• Year Published: 1907.
  • Pages: 28.

The Last Leaf Summary

O. Henry has never failed to take the most obscure characters in his novel and put them on a lofty, moral pedestal that brings an unexpected twist to his stories of the sagas of life. The last leaf is another such classic that brings out his eye for the ignoble things like a failed artist, and a simple leaf that unknowingly makes a world of difference in the lives of people. The story never fails to extract a tear from the reader, and leave a lasting lesson for those who tread down the failures, and the common things of life. The last leaf summary is presented here concisely for a look at 3 such common characters, the likes of whom, many would not even know exist.

The story is set in a village called Greenwich, in New York. The mazes of winding streets are so confusing that sometimes people take a full circle but still don’t reach their destination. However; because it is affordable, and has some amazing Dutch architecture to practice their skills on, many artists make this place their home.Johnsy and Sue, two such young, aspiring artists, friends, and companions in their journey to find a niche in a competitive world, move here and find an apartment to live. They live happily, working, sharing, and caring for each other as sisters would. One day in November, winter sets in, and so does Pneumonia. With limited medical facilities and cramped quarters, it spread like an epidemic.

Unfortunately, Johnsy falls prey to it and ends up lying feverish and despondent in bed. Her dreams seem to fall apart in front of her as Pneumonia ravages her poor body. The doctor, stressed, and overworked, has no words of encouragement to give her, but a 10% chance of survival, unless she wills to get better.Johnsy is so depressed that she waits for death and the only encouragement she finds is in counting the leaves of the ivy in their yard that is shedding its leaves. She numbers her days with the number of leaves on the ivy and declares to Sue that the day the last leaf falls, she will die.

Behrman, an old, obscure, failed artist who lives below them hears her depressing words and decides to do something about it. A day before the last leaf falls, he takes his dusty brushes, and paint boxes out and paints an ivy leaf on the wall near the creeper. He works through the night in the blistering cold and ends up sick the next day and soon dies of pneumonia. Meanwhile, Johnsy asks Sue to withdraw the curtains to count her last day with the last falling leaf. Surprisingly one leaf just doesn’t seem to be bothered by the wind or the cold. Day in and day out it stays on the vine. This defiant leaf encourages Johnsy to defy death and she determines to be like that leaf, unmoved and determined to live. She soon recovers but it’s only later she realizes the leaf was just a painting that Behrman made, but such a masterpiece, that it made her believe that it was real and fooled her into getting better.

The Last Leaf Themes

  • Friendship
  • Sacrifice
  • Death and Dying
  • Commitment
  • Compassion
  • Hope
  • Dedication
  • Pessimism
  • Love

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