Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Last Leaf

If hope is an illusion, it's a mighty good one.

Of the many stories I read, none has ever consistently given me goosebumps as O. Henry’s “The Last Leaf”. It’s always the same, from the first time I read it in high school up to this day, 15 years later, this story has continually given me hope. I’ve always been touched with how the story turned out. After a fierce battle with pneumonia, Johnsy survived because a leaf clung to the bough despite the rains and the winds. And Behrman, the old drunk “failure in art” succumbed to the same illness without having painted his masterpiece. In his classic masterful manner, O. Henry pleasantly shocks his readers by ending the “The Last Leaf” with this statement from Sue, “Look at 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 the last leaf fell.”

Whenever I reach this part, I always feel strange. The goosebumps start and my eyes cloud. Something is terribly wrong, and yet nothing can be more right. It’s like I’m expecting a few more words at the bottom of the page, when there are none. The story has ended.

Perhaps it’s one of life’s greatest mysteries. We obtain hope from the most bizarre sources: a dream to fulfill, a task to complete, a statement to make, a destination to conquer, a love to claim. At the end of the day, we get better and realize the painful truth – that hope was an illusion after all. But the fact remains – we survived, and even got better.

We move on, while that person who created that illusion we so eagerly fell for - that illusion that so unexpectedly made better individuals out of us – that person who saved us succumbed to his own battles, after unknowingly painting his masterpiece.

For all we know, we may be creating illusions of hope for someone too. So if hope is an illusion, it's a mighty good one. It definitely is somebody's masterpiece.


Reena said...

hmm. i know this story too. it's one of the stories my dad compiled for his speeches. :)

well, i guess false hopes are okay when the end is good.

Hamed said...

Thanks. I read it.:)