The Last Leaf (Henry)

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The Last Leaf
Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection «The Trimmed Lamp»
Microsummary: A young woman, ill with pneumonia, believed she would die when the last leaf fell from a nearby ivy vine; an old artist painted a leaf on the wall, saving her life but sacrificing his own.

In a small district west of Washington Square, two young artists named Sue and Johnsy shared a studio. They became friends after discovering their shared interests in art and fashion. However, in November, Johnsy fell ill with pneumonia, a disease that was ravaging the city. The doctor informed Sue that Johnsy's chances of survival were slim, as she had lost her will to live.

Sue — young artist; caring, supportive friend.
Johnsy (Joanna) — young artist; ill with pneumonia; fragile, pessimistic.

As Johnsy lay in bed, she became fixated on an ivy vine outside her window, counting the leaves as they fell. She believed that when the last leaf fell, she would die.

When the last one falls I must go, too. I've known that for three days. Didn't the doctor tell you?

Sue tried to distract her friend and even enlisted the help of their neighbor, an old painter named Behrman, who had never achieved success in his career.

Behrman — elderly, failed artist; gruff, protective, self-sacrificing.

One stormy night, the last leaf remained on the vine, defying the wind and rain. The next morning, Johnsy saw the leaf and realized that she had been foolish to think her life was tied to the vine. She regained her will to live and began to recover.

I've been a bad girl, Sudie. Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die.

The doctor confirmed that Johnsy was out of danger and only needed proper nutrition and care to fully recover.

However, they soon learned that Behrman had died of pneumonia after being found in his room, soaked and cold. It was discovered that he had painted the last leaf on the wall outside Johnsy's window, creating a realistic and enduring image that gave her the hope she needed to survive. In the end, Behrman's final act of kindness became his long-awaited masterpiece.

Ah, darling, it's Behrman's masterpiece — he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.