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Jenifer Yi

on 13 March 2014

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Transcript of 1. DESCRIBE IT

William Sydney Porter, best known under his pen name O Henry, was a famous American short story writer. He was born on September 11, 1862 in North Carolina. The name O Henry is supposed to have come from his calling of "Oh, 'Henry'" the family cat. Porter was accused of embezzling bank funds, and thus was jailed for five years. Three years later, he emerged from prison, picking himself up from a low point in life and published over 300 stories until his death. O Henry was widely recognized as America's most beloved short story writer.
This short story is about a woman named Johnsy who has come down with pneumonia, and begins to think pessimistically about her chances of survival. One day while Sue came visiting, Johnsy tells her that she believes that when the final leaf falls from the dreary vine outside her window, she would die. Sue convinces Johnsy to go to sleep, slightly shrugging away the impractical thought, and goes to find Behrman to model in one of her drawings. Behrman was an aged artist who lived a floor beneath them, and was always babbling about how he would start painting a masterpiece, though he had not started with even a single stroke of his brush. He seems to be a crabby old man with no indifference when he hears about Johnsy's condition. That night, it began to storm, with the rain coming down in sheets and the wind tearing through the trees. It seemed utterly impossible for the leaf not to fall, but when Johnsy looked out at the tree in the morning after the storm, there was a single leaf hanging on for its life. It turned out that the last leaf was painted on by Behrman, who had done so in the shivering cold, caught pneumonia, and died. The leaf had turned out to be Behrman's antipated masterpiece.

There are an abundance of literary terms in O Henry's work of art, "The Last Leaf." He uses metaphor, personification, irony, and symbolism, which are just a small portion of literary works from the text, to covey a meaningful message from the tale of Sue, Johnsy, and Behrman. The author also uses many sensory details, often describing in detail the semblance of objects. "There was only an empty yard and the blank side of the house seven meters away. An old ivy vine, going bad at the roots, climbed halfway up the wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken the leaves from the plant until its branches, almost bare, hung on the bricks" (2).
"In November, a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pnuemonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers" (1).

"Sue told him about Johnsy and how she feared that her friend would float away like a leaf" (3).

"'Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how bad I was. it was wrong to want to die" (4). Johnsy was always pessimistic about her declining health and she firmly believed that she was going to die, but it was Behrman instead who had died, though it was not a death in vain.

"After the beating rain and fierce wind that blew through the night, there yet stood against the wall one ivy leaf... It was still green at the center. But its edges were colored with the yellow" (4). The final ivy leaf resembles Johnsy's will to live, though an interesting theory to the description given would be that the green in the leaf was to give Johnsy hope and to not let herself fall into the hands of death.
This short story reminds me of the time when my grandpa had pneumonia, and I went to visit him at the hospital. It was very hard to watch as someone I loved was struggling in their life.
Behrman's personality resembles Haymitch from "The Hunger Games," as he has an air of bitterness, but they both do kind things in their own ways for those who they care about. I am also currently reading "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hogdson Burnett, and the character of Johnsy, who is pessimistic about her health, reminds me of Colin, who is a little boy who believes he will develop a crooked back and die young.
The theme in this selection voices the beauty in loving one another and performing good for others. Although Berhman's death was disheartening, there were many silver linings that came with his sacrifice. He gave back hope and taught a valuable lesson to Johnsy, who wanted to achieve her dream of painting the Bay of Naples in Italy, and he finally stepped up to his word of painting a masterpiece. I believe that O Henry wanted the readers to value their health and use it to help out the sick, or even just to help out those who are struggling against their own minds.
I personally like this tale. Although it is quite short, which can be convenient for those who dislike reading or do not have time, it passes down a powerful, meaningful message to those who read it. It pointed out to me that I should cherish and care for my health and not take advantage of it, because there many who can not walk, talk, run, and do many other things to their contentment. A question I would ask O Henry is about the whereabouts of Sue and Johnsy after what had happened. I hope that they did not let the moral Behrman gave his life to bring to light slip from their minds.
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