"The Last Leaf" by O. Henry, what can be a good thesis and conclusion?For example we learn in the story that through power of friendship, Hope made Johnsy survive. Or something like...

"The Last Leaf" by O. Henry, what can be a good thesis and conclusion?

For example we learn in the story that through power of friendship, Hope made Johnsy survive. Or something like that.

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Expert Answers
teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The power of friendship is a good theme. You would have to be explicit and explain how friendship and hope are connected. An even more compelling thesis might focus on the irony of Behrman getting sick and dying due to painting the leaf on the vine that keeps Sue alive. You could say something like, "Behrman's idea of being a protector means he paints a leaf that saves Johnsy, but destroys himself: through his actions, O'Henry shows both the power of art and self-sacrifice." Support for this could come from the following:

he was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.

You could point out that Sue is a good friend to Johnsy. However, Behrman, the neighbor who Sue and Johnsy hardly know, is not a good friend, just an acquaintance. Yet he makes a loving gesture in using his talents to help the young woman. He sacrifices himself for her. Of course, he doesn't know he will die, but he nevertheless goes out in the cold to paint the leaf that saves her.

It's always best, if possible, to conclude a paper by leaving the reader with an added thought, as advised by William Zinsser in his classic On Writing Well. We learn that the last leaf Behrman painted is his masterpiece. Is O'Henry saying artists have to sacrifice to create masterpieces? Is the story trying to tell us that the illusions artists create, often at great sacrifice to themselves, help heal a sick world just as Behrman's leaf helped heal Johnsy?

npdckrsn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, friendship and sacrifice for others is basically the theme of this work, but O'Henry's understated manner of telling the story emphasizes the fact that sacrifice can be hidden in love.  The story gives the best conclusion for sacrificial love:

" . . . look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn't you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it's Behrman's masterpiece—he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”

Greater love has no man than he who lays down his life for another. That is your conclusion if you think about it.  Think about how unselfish Johnsy's friends are. Look at her reaction to the leaf and how she realizes suddenly that SHE has been selfish. A masterpiece, that leaf, was all she needed and all the old man could give.

Good luck with your work.