THE LAST LEAF: The short story ‘The Last Leaf’ is written by an American short-story writer named O. Henry.


‘The Last Leaf’ was first published in 1907 in his collection ‘The Trimmed Lamp and Other Story’. It is written in the time period when New York was experiencing rapid population growth partly due to the immigration of European immigrants to the United States.

As the short story shows, in the early twentieth century, urbanization and overcrowded living conditions in New York, led to different diseases.

The story is just like O. Henry’s other stories that have surprising endings. It is a sentimental story with a tragic ending.

The story has three main characters, two girls named Johnsy, also called Joanna, the other one being Sue and an old man named Behrman.

It is set in a colony in Greenwich Village, which functions as a colony for artists. Sue and Johnsy are emerging artists. Johnsy wants to paint the Bay of Naples but she falls ill and expects to die soon.

Behrman, an old man in the story who wants to paint a masterpiece for years but is not able to do so.

The story has a serious and hopeless tone and it is narrated in third-person narrative.


In the artists’ colony in Greenwich Village, New York lives two friends called Sue and Johnsy. Johnsy’s real name is Joanna.

Sue and Johnsy met for the first time in a restaurant and found their interests similar which resulted in them sharing a studio apartment on the top of a triple-story building.

As the winter arrives, pneumonia strikes the city. Johnsy falls ill and a doctor comes to examine her. After examining her, he tells Sue that Johnsy has lost hope of getting well while it depends on her will power which is half the cure.

Sue comes in to complete her painting for a magazine but she hears a voice so she moves to Johnsy’s bedside and sees her looking out of the window, staring at the empty yard of the neighbouring brick-house. Sue hears her counting backwards. She asks Johnsy that what she is counting. Johnsy replies, looking at the autumn-stricken ivy vine in the yard of the neighbouring brick-house, that with each falling leaf of the ivy vine, the time of her death is coming closer. She tells Sue that the moment the last leaf falls, she will die.

Sue advises her to stop thinking negatively and take rest. She then goes downstairs to call Behrman, to pose as a model for her because she cannot afford a professional model.

Behrman is an old man living downstairs in the same building. He wants to paint a masterpiece but is unable to do so for years. His earnings come from the artists for whom he poses as a model.

Sue tells Behrman about Johnsy’s illness and her lost hope. When they come upstairs to Johnny’s room, they find her sleeping so they move to another room. They look out of the window to the yard of the neighbouring brick-house and watch the ivy vine when it is raining outside mixed with snowfall.

They both look worried.

The next morning, Johnsy asks Sue to push open the curtains because she wants to see the last leaf fall but she sees that the last leaf is still there on the ivy vine. It gives her some hope. She realizes that it is wrong to lose hope. She even asks Sue to give her some soup and says that one day she will paint the Bay of Naples.

When the doctor comes to see her, he tells Sue that Johnsy was fine now. The doctor also tells her that Behrman is suffering from pneumonia and now he is admitted to the hospital.

The next day Sue informs Johnsy of Behrman’s death. She tells her that he has died of pneumonia. The sweeper found him in pain lying in his room. He had spent the cold snowy night outside, painting his masterpiece. The leaf that did not move or fall was his masterpiece that he painted when the last leaf fell.


The story ‘The Last Leaf’ has three main and one minor characters.


Behrman is an old man living downstairs in the same building in which Johnsy and Sue are living. He is a failure in art and wants to paint a masterpiece but is unable to paint it for years. He earns a little by posing as a model for the artists.

Though he cannot paint, he still has the hope to paint it one day. He has a character who inspires Johnsy to start living again. He is optimistic and his hopefulness, at last, leads him to paint his masterpiece.


Johnsy is one of the main characters of the story ‘The Last Leaf’. She is an emerging artist and wants to paint the Bay of Naples but becomes ill and suffers from pneumonia. Due to her illness, she gives up her hope and thinks that she will die soon. She counts the falling leaves of the ivy vine in the neighboring brick-house’ yard and tells Sue that with every falling leaf, she is getting closer to her death.

