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What is the theme or message in the story "The Last Leaf" by O. Henry?

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cjsering08 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 2, 2009 at 11:20 AM via web

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What is the theme or message in the story "The Last Leaf" by O. Henry?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 2, 2009 at 11:33 AM (Answer #1)

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The message that comes through the most powerfully for me is that you should not judge people by their outward appearances or social persona.  In the story, the most gruff character, Behrman, "was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one."  And yet it is Behrman that takes the very "soft", compassionate step of painting the leaf, which in essence, saves Johnsy's life.  In a way, he sacrifices his own to save hers.  So we should not judge people by what image they promote, but instead by their actions, because it is, in the end, actions that truly make an impact.

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suesan | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted December 10, 2011 at 4:46 PM (Answer #2)

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The message is '' hope''. People have to fight any diploma to live, and the strong weapon is  hope.

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ta-maysam | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 9, 2012 at 9:40 PM (Answer #3)

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it seems to me that 

Hope is the hero of that story. On one hand, when Johnsy is hopeless, she makes her steps closer to death. However she changes when she finds the leaf. On the other hand, Mr. Behrman dies after he becomes hopeful. However, he dies with success.

The will to live, to survive is another name of the hero. Johnsy has started the countdown to her own death by the use of the falling last leafs of an ivy vine, one could declare that will basically non-existent.

When she was give the hope she had the will and desire to live. She moved from what she wants to see by the naked eye to the unseen truth of life (the power of life) 

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