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The last leaf - Art for Human Life / Literary criticism essay (English)
THE LAST LEAF Summary and brief comment (English)
Подвиг художника. Сочинение по рассказу О. Генри «Последний листок» (Русский)
Биография О. Генри. (Русский)
The Last LeafThe last leaf - Art for Human Life (Literary criticism essay)
After reading the story, perhaps many readers can say that American artists’ life is so poor. It seems be totally true. Nothing their property is. Their residences are bad too, “north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents”. Sue and Johnsy are those kind of artist. However, Old Buhrman is the best exemplary one. So is it true that “The last leaf” was written in order to accuse the misery of American artists? It must be NO.
The profound meaning of the story, as the main sound of a song, is the deep-felt love between poor artists. That love wins poverty, disease. That love is more valuable than art. It makes art become alive.
The time when that love is revealed is “a cold, unseen stranger” appears and touches his cold fingers on little Johnsy whose blood is going dry by wind from the west. Sue, her friend, does everything for her.
Sue draws many more illustrated paintings to earn money to buy soup, wine. She invites doctor to come to see her friend. She cooks, comforts Johnsy to eat and drink medicine. With Sue, the biggest hope of her is to see Johnsy become happy with her desperation, drawing the Naples guff. So noble that love is. But it is not strong enough to drown Johnsy’s desperation. Reading these pages, readers seem to be nearly strangled by her bigger and bigger desperation: “I want to see the last one fall. I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves.” Johnsy seems to be approaching her end. At that time, Old Buhrman appears.
Old Buhrman is the most strange in the story. His life is unsuccessful and miserable. The biggest unsuccessful thing is in art. For forty years, he has not touched the hem of art fairy. And after twenty years, he even cannot lay the first line of drawing for his masterpiece which he has been dreaming. His work is model. However, his portrait is staring at the end of life, he finishes his masterpiece: Johnsy’s life. He pours his rest life into Johnsy. That “loveful” voluntary act is silently taken place in a dark night but it makes Old artist become immortal.
The last leaf on the wall is hope and life which he leaves to not only Johnsy but also readers. It is sure that, Old Buhrman understands Johnsy’s emotion. He sympathizes with her spleenful embittered heart. He also loves her and wants to dispute her from the death. His thought is both deep and simple: the artist, Johnsy, believes that when the last leaf falls, she dies. So if it never falls, she is alive. That is very simple. But leaf falling is not avoidable. And he creates a leaf which never falls. He protests the law of the nature. He fights with his lofty heart and sincere art. And he rescues Johnsy. This is the beautiful meaning of his action.
The scenery in which Old Buhrman draw the leaf is very flutter,special and moral. In a dim and immense, cold and quiet night, the man is old and weak. How to draw a leaf like a real one. The last leaf is Buhrman’s masterpiece. Because it, his last painting, is drawn by his own heart in a extremely difficult circumstance. It takes Johnsy back to her life in which she can carries out her dream. And also, the painting reminds readers of the great sacrifice of honest artist.
Through Behrman, the theme of the story is revealed fully. By “The last leaf”, O’Henry sent to readers a message which is written on the last leaf which never falls: love everybody, for human’s life, that is why art suvives.
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