She regains her hope by getting inspiration from Behrman’s masterpiece, the last leaf on the vine that never falls off.


She is another main character and friend of Johnsy. She is also an artist and has the same interests as Johnsy. She has a great role in Johnsy’s recovery from pneumonia. She takes good care of Johnsy during her illness. She encourages Johnsy to never lose hope and supports her emotionally and financially. Sue’s care and support help Johnsy recover from her illness.


Doctor, though, is a minor character in the story but he has an important role in Johnsy’s recovery from pneumonia. He is kind towards Johnsy and wants her to get well from pneumonia. He encourages Sue to take care of Johnsy and to make her think positively. He advises Sue to guide Johnsy towards positivity and bring her back to life.


The story has another character which is in fact abstract. The narrator has stated pneumonia as a gentleman who enters the city, touches people with his ‘icy fingers’ and makes them ill. Mr. Pneumonia is not a good person. He victimizes every weak person. Many of his victims die soon after the illness.



The theme of hope is the main idea of this story. The author has highlighted the importance of will power in the story.

The doctor in the story says that Johnsy, who has lost her hope of getting well, cannot be cured by medicines because half of the cure for a patient is the hope of getting well. She loses her hope with every falling leaf and assumes that she will die the moment the last leaf falls off but when the last leaf never falls, though it is the painting of Behrman, she gains the hope of getting well.

And when the doctor does her check-up, he observes that she is much better now. It shows that everything lies in one’s own mind and it depends on us, that how we think about a particular situation.

It is obvious that the outcome of thinking positive is also positive while negativity will lead you to hopelessness.


Behrman, who is unable to paint his masterpiece for twenty-five years, does not lose hope. He stays firm in his struggle and at last, he is able to act upon his dreams. After spending a cold night outside, he paints his masterpiece though he catches pneumonia and dies, his death comes after the accomplishment of his dream.

This example of strong hope shows that a person should not lose hope though the situation may be unfavorable. People might discourage you but a person should not lose hope.


Behrman sacrifices his life for giving hope to Johnsy. He knows that Johnsy thinks she will die the moment when the last leaf of the ivy vine falls so he paints a leaf on the wall which gives hope to Johnsy and she realizes that she should not lose hope. This act of Behrman leads her to think positively because our thinking leads our actions and defines our abilities.

Behrman’s sacrifice of staying the cold night out benefits Johnsy as well as leads him to paint his masterpiece which he wanted to paint for years.

Another example of sacrifice in the story is the care and support that Sue gives Johnsy. She takes care of her and supports her emotionally and financially though it is easier not to get involved. She devotes her time to her friend and helps her regain her lost hope. She brings Johnsy back towards life.


Sue’s friendship and sincerity lead Johnsy to regain her lost hope. Sue takes good care of her friend Johnsy. Even the doctor appreciates her care for Johnsy and tells her that it is because of her that Johnsy is feeling better.

This proves the statement that ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed.’


Art is a way of expressing one’s feelings and emotions.

It needs great strength and will power for an old man to go out in the cold weather to paint. Behrman goes out in the freezing cold and paints his masterpiece. His feelings are conveyed to Johnsy through that painting. Behrman’s masterpiece gives him an immortal life and inspires Johnsy to think positively and live hopefully.


An analysis is the in-depth examination and critical study of a literary piece.

Having no comedic element, the short story ‘The Last Leaf’ has a serious and hopeless tone. It has unexpected events and a tragic end.

The story is about two friends Johnsy and Sue. They have similar interests and struggles but when Johnsy falls ill, she loses hope and expects to die soon. The hopeless girl leaves behind all her dreams and counts down the falling leaves while looking out of the window to the autumn-stricken ivy vine in the yard of the neighboring brick-house.

The doctor who visits to examine Johnsy says that it is her hopelessness that is keeping her away from getting well. Johnsy’s negativity forces her to leave her dreams behind and only think about her death but when Sue gives her hope and she sees the last leaf on the ivy vine still there. It gives her the hope to come back to life.

