Metaphors used in The Last Leaf
The Last Leaf is a story by O. Henry about a young girl Johnsy who is suffering from Pneumonia. Johnsy has a roommate Sue, who is very optimistic about Johnsy’s recovery. She is so inclined to have Johnsy believe this, that she asks Mr Behrman a painter to paint a leaf on the wall to give Johnsy some hope. To help the reader get the message of the story, the author employs the use of metaphors. The following are the meanings behind these metaphors.
By definition, a metaphor is the direct comparison of two things. The main reason for this is to help the reader understand something that is not clear by comparing it to something that he or she knows well about. “Mr Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman.” The comparison here is between Mr Pneumonia’s character and that of a chivalric old gentleman. The author uses this metaphor to inform the reader of Pneumonia. Given that some of the traits considered as being chivalry are good to women, honour and courtesy. The author says that Pneumonia was unlike a chivalric gentleman to show that it was neither of these traits. It attacked a young girl without any notice and had no honour in how it dealt with those it affected. Pneumonia was not courteous it affected whoever it caught up with and it did not distinguish between women and men. All who got infected were brought to the brink of death.
“A cold unseen stranger visited the city, the doctors called him Mr Pneumonia.” The author compares how Pneumonia got to the first patient to a stranger arriving in a new city. He likens how Pneumonia was brought by being exposed to the cold to a cold unseen stranger. Given that the time the author is referring to in this story Pneumonia was not well known of especially away from town, likening it to a clod unseen stranger was a far much better way to inform people of the disease. The author takes a widely known thing like a stranger arriving into a city. He then gives this stranger characteristics’ similar to those associated with Pneumonia to explain to the people of this new disease. By associating the disease to the cold the author also encourages people to keep warm to reduce the chances of contracting this disease. Using this metaphor the author is able to inform the people of Pneumonia and give them a way to avoid it.
“He touched the young and the old with his icy fingers and those he touched fell ill” The author uses this metaphor in the effort of trying to inform the readers of how they could contract the disease. Rather than saying that the disease is associated with cold weather, he uses this metaphor to clue in his readers to the hidden similarities of the disease and cold weather. The author goes a step further by indicating that the disease affected both old and young people when he indicated that this stranger touched both young and old.
To help the readers understand Pneumonia as a disease that is associated with the cold and one that can affect both old and young. The author refers to the disease to as a cold unseen stranger. These are things that most readers are well aware of and therefore help the readers understand the author’s meaning.