The Last Leaf Summary and Explanation: A Deep Dive into the Classic O. Henry Story

The Last Leaf Summary and Explanation Cover Image - Johnsy Looking at the Last Leaf

The Last Leaf is a classic short story by O. Henry that explores the themes of hope, despair, friendship, perseverance, and sacrifice with an element of surprise at the end. It is a story about hope and sacrifice during the spread of an epidemic in the quaint old village of Greenwich. A young lady who has lost her will to live after falling severely sick was brought back to life by an old failed artist who died in the pursuit of achieving his dream of painting a masterpiece, i.e., the last leaf.

This article will provide a deep dive into The Last Leaf summary and explanation, exploring the story’s themes, characters, and plot to understand its meaning and significance.


The story revolves around two main characters: Sue and Johnsy, and a surprise character, Mr. Berhman. Sue is an optimistic and caring budding artist who takes care of Johnsy during her illness. She maintains a brave face in front of Johnsy to help her come out of the sickness.

Johnsy is also a young artist who hopes to someday paint the Bay of Naples. She has contracted pneumonia and has lost her will to live. She believes she will die when the last leaf falls from an ivy vine outside her window. Both shared the same apartment. The third character is Mr. Behrman, a painter who lives on the ground floor of the same building as Sue and Johnsy. He is an old man over sixty with a thick accent. He couldn’t achieve much in art and hopes to create a masterpiece someday. He earns his living by posing as a model for budding artists and drinks gin “to excess.”

Plot Summary

The story centers around two young artists, Sue and Johnsy, who started living together after discovering their typical taste in Art and other things. With the onset of severe winters, their colony was smitten with pneumonia, and Johncy became prey to it. Her condition worsens as she gives up hope of recovering. The doctor treating her warns Sue of Johncy’s slim chances of survival unless the latter finds something to hope for. Johnsy becomes convinced that she will die when the last leaf falls from the old ivy vine, which is visible from her window. Sue tries her best to make Johnsy take an interest in other things and not to be a fool to attach her recovery to the survival of the last leaf on the vine. Still, Johnsy remains convinced that she will not survive.

As the days pass, Johnsy’s condition worsens, and Sue becomes increasingly worried. One night, a strong wind blows through the streets, causing many leaves to fall from the vine outside Johnsy’s window. The following day, Johnsy announces that she has decided to die when the last leaf falls. Sue tries to convince Johnsy to change her mind, but Johnsy remains resolute.

Meanwhile, Sue visits their downstairs neighbor, Mr. Behrman, in search of a model for her illustration of a story for the magazine she worked for. Mr. Behrman was an old unsuccessful artist who, after a lifetime of failure as an artist, still hopes to paint his Masterpiece. Knowing Johnsy’s story, Mr. Behrman was annoyed at her foolishness.

The wind continues to blow as the day wears on, and the last few leaves on the vine begin to fall. Just as Johnsy is about to give up, she sees a single leaf still clinging to the vine outside her window. This single leaf gives her the hope and inspiration to fight her illness and recover.

The story ends with Sue and Johnsy discovering that Behrman has died from pneumonia, which he contracted while painting the last leaf of the vine outside Johnsy’s window. Sue and Johnsy realize that Behrman’s sacrifice and dedication were the sources of the hope and inspiration that saved Johnsy’s life. He finally painted his masterpiece.


The Last Leaf explores several themes: hope, despair, perseverance, friendship, and sacrifice. The story demonstrates how even in the face of despair and hopelessness, a single act of sacrifice and dedication can inspire hope and perseverance in others. Behrman’s sacrifice and commitment to painting the perfect leaf on the vine are what ultimately saves Johnsy’s life and encourages her to recover.

The story also explores the idea that true friendship and support can help individuals overcome even the toughest challenges. Despite her friend’s pessimism, Sue’s unwavering support and care for Johnsy shows how friendship can provide comfort and strength during difficult times.

Furthermore, The Last Leaf highlights the transformative power of art. Behrman’s dedication to painting his masterpiece, the perfect leaf on the vine, demonstrates the value of an artistic expression and the potential for art to inspire, uplift, and change lives.


The Last Leaf is a timeless classic that inspires and moves readers with its powerful themes of hope, perseverance, and sacrifice. O. Henry’s poignant story teaches us about the transformative power of art, the importance of friendship and support, and the potential for even the smallest act of sacrifice to inspire hope and perseverance in others. Through our deep dive into ‘The Last Leaf’ summary and explanation, we hope to have shed light on the story’s meaning and significance and encouraged readers to discover the power of hope and perseverance in their own lives.


Most frequent questions and answers

The vine and the leaves represent life’s impermanence and beauty’s fleeting nature. Johnsy’s belief that she will die when the last leaf falls is a metaphor for the transience of life and the inevitability of death.

Behrman sees the vine as a symbol of hope and inspiration, and he believes that the perfect leaf on the vine will bring him artistic recognition and success. However, Behrman’s sacrifice and dedication to the painting ultimately becomes a source of hope and inspiration for Johnsy and Sue.

‘The Last Leaf’ teaches us the power of hope, sacrifice, and perseverance. The story shows how even in the face of despair and hopelessness, a single act of dedication and sacrifice can inspire hope and determination in others.

The last leaf fell during the night when it was raining and Sue and the old man were talking about Johnsy’s illness.

Johnsy has pneumonia. The only thing that can make her better is if she wants to live. Even if she takes medicine, it won’t help her if she doesn’t want to live.

Yes, it is common for teenagers to feel depressed like Johnsy. They have a lot of pressure to do well in school and in life. They also have to deal with pressure from their parents and peers. Sometimes all this stress can make them feel depressed.

Behrman was a painter who wanted to create a masterpiece. He achieved his dream when he painted a leaf that looked very real. He painted the last leaf on a vine.

Behrman’s masterpiece is the last leaf on the ivy vine. Sue calls it a masterpiece because it gave Johnsy the will to live and she recovered from her illness. Johnsy thought that she would die when the last leaf fell, but when Behrman painted the new leaf, it gave her hope that she could get better.

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