The Last Leaf

by O. Henry

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What is the setting of "The Last Leaf"?

Quick answer:

"The Last Leaf" is set in Greenwich Village at the turn of the last century. More particularly, it is set in November in a sick room where Johnsy, suffering from pneumonia, has a view through the small panes of her window of a brick wall, where a vine is shedding its last leaves.

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The larger setting of "The Last Leaf" is Greenwich Village at the turn of the last century. The narrator describes this part of New York City as a quaint and picturesque location. It has buildings with north-facing windows that provide good light for painting, as well as charming decorative gables and attic rooms. Its winding, confusing streets make it easy for starving artists to evade bill collectors, and the rents are attractively low.

If the story begins with a metaphoric camera panning across and through this whimsical setting, perhaps following an artist ducking into doorways and alleys to evade a bill collector, it soon zooms in on a particular spot.

This is a "squatty" three story brick building where two young women, Johnsy and Sue, share an artist's studio on the top floor. It is November, and the cold weather has brought with it an influx of pneumonia. The setting moves to a particular room where Johnsy is suffering in a "painted iron" bed.

This setting is significant because Johnsy can see through her small window panes to the brick wall of the next door house. A vine grows on that wall, and Johnsy has taken into her head the idea that once the last leaf falls from the vine, she will die.

The setting, with its sick room looking across to a vine, is integral to the plot of the story.

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