The Last Leaf As A Short Story

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Edgar Allan Poe, one of the foremost exponents of the literary genre of short story, in his essay The Philosophy of Composition explicates that all works should be short, with the exception of novels. “There is,” he writes, “a distinct limit... to all works of literary art - the limit of one sitting.” He especially emphasized this “rule” with regards to poetry, but also noted that the short story is superior to the novel for this reason alone. Although there may be debate with respect to his sweeping generalisation, still his evaluation of the genre is correct. A good short story captures a slice of life like an impressionist painting which revel itself in momentary, short and abrupt brush strokes. The dynamism or flux inherent in impressionist painting can also be found in a short story which usually focuses on only one incident, has a single plot, a single setting, a limited number of characters and covers a short period of time. In longer forms of fiction, stories tend to contain certain core elements of dramatic structure: exposition, complication, rising action, crisis, climax and resolution. Due to its short length, short stories may or may not follow this pattern. For example, modern short stories only occasionally have an exposition. More typical, though, is an abrupt beginning, with the story starting in the middle of the action. However, the endings of many short stories are abrupt and open, an art taken to great height by writers like Maupassant and O’Henry. The “sting in the tail” ending gives the narrative a twist that startles the readers with its unexpectedness. In the story “The Last Leaf”, this brevity is achieved through the single plot, built upon a single situation. The narrative is simply about Johnsy’s depressed mind, haunted and tormented with a morbid fancy of impending death which she equated with the fall of the last leaf of a vine tree.
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