Explain the conflicts of the short story "The Last Leaf."

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bohemianteacher4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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The short story "The Last Leaf" has several different sets of conflicts depending on the character involved. The location in Greenwich Village is home to many different artists who don't have a lot of money for rent. Sue and Johnsy, as well as Old Behrman, are struggling artists who dream of one day painting their masterpiece. However, Old Behrman is in conflict with his desires. He never works at his painting other than a few advertisements, but he desires to paint a masterpiece. His redeeming quality is his protectiveness over Sue and Johnsy.

Johnsy is very ill, and the doctor explains that he can do nothing about giving her the will to live. Her lack of will to live is a conflict because it could lead to her death.

"But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent from the curative power of medicines."

Sue and Johnsy have a conflict over Johnsy looking out of the room at the vine as it loses its leaves. Sue wants Johnsy to look away from the wall, but Johnsy is waiting for the last leaf to fall so that she can die.

Old Behrman decides to assist in saving Johnsy by painting the last leaf on the wall so that she will not ever see the leaf fall off of the vine.  When Johnsy looks out the window, she sees the leaf hanging on. Eventually, she begins to improve. Old Behrman catches pneumonia after working in the cold while painting the leaf. He dies in the hospital.

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