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Last Leaf Summary

Last updated date: 17th Apr 2024
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Summary of Last Leaf

The Last Leaf is one of the short stories written by O. Henry who was an American writer. He mainly composed short stories that had some moral aspects for people to analyze. The Last leaf summary portrays a time period in New York during an era witnessing a huge growth in population due to the immigration of Europeans into the USA. 

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The Last Leaf

As shown in the short story, New York was plagued with diseases due to overcrowded locations, urbanization, and improper living conditions. Just like the other stories of O. Henry, this one is a sentimental one and has a tragic ending as well. In this article of O Henry The last leaf summary, students will learn the summary of the story, the themes, and the characters that are portrayed in the story. 

Backdrop of the Last Leaf Summary PDF

The Last Leaf is a tragic story that has touches of sacrifice, hope, and hopelessness. The story has 3 main characters, Two girls, Johnsy who was also known as Joanna, and Sue. The third character was called Behrman. The backdrop of the story is set in Greenwich Village. It is a  colony filled with artists. Johnsy and Sue are artists emerging in their field of work. Johnsy dreams of painting the Bay of Naples but unexpectedly falls ill and awaits her death. 

Behrman is an old character who was a very renowned painter during his time. However, his only wish is to paint one last masterpiece but he finds that he is unable to do it. The story portrays a tone that is both hopeless and serious. 

The Last Leaf Summary and Analysis 

In Greenwich Village, two girls, Johnsy and Sue, are emerging artists. They share a studio apartment that is on top of a 3-storey building. With the arrival of winter, bouts of pneumonia start striking the city. Johnsy gets caught with a bout of pneumonia and the doctor lets the girls know that she doesn’t have much time unless she is willing to live. According to the doctor, the will to live is actually half the cure. 

Sue enters the room in order to complete the painting that she had started for the magazine. But she sees Johnsy looking outside the window into their neighbour’s yard. She sees Johnsy counting something. Upon asking Johnsy reveals that she is counting the falling leaves of the Ivy Vine in the backyard of her neighbour’s house. Johnsy claims that when the last leaf falls, her death will arrive. 

Sue asks her friend to stop being so negative and proceeds to call Behrman to come to pose for her painting since she isn’t able to afford a proper model. Behrman is an old artist who wants to paint a masterpiece but has been failing to do so for a long time. The last leaf summary PDF tells the students about the story in detail. 

Behrman comes to their house and sees Johnsy sleeping. He learns how Johnsy has lost the will to live. Both Sue and Behrman are worried about Johnsy. The next day, Johnsy asks Sue to open the window so that she can see the last leaf fall. However, to both of their surprise, the leaf is still there. This gives some hope to Johnsy who asks her friend to bring her some soup. 

She again starts dreaming about painting the Bay of Naples. After the doctor arrives, he informs them both that Behrman has caught pneumonia and has been admitted to a hospital. The very next morning, Sue tells Johnsy that Behrman has died. He had actually spent the night painting his masterpiece. It is then revealed that the leaf that didn’t fall was painted by Behrman. 

The Themes in the Last Leaf 

According to the last leaf summary moral lesson, there are some important themes which are mentioned. 

  • Hope and Hopelessness 

The main theme of the story is hope. The author aims to highlight how important it is for a person to have willpower and hope. Johnsy is provided with new hope when she sees that the leaf that is supposed to decide her fate is not falling. This shows that even a small act can light the lamp of hope in a person’s heart. 

  • Sacrifice 

Another main theme of the story is sacrifice. Behrman sacrifices his own life in order to give some hope to Johnsy. He is aware that Johnsy thinks when the last leaf falls, she will die. So, he sacrifices his own life to paint the last masterpiece of his life. The ivy leaf on the tree was painted by him so that Johnsy could live her life and have hope. 


The article mentioned here conveys the last leaf summary in short. Students can use this summary to know more about the story and the moral lesson that it has.

FAQs on Last Leaf Summary

1. What is the theme of the last leaf summary? 

There are many underlying themes that are depicted in the story of the last leaf. The story tells people about hope and hopelessness. Johnsy who is suffering from pneumonia gets caught in the gloom and loses all hope. A lively young girl who once dreamt of painting the Bay of Naples just awaits her death. She says that once the last leaf on the ivy vine in her neighbour’s backyard falls, she will die as well. This is the perfect depiction of hopelessness. Another theme in the story is sacrifice. Behrman makes a sacrifice of his life by painting the last leaf on the ivy vine so that Johnsy can find hope and will to live again. 

2. Describe the character of Behrman in O Henry the last leaf summary?

According to the last leaf summary, Behrman is an old character who lives by himself. He was once a very renowned artist and he wants to paint the last masterpiece of his life. However, as time goes on, he sees that he isn’t able to create the masterpiece that he wants. Since he isn’t able to paint and sell his paintings, he makes money by posing as a model for upcoming artists. Behrman sees that Johnsy has lost all hopes to live. So, he makes an attempt to provide the same to the young girl. He sacrifices his own life by painting the last leaf in the ivy vine so that Johnsy can see that and get the willpower that she had lost.

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