An Unlikely Influence In The Washwoman And The Last Leaf

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An Unlikely Influence

In the short stories “Gwilan’s Harp” by Ursula K. LeGuin, “The Washwoman” by Isaac Singer, and “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry death prevails as the dominant theme. Many of the characters learn what true sacrifice looks like from the actions of those around them. Upon her husband’s death, Gwilan, from “Gwilan’s Harp” discovers the heartbreak of loss, but by the story’s end, Gwilan discovers her worth. “The Washwoman” tells the tale of a hardy, but elderly washwoman, whose death greatly affects a young Jewish boy for better. Finally, “The Last Leaf” unravels the story of unlikely hero, and how he saves a young painter from her death. Though all of these stories differ greatly in setting and in characters, they all share
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The old, but muscular Washwoman came every few weeks to the boy's home, she would then take the dirty laundry back to her house to wash and clean it. The attitude she displayed, struck the boy with interest; he had never met such a kind, but hardworking woman. The Washwoman’s son abandoned her, she lived in poverty with no friends, and her husband had died, yet she worked with zeal and kindness. “I cannot even imagine paradise without this Gentile woman,” (Singer). Even when death gripped her, she returned the boy’s family’s laundry, only to die in the following weeks. The everlasting affect the Washwoman had on the young boy changed his life, even though she never would know her affects on him. The Washwoman’s death, though deeply saddening, changed the boy’s life for…show more content…
Henry describes how Berhman, a gruff, old painter, saves a young girl's life. Johnsy, the young painter, contracted pneumonia in the colder months of fall. She watches the leaves of an ivy vine fall outside her window, and convinces herself that with the fall of the last leave, she will die. Berhman, disturbed by Johnsy's pessimistic behavior, sneaks out to paint a leaf on the vine. His plan succeeds, but due to the frigid rain, Behrman too contracts pneumonia and dies. Johnsy looks out her window to see the last leaf still clinging to the vine. “Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was,” (O. Henry). However, through Berhman's selfless actions, Johnsy realizes her foolish behavior, and matures through Behrman's
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