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What is the plot of "The Last Leaf?"

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Pneumonia, called Mr. Pneumonia, is sweeping through the Greenwich Village neighborhood where two women artists, Johnsy and Sue, live in a studio. A doctor comes and tells Sue that Johnsy will probably recover from the pneumonia if she believes she will. However, since she doesn't, he says her chance of dying is ninety percent.

Johnsy somehow believes that she will die when the last leaf falls from the vine outside her window. When the neighbor below, Mr. Behrman, also an artist, hears of this, he says he will paint his "masterpiece" and Johnsy will get well. Mr. Behrman has not had success as an artist, but the leaf he paints on the vine for Johnsy to look at outside her window is so detailed and realistic that she does think it is real. Because it never falls, she recovers.

Ironically, however, Mr. Behrman gets pneumonia by standing outside in bad weather painting the leaf that saves Johnsy. He dies—but he has painted his masterpiece, the last leaf.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In this story, there are two artists who live together in an apartment.  Johnsy (a woman) is very sick.  She believes that she is going to die as soon as the last leaf falls off a vine she can see outside her window.  Sue, her roommate, keeps telling her she's not going to die, but she believes she will.

Their downstairs neighbor is an old man, a failed artist who always says he's going to paint a masterpiece.  He goes out in the night and paints a leaf on the wall behind the vine, right where the last leaf is.  Johnsy sees that the last leaf never falls off and she recovers.

Ironically, the old man dies of the same disease Johnsy had, but at least he painted his masterpiece.

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