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THE LAST LEAF
By – 0. Henry
Theme / Central Idea of the Lesson. Analysis of THE LAST LEAF
The story is based on the theme that life is precious and faith and hope should never be lost. We come across many hindrances in life and they should be overcome by fighting back in high spirits. Depression can lead to disaster even when the situation is not bad. Another theme that runs through the story is that devoted friendship can be succour during times of crisis. A minor theme of the story is the importance of art in human lives. The old painter knowingly sacrifices his life in his urge to create a masterpiece.
Very often, we find people having a negative attitude toward life. They lose interest in life and these causes suffering to people surrounding them. They are even ready to lose their life as life has lost all meaning for them. The story tells the need to have a positive attitude towards life so that we can make it as fruitful as possible. Sacrificing our life for the sake of others is also a theme in this story. Painter Behrman scarifies his life for Johnsy.
Justify the title of THE LAST LEAF
The title “The Last Leaf” raises the curiosity of the reader regarding a happening or an event towards some kind of ‘end’. The word ‘last’ reflects the main idea of the story which is the last breath of Johnsy. The last leaf becomes the last hope of survival and keeps the reader hooked until the end. Throughout, the last ivy leaf remains the central point. In the early part of the story it remains associated with Johnsy’s ailment and depression while later on, it conveys the message of courage, hope and optimism. The last leaf saves Johnsy’s life and fulfils Behrman’s lifelong dream to paint a masterpiece. However, it also turns out to be his last masterpiece, too. Hence the title is very apt.
The leaves of the ivy creeper are falling fast. Johnsy, the sick girl, feels that she would die as soon as the last leaf would fall from the ivy creeper. One night, only one leaf remains on the ivy. It would fall the same night. The old artist, Behrman, decides to go out in the rain and paint an artificial leaf as soon as the last leaf fall. So, since Johnsy makes her life depends upon the last leaf, the title is appropriate. The last leaf on the ivy helps one person to survive but results in the death of another person.
The chief message that this story gives is the spirit of sacrifice we need to have in our life. The old artist, Behrman sacrificed his life so that Johnsy could live. In this process, he also achieved his ambition of painting a masterpiece.
The other message is that we should have a positive attitude in life. Johnsy was under depression and she felt her life was linked to the leaves on the ivy creeper. This prevented her from getting better from her illness. She was also causing harm to her friend, Sue. Had she adopted a positive attitude, Behrman would not have died. Our thinking and attitude affect the lives of other people too.