The Last Leaf by O. Henry is a short story that gives us a lot of lessons in just a small journey. Set in Greenwich, this story is about the struggling life of painters and rather deadly diseases called Pneumonia. This story is an epitome of hope and optimism.
The story revolves around two female artists, Sue and Johnsy and their neighbour Mr. Behrman who all lived together in the same building. The two ladies had met each other 6 months ago, discovered that they share a lot of similar likes together and decided to move in together.
Sooner than later, Pneumonia came out and the sickness seemed to be touching everyone with its cold fingers and making them fall in trap with it. Johnsy too, was a prey of it and fell down with the sickness. She stayed engulfed in her room, facing the fall of the neighbouring building. One day, the doctor takes Sue aside and tells her that Johnsy had very little chance and only if she wanted to live, will she be able to live else half of the doctor’s work was useless.
For me, this was a rather important part of the story. It majorly focused on a person’s will to live. If he/she didn’t want to live or had lost all hope in it, no amount of medication or treatment would stand strong of the hope wasn’t. O. Henry very straight-forwardly tries telling us that whether it is sickness or any other instance for that sorts it is the will that stands strong. It’s Faith > Fear.
Sue cried in her workroom and then walked back to Johsny with all the paint stuff. Johsny saw her and again returned her attention to the wall beside. She counted the number of leaves at the old tree on the sidewall of the house next to hers. She said that if the last leaf falls, she must go too. Sue didn’t agree about what Johnsy said, Sue said that there’s no sense on it and there’s no any connection about on her health. Sue can’t close the window, because she needs light for her work and to have some money to buy some food. Johnsy always mind the tree, but Sue didn’t want it, so she commanded Johnsy to close her eyes and just sleep.
We notice that the leaves were the only thread holding her from falling apart. She was dead-set believing that once the last leaf falls, she’ll be fallen too. And it didn’t matter how true or not it was. What mattered was that she had started believing it so hard that she felt that was the truth.
Sue called Mr. Behrman to be her model in his work. Mr. Behrman lived on the first floor of the same house, he was past sixty and forty years in the Art Industry, but there’s no success a painter. He had always talked about his masterpiece, but he had never yet started it. He drank too much, but sometimes he still talked about his masterpiece. He will do everything possible just to help Sue and Johnsy. Sue told Mr. Behrman all about Johnsy and the leaves on the vine. Johnsy as sleeping, Sue covered the window and took Behrman to the workroom. They looked at the tree and they look at each for a moment of silence. A very cold and rainy night happened on that day; a lightning cold rain greeted the night.
In the morning, after an hour of sleep, Johnsy opened her eyes looking toward the window. Sue took the cover from the window. After the strong wind and stormy night, there’s still one leaf. It was still dark green and having some yellow part, because of the age. Johnsy said that it will surely fall later and she must go to. Sue showed her concern to Johnsy, she was really mad because of what Johnsy said. The day slowly passed the north wind blow and the rain past.
The next morning, the last leaf was still there. Johnsy realized that she was being very negative and had to change her perspective towards life. Dying was not an option, but the will to live was and since then there was an entire positive effect thrown on her perspective towards everything.
In that afternoon, the doctor came. Sue followed him outside Johnsy’s room. The doctor said that chances are great and he gave some advises because there’s another patient in that house and it was Mr. Behrman. He had Pneumonia too, and there is no hope for him, but they will take him in the hospital.
On the next day, the doctor came again and said that Johnsy’s safe now and he still leaves some advices. In that afternoon, Sue came to Johnsy’s bed then lay. Sue revealed that Mr. Behrman died because of Pneumonia today in the hospital. He was ill only to days. Someone found him helpless, his clothes and shoes are wet and cold as ice. The night where he had been was cold and wild. They also found some things, there and light and paint of green and yellow. Johnsy’s didn’t wonder why the last leaf didn’t move while the wind is blowing. The last leaf was Mr. Behrman’s masterpiece.
This short ended with such a huge message that we overlook a lot of times. Every turn in our lives, there is always someone who selflessly is ready to do anything for you. Sometimes it gets a little too late to know who that person is. But, there always is someone.
You are your masterpiece.