Skip to main content

Book Review: The Last Leaf by O. Henry

Johnsy and Sue meet six months previously and move to live in Greenwich Village of New York. The colony where they live is famous for artists’ accommodation because of good ambience and cheap rates, and they too are budding artists – painters. Before winter the trees in the village were fully green and high on fluttering. As the winter commences, the trees begin shedding leaves and around the same period the village falls in the grip of deadly disease – pneumonia.

Johnsy is so terribly down with pneumonia that she becomes bedridden. The doctors have given up the hope of life in her. Despite this providence, Sue takes care of her and hopes for her full recovery. However, Johnsy has grown pessimistic – she realizes that her hopes of survival have numbered out. She is waiting to die. She often gazes outside at the ivy vine tree. She has built an assumption rather an obsession that she will die when the last leaf from the vine tree falls. Sue dismisses her fears but Johnsy is instinctive.

Sue approaches Behrman, a 60-year-old artist who claims to produce a masterpiece but fails to do so in last 40 years. Behrman lives downstairs. He too ridicules Johnsy’s fears.

At night a turbulent storm clasps the village, winds are howling like ferocious hounds. The stormy night confirms Johnsy that the last leaf will fall and she will die. To cut Johnsy’s gaze of that vine tree, Sue draws the blinds and assures Johnsy to have a good night’s sleep leaving all her fears. In the morning Johnsy finds herself wake and alive, she looks out the window and finds the last leaf of vine intact. She recovers by the end of day. Sue scolds her for her delusory attitude.

In the evening Sue learns that the old artist, Behrman, dies of pneumonia. The janitor explains to Sue that in the stormy night Behrman had gone out to paint a leaf on the wall where ivy vine tree takes support. Sue goes there and finds a ladder and palette with green and yellow colours, and wonders the leaf painted neither moves nor flutters. It is Behrman’s masterpiece that has saved the life of young Johnsy.

In a sense Johnsy’s fear was right. However the old man bequeaths her death just in time. The story is about life and death, and death comes certain for someone who attaches it with an event.     

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Sparrows by K. A. Abbas – A Story about Hidden Kindness

K. A. Abbas was a master at writing short stories, presumably influenced by O. Henry. His work presents a different picture of India and is mainly based on humanity. He was the contemporary writer of that colonial India when the cinema used to run in black and white. Reading K.A. Abbas means exploring the old culture of India.
‘Sparrows’ is a brilliant short story. Once, the story ‘Sparrows’ was conscripted in the world’s best stories along with ‘The Lost Child’, written by Mulk Raj Anand.
A bit about Sparrows
Rahim Khan, the protagonist, is a stolid figure, almost devoid of emotions. He lives alone and the whole village is fearful of him because he brutally beats children and men on slightest pretexts. With time, he has grown so obtrusive and rough that streaks of humanity have left him. Why is he like that?
During the magnificence of his youth there was no one who could compete with him in the wrestling and other sports. It's his deepest desire to join Circus folk. In addition …

Book Review: Godan by Munshi Premchand

Like many other poor peasants Hori too wants to own a cow in a hope to elevate his puny social status to some height of self-importance. Much opposite to his circumstances, he purchases a cow on debt of 80 rupees. However things spiral out of his control when he tries to cheat his younger brother, Heera, by 10 rupees. This haggle causes a huge fight between Dhaniya (Hori’s wife) and Heera’s wife; and then next Heera poisons the cow and escapes away to avoid being caught by the Police.

To settle down the cow’s death matter, Hori takes some loan from a moneylender and bribes the police. On the other hand, Gobar (Hori’s son) has an affair with a widow Jhunia. When Jhunia is pregnant with his child, Gobar runs away to the city to escape the wrath of the villagers. But then Jhunia is taken into care by Hori and his family. Because of Jhunia’s issue, the village Panchayat orders Hori to pay a penalty amount in lieu of his son’s deeds. Thus, Hori again takes the loan from moneylenders.
As t…

Book Review: Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand

The novel – Untouchable needs no introduction for an Indian reader because its background is well known to him.The very title is a telltale.
Humanism, which is the key concept of his novels like Untouchable and Coolie, reveals man’s essential dignity and nobility. According to this approach to man – man is the creative source of infinite possibilities. Mr. Anand is a humanist who reveals the essential dignity of the underdogs of Indian society. Anand in all his novels emphasizes the fact that nobility and dignity are not the monopoly of the rich. The poor have their greatness, honour as well as the richness. This humanism is the central theme of his novels. His humanism justifies that man is man, be he a sweeper, a prince or a coolie.
The novel Untouchable has the confrontation between tradition and modernity. Anand realized that much in the Indian tradition was obsolete and meaningless. Tradition might have its utility when it began as a new practice. But in course of time, it lost…