Introduction of The Last LeafThe Last Leaf is a famous short story by O. Henry, revealed in 1907 in his collection The Trimmed Lamp and Other Stories.” The Last Leaf” is about Johnsy, a poor young woman who is seriously sick with pneumonia. She believes that when the ivy vine on the wall outside her window loses every one of its leaves, she will also perish. Her neighbour Behrman, a painter, tricks her by painting a natural-looking leaf on the wall. Johnsy recuperates, however, Behrman, who suffers pneumonia while painting the leaf, dies.
Critical Analysis of The Last Leaf
In “The Last Leaf” by O.Henry we have the themes of commitment, sacrifice, friendship, sympathy, expectation and devotion. Set in the first decade of the twentieth century the story is described in the third person by an anonymous storyteller and after going through the story, the reader understands that Henry might be investigating the theme of commitment.
All through the story, there is a feeling that every one of the three painters referred to Sue, Johnsy and Behrman are focused on something. Sue has a piece to draw and is taking a shot at it all through the story, while Behrman, however, he hasn’t finished his masterpiece stays concentrated on it.
What’s more, Johnsy however not painting is focused on her death when. The last ivy leaf falls from the vine. By featuring every character commitment Henry may also be recommending that the individuals who experience their lives aesthetically are driven or centred. Not at all like the lion’s share of individuals who may experience their lives working nine to five and disregard their work when they check out.
Henry also gives off an impression of being investigating the theme of friendship. There is the unbreakable friendship between Sue and Johnsy with Sue staying concentrated on helping Johnsy improve. Additionally, Behrman, however, when first introduced to the reader seems to be being an irritable elderly person, he is as a general rule attached to both Sue and Johnsy. This affection is most likely dependent on Behrman’s comprehension of how troublesome life is for a craftsman. The sacrifices that they need to make with the end goal to seek after their work. It is just toward the end of the story that the reader acknowledges exactly how dedicated or partial to Johnsy and Sue, Behrman really is when he sacrifices his very own life with the end goal to save Johnsy’s.
It is further discernible that Johnsy from the get-go in the story surrenders any expectation of living or beating pneumonia. This absence of expectation from multiple points of view is reflected by the specialist. He stays functional, mindful that there is nothing he can improve the situation of Johnsy except if she herself additionally makes some form of commitment to remain alive. He feels that as opposed to concentrating on the leaves on the vine it would be more down to earth for her to centre around her recovery from pneumonia.
Although it is also noticeable that Henry may have intentionally set the story with one medical specialist and three artists in it to feature to the reader the distinctions in the elucidation of each of the three (medical versus artist) with regards to characterizing practical. Which may also feature the elevated amounts of commitment (to dying) Similarly as every one of the three specialists are focused on giving their all for their art, in like manner Johnsy is focused on dying.
There is also some symbolism in the story which might be important. Each leaf that Johnsy sees falling from the vine from multiple points of view drives her into further gloom. Anyway, when Behrman paints the one leaf it symbolizes hope for Johnsy. Something discernible when her well-being enhances when she finds that the last leaf has not fallen. The weather itself may also be emblematic as Henry might utilize the climate to feature how for a few people (Behrman) life isn’t as simple as for other people. It is conceivable that Henry is recommending that artist, however, many may state they make life troublesome for themselves, this may not essentially be the situation. Or maybe as already referred to artists is driven by their speciality dissimilar to the majority of people who will work and afterwards go home.
It is also recognized that Henry examines the universes of Art and Literature in the story. ‘Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature.’ This line might be imperative as by looking at both the universe of Art and Literature to one another Henry might feature again the sacrifices that an artist or an author must make. Sacrifices that that majority of the people will never comprehend or need to make. The doctor calls pneumonia, Mr Pneumonia and recommends that pneumonia was not ‘what you would call a chivalric old gentleman’. Additionally, the roads referred to toward the beginning of the story. They are representative of human passion and relations.
The end of the story is equally intriguing because it is just toward the end does the reader completely understand the sacrifice that Behrman has made. He has given his own life with the end goal to save someone else’s life and from numerous points of view the single leaf that he has painted on Similarly as the pneumonia was inflicting significant damage on her lungs (and breathing) the last leaf has given her back her breath or life. Something that is perceptible when the doctor arrives and sees an enhancement in Johnsy’s well-being.
It is additionally intriguing that on observing the last leaf Johnsy no longer views life as contrarily as she has beforehand done all through the story. Or maybe she understands that ‘it is wrong to want to die.’ This line might be very important as it is noticeable Henry is proposing that whatever the people feel they shall never surrender. That they should continue attempting similarly as Behrman tilled the end when he at last figured out how to finish his masterpiece and reestablish hope into Johnsy’s life.
