Story Analysis of ‘The Last Leaf’ by O. Henry

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It’s Day 13 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read The Last Leaf by O. Henry. You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

William Sydney Porter, more popularly known by his pen name O. Henry, was an American author and poet. His famous work includes The Gift of the Magi, The Duplicity of Hargraves, The Ransom of Red Chief, The Cop and the Anthem, The Furnished Room, and The Last Leaf.

Story Analysis 

When discussing short stories, how can we not mention O. Henry and his brilliant tales filled with wit, empathy, and a twist? He had 381 short stories to his credit. 

O. Henry is known as “The Father of Modern American Short Stories” and “The Encyclopedia of American Humour.” In the honour of his legacy, the O. Henry Award is an annual prize awarded to outstanding short stories.

The Last Leaf, a short story written by O. Henry, was published in his collection The Trimmed Lamp and Other Stories (1907). It’s a beautiful tale of friendship, hope, and humanity set against a backdrop of gloom, and setbacks, which is why it makes the perfect read for pandemic times. 

The story is about two friends Sue and Johnsy. Johnsy is affected by Mr. Pneumonia (effectual personification by O. Henry), and the doctor gives her a couple of days to live. He tells Sue that Johnsy’s survival chances are bleak according to science, and now it’s only left to Johnsy’s will to survive; that will be her last hope for survival. As for Johnsy, she’s given up on all hope and pins her survival down to the last five falling leaves of the ivy creeper vine that she can see outside her hospital room window. As is characteristic of all O. Henry stories, there’s the comic relief in this one, too, in the form of Mr. Behrman, an ill-tempered, impoverished, delusional, and struggling artist. The surprise ending is intact and will leave you touched in the deepest corners of your heart. 

Writing surprise endings is not as easy as it seems. You need to be a writer as astute as O. Henry to stay far ahead of your readers and lead them on. Like The Pied Piper leading and taking the flock down the garden path and an unexpected destination. 

Personally, I loved the writing style, narration, dialogues, metaphor, plot, and characterization in the story. The Last Leaf is the kind of story that you will keep coming back to from time to time for hope, strength, and love. 

Did you enjoy The Last Leaf by O. Henry?

*I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.

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Tina Sequeira
Tina Sequeira is a marketer and moonlighting writer. She is passionate about tech, creativity, and social justice—dabbling in and writing about the same.