“The Last Leaf” is a short story published in 1907 in O. Henry’s collection ‘The Trimmed Lamp and Other Stories’. 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.
Throughout the story there is a sense that all the three painters, Sue, Johnsy and Behrman are committed to something. Sue has a piece to draw and is working on it throughout the story, while Behrman remains focused on a masterpiece he dreams of painting. And Johnsy is committed to dying as soon as the last ivy leaf falls from the vine.
There is the obvious friendship between Sue and Johnsy. Sue remains determined to help Johnsy get better. Towards the end of the story we realise how committed or fond of Johnsy and Sue, Behrman actually is when he sacrifices his own life in order to save Johnsy’s.
Behrman gave up his own life in order to save another person’s life and in many ways the single leaf that he has painted on the wall was his masterpiece. Just as the pneumonia was taking a toll on her, the last leaf has given Johnsy back her life.
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