'Gwilan's Harp, And The Last Leaf'

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Everyone in this world experiences some large loss in their lifetime. “Gwilan’s Harp” by Ursula K. LeGuin, “The Washwoman” by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry all starkly portray this theme. The harpist in “Gwilan’s Harp” loses her harp and then later her skills and soon after her beloved husband. In “The Washwoman”, the dear old launderer has lost the love of her son, health, and soon her life. One of the artists in “The Last Leaf” loses her hope for living when she contracts pneumonia and because of his care for her she ends up losing the best neighbor she could hope for. All three authors carefully weave in many life lessons through the bittersweet stories they tell.

Ursula K. LeGuin, in her exquisite story “Gwilan’s Harp”, illustrates how loss often dominates one’s life. Gwilan, a young harpist from Ireland in the eighth of ninth century AD, since the age of a teenager wanders about giving concerts and contesting with others. One
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Despite having lost her husband sometime before the story picks up, she stoutly continues life. Though she might have had a better life previous to that loss, she is subjected to the degrading job of a washwoman; laundering others clothes for a little pay. Her only child, a son, turns away from poor, hardworking mother. “He was ashamed of his mother, the washerwoman, and never came to see her. Nor did ever give her a groschen” (Singer). Even in the face of all these losses the old woman tells her sad story of pain and grief without any bitterness against her cold hearted son. In the midst of a frigid November she takes ill and stubbornly refuses to die until she can return the wash. Because of her weak health and the icy weather she dies. The washer woman always took losses as a normal part of life and resolutely refused to let herself collapse simply for some loss, even large

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