The Last Leaf Summary, Explanation

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The Last Leaf Summary, Explanation

About the Poet
O. Henry (1862-1910) was an American short story writer. His stories are known for their surprise endings. His stories reflect his own experiences in Texas and New York and include plot twists or unexpected changes in the plot. Two of his most famous stories are “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief”.

O. Henry - The Last Leaf Summary, Explanation

Poet Name O. Henry
Born 11 September 1862, Greensboro, North Carolina, United States
Died 5 June 1910, New York, New York, United States
Full Name William Sydney Porter
Short Stories The Gift of the Magi, The Last Leaf

The Last Leaf Introduction

The Last Leaf is a short story by O. Henry. It tells the story of an old artist who saves the life of a young artist, dying of pneumonia, by giving her the will to live. In the process of saving her, the old artist falls ill and dies.

The Last Leaf Summary of the Lesson

Sue and Johnsy are two young artists, sharing a small flat on the third story of an old house. Once Johnsy falls very seriously ill in November. She has pneumonia. Soon she gives up hope for survival. The doctor who attends her does not see any positive change in her condition.

One day he tells Sue that Johnsy’s chance of survival is limited unless she has something to hope for. She has made up her mind that she is not going to get well. If she loses her hope to live, medicines will do nothing. Sue tries her best to make Johnsy take interest in things around her.

But there is no response from Johnsy. She always lies still on her bed looking at an ivy plant through the window gradually losing its leaves, and has taken it in her mind that she will die when the last leaf falls.

Sue continues to convince Johnsy that she is foolish to pin her destiny to the survival of the last leaf on the vine. The old ivy leaves have nothing to do with her getting well. The doctor is confident that she will get better. Johnsy is too depressed to say anything.

She keeps on counting the remaining leaves on the creeper. One day Sue informs Behrman, an old fellow artist, who is their downstairs-neighbor, about this and he is annoyed that Johnsy has such little hope. He is aware of her wish to die when the last leaf falls.

Behrman comes to their room and finds Johnsy asleep. Sue draws the curtain together and they go to the next room. She peeps out through the window and sees only one leaf on the creeper which seems to fall anytime because it is raining heavily and icy cold wind is blowing.

Behrman does not say a word. He goes back to his room and decides to do something for Johnsy’s life. He paints a similar leaf and sticks it on the creeper while Johnsy is sleeping. But working in open during extreme cold and heavy rain cost his life. He dies of pneumonia.

Next morning, after a vicious storm, Johnsy sees the last remaining leaf still clinging to the creeper. She is filled with hope. She decides that she wants to continue living. She thinks that there must be a reason that the leaf has refused to die, and it is a sin to want to die.

Johnsy soon recovers from her illness.

After some time, Sue informs Johnsy that Behrman had died of pneumonia contracted while being out in the wet and cold, painting the last leaf. Behrman had finllay painted his long-promised masterpiece—the leaf which saved Johnsy’s life, sacrificing his own in the process.