Major Themes of The Last Leaf
O. Henry’s works are like a mirror of American lives of his own time. He had a great understanding of the trials of the lower class, and he frequently pictured the lives of ordinary people of his time with warm and sympathetic colours. These characters were often overlooked: the struggling shops’ girl, the unsuccessful artist, and the impoverished. O. Henry’s poor and disposed were noble characters with an innate capacity for dignity and sacrifice. Two strata of society interested O. Henry most: “those who were under a strain of some sort, and those who were under a delusion”. The first stirred his sympathy, the latter entertainment. In “The Making of a New Yorker”, the character Raggles is a tramp, which O. Henry termed ‘only elliptical way of saying he was a philosopher, an artist, a traveller, a naturalist, and a discoverer.’
Just as he saw the integrity of the poor, O. Henry unquestioningly did not accept the worth of the wealthy but examined how they gained their riches. His villains were more likely to be hypocrites who robbed the banks from inside and let someone else suffer the consequences than honest-working crooks. His humanitarianism was especially evident in his portrayal in tales like “An Unfinished Christian Story” and “The Trimmed Lamp” of the single girls who worked in shops and factories, and he studied the details of their lives with sociological exactness. O. Henry even examined the exploitation of the American Indians in tales such as “Supply and Demand” and “He Also Serves.”
Many critics have appreciated O. Henry’s use of social themes. Some of these are rather sentimental, but like Dickens, O. Henry is known for playing lightly but effectively on a sentimental theme. His representative motifs include reformation and rehabilitation, contrasting crime and authority, the disparity between wealth and poverty, often explored through the use of mistaken identity; and disguise and pretence. One critic defined four other motifs, beyond the sociological ones, of the stories set in New York City: the reversal of fortune, discovery and initiation through adventure, the city as a spiritual plaything for the imagination, and the basic yearning of all human life. Another critic mentioned several types of plots; love stories in which divided hearts or simply divided persons are brought together by chance; hoax stories; prince and pauper stories, in which wealth and poverty meet; disguise stories; and complemental stories such as “The Gift of the Magi”.
The popularity of O. Henry’s works has remained despite critical neglect. His democratic themes, his worthy poor, and his outlaws with hearts of gold have an appeal for the common reader that goes beyond social distinctions. O. Henry’s work contains a sense of the “oneness at the heart of things”, the timeless appeal of which transcends his dated language. Through his consistent use of paradox and the reversal of the readers’ expectations, O. Henry opened the minds of his readers to new possibilities. O. Henry’s artistic charms will ever last and be viewed as a “perpetual encyclopedia of American life.”
Textbook Questions of The Last Leaf
1. What was the cause of Johnsy’s illness? How could the illness be treated?
Answer: Johnsy was bedridden with pneumonia. However, the real cause of her illness was her negative thinking. Pneumonia had ravaged her body and mind. The acute suffering robbed her of all desire to wait with patients without the crisis.
She had made up her mind that she wasn’t getting to recuperate. Quite illogically, she had linked the dwindling number of vine leaves to her remaining lifespan. Her illness could be treated only by injecting back hope and willpower in her life. Her doctor also said that if she did not want to live then medicines would not help her.
2. Do you think the sensation of depression Johnsy has, is common among teenagers?
Answer: Yes, teenagers commonly have a feeling of depression. This is because of the present lifestyle. Teenagers are under tremendous pressure to outperform in every field. They are constantly burdened with the studies and anxieties of the future. Sometimes, they fantasize the basic reality of life. They want to see life through coloured glasses but as soon as reality strikes on them, they lose hope.
3. What was Behrman’s dream? Did it come true?
Answer: Behrman‘s lifelong dream was to create a masterpiece in painting that could look perfect. It comes true when he paints an ivy leaf which looks a replica of a real leaf and saves a young life and fulfils Behrman’s ambition too. Unfortunately, it costs him his life.
4. How is ‘the last leaf’ the artists’ masterpiece? what makes you say so?
Answer: “The Last Leaf” is definitely the artist’s masterpiece because it seems real and natural. The painting also rekindles hope and willpower in a person who had lost the desire to live.
Language Work of The Last Leaf
Explain the meaning of the following idiomatic expressions and frame sentences of your own:
1. Make up one’s mind(make a decision): You should make up your mind to crack the I.A.S exams.
2. Out of work(unemployed): A large number of educated youth are out of work in India.
3. By Leaps and Bounds(rapidly): She made her progress by leaps and bounds.
4. Pour out worries(To express feelings): She poured out her worries to me.
5. Shed Leaves(fall of leaves): The trees shed leaves in autumn.
6. Look after ( To take care of somebody): She looked after him as his own son.
7. Take after( To look or behave like or resemble like): Tasleema takes after her mother.
8. Tiptoe into (to walk carefully and stealthily into a room): She tiptoed into her sister’s room.
9. Draw the Certain (to pull the curtain across the window ): Sue draw the curtains when Johnsy told her.
10. Raise the Curtain ( reveal something or to push the curtain upwards for lighting ): The fresh inquiry has raised the curtains from their fishy deals.
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