This shows that a person should think positively even in a hard situation and severe illness. It gives positivity to the person’s mind and he can fight the bad situation and disease with his positive thinking. It gives the person a moral strength to stay firm.

On the other side, if a person keeps thinking negatively, he will lose all his hopes. He will stop chasing his dreams which will lead him to have a meaningless life.

The story gives the moral lesson of never losing hope. Behrman, who is a failure in art for years but he does not lose hope and at last he is able to paint his masterpiece. A person should not stop dreaming if he fails in achieving it for the first time. He should keep struggling and a day will come that will bring him success.

True friendship is also defined in the story. Sue, a very good and sincere friend. She keeps supporting Johnsy when she loses every single hope of becoming well. Sue is indeed a true friend who proves that with good care and support, a patient can be cured.

Giving different moral lessons, the story is a twisted and surprising one. The ending is a tragic one, what is expected to happen does not really happen.


The short story ‘The Last Leaf’ is set in the colony of artists in Greenwich Village, New York. The setting is significant in drawing the plot of the story because the main characters in the story are artists living in a colony of artists. The narrator says describing the place “In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called “places”. These “places” make strange angles and curves.” Such a description of the setting is done by the author in order to create an image of the place in the mind of the reader because the setting is significant in plot construction of the story.

“To quaint old Greenwich Village, the art people soon came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents.”

In the above sentence, the author has chosen Greenwich Village as the setting of his story because his plot needed a setting where there would be a large number of artists and Greenwich Village used to be and it still is a colony of artists. Since it is a little village and the expenses of living there are low so a great number of struggling artists live there.


A conflict is an opposition faced by the protagonist of the story.

The conflict in the story is internal as well as external.


This is an internal force fighting the protagonist.

Internal conflict in the story is Johnsy’s lost hope. She gives up and thinks only about her death. Her own negative feelings do not let her get well. She is a pessimistic person and her own negative feelings do not allow her to get well. She keeps thinking about her death.


External conflict is an outside force or opposition fighting the protagonist.

The example of external conflict in the story is pneumonia. It is a force of nature that fights the main character, Johnsy but at last, she defeats the illness and gets well.


A tone is an attitude in which the story is written. The tone can be conveyed through the choice of words or the writer’s point of view.

The tone of the story is serious and hopeless.


The point of view of the story is third-person narrative.



The leaf on the ivy vine is a symbol. Johnsy who is ill keeps looking out of the window and watches the leaves of ivy vine fall. It makes her lose hope and she wonders that if hundreds of leaves can fall so quickly, she will also die like this, with the pace of the falling leaves her death will approach her.

The last leaf that seems to Johnsy a sign of her death, it becomes a symbol of hope for her when she sees it on the ivy vine after the storm. The last leaf, though a painting, gives her hope to get well and start living again.


Pneumonia is a symbol of death in the story. When it arrives in the city it touches its victims with its ‘icy fingers’. People would suffer from the illness and many of them would die.



The story has situational irony.

The reader expects Johnsy to die but she gets well and Behrman dies. It is also unexpected that he has painted his masterpiece before his death.


Personification is the attribution of human qualities to something non-human.

The example of personification is that when the narrator talks about the arrival of pneumonia in the city. He states that “Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman”. Pneumonia is considered a human in the story who has come to the city to touch people with his ‘icy fingers’ and as a result, his victims become ill and die.


The example of metaphor in this story is when the narrator talks about pneumonia. He states that “In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called pneumonia, stalked about the colony’’.

Here pneumonia is compared to a stranger who arrives at the city and victimizes people with an illness.


A simile is the direct comparison of one thing with another.

The example of simile in the story is “she was afraid that Johnsy would indeed sail down, down like the leaf”. This sentence shows Sue’s fears for Johnsy who is ill and has lost hope of getting well. Sue is afraid that her negative thinking will kill her.


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