Characters Response To Loss In Literature

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Many works of literature include themes of loss that carry the plot along or illustrate life lessons through characters' response to this loss. Characters in the short stories “Gwilan’s Harp” by Ursula K. LeGuin, “The Washwoman” by Isaac Singer, and “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry, all experience losses, reacting to them in a variety of ways. Gwilan, the main character in "Gwilan's Harp," emerges from the many unfortunate events of her life with a new positive outlook on her circumstances. The central figure of "The Washwoman" responds to losses in her life in a steadfast manner that adds intrigue to the plot. How Johnsy, one of the main characters in "The Last Leaf," reacts to loss ultimately contributes to the message of the story. Although…show more content…
Her troubles begin when she loses her health and mental stability as a result of the pneumonia outbreak ravaging her city. Eventually, Johnsy loses her will to live, deciding she wants to die when a vine outside her window sheds its last leaf. However, because she wishes to die she soon experiences another loss when one of her closest friends, Mr. Behrman, succumbs to the cold after saving Johnsy's life by painting a leaf on the wall outside her window so the vine appeared never to lose all of its leaves. How Johnsy and the other characters reacted to the losses she experienced illustrated the life lesson that one person's actions affect those around that person. Johnsy reacted poorly to losing her health, wishing death upon herself and prompting her friend to tell Mr. Behrman "'[Johnsy] is very ill and weak…the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies…'" (Henry). Mr. Behrman heard the news of Johnsy's wish to die and tried to save her life, ultimately dying in the process. Johnsy experiences loss in various ways, and it is her reaction to each loss that ultimately affects the people around
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