappy and disappointing.

This is exactly what happens to Johnsy.

The thing that has the greatest impact on her is the ivy vine. Johnsy keeps watching the vine while its leaves fall one after the other. This little point that may be a usual thing for some people is unusual in the case of Johnsy. That bare vine which has only a few leaves on it, affects Johnsy Psychologically. Johnsy, by staring at it all the time, starts to feel that she will also die when the vine dies. In other words, when the last leaf falls. Psychologists might suggest that it is because of a negative feeling in her subconscious mind. However, when she wakes up after a rainy night and finds that the last leaf is still there, Johnsy begins to think wisely. She tells Sue how bad she is because of her silly ideas. Finding that the last leaf is still there is a turning point in Johnsy's case. She begins to recover and think optimistically. She says, " Sudie, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples."

Instead, someone else dies and gives his life as a gift for Johnsy. Mr.Behrman, the artist who dreams of painting a masterpiece one day, is the neighbor of Sue and Johnsy. When he knows about Johnsy and the vine, he tries to do something in order to help her. In a rainy night, when the last leaf falls, he takes a ladder and there he paints a leaf that will never falls. Because of the cold weather that night, Mr. Behrman becomes ill with pneumonia too. He cannot oppose the disease so he dies in the hospital.

Another thing leads to Mr. Behrman's death is his dream. Some people will sacrifice their selves in order to achieve their dreams. Mr. Behrman has a great challenge with himself, so he does not care about the bad weather. All what he wants is to paint his masterpiece and its time arrives. He paints the last leaf, which gives a new life to Johnsy and gives him a feeling of triumph.

Hope is the hero of that story. On one hand, when Johnsy is hopeless, she makes her steps closer to death. However she changes when she finds the leaf. On the other hand, Mr. Behrman dies after he becomes hopeful. However, he dies with success.