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Last Courtesies Summary
Ella Leffland

Everything you need to understand or teach Last Courtesies by Ella Leffland.

  • Last Courtesies Summary & Study Guide

Last Courtesies Summary


Ella Leffland's short story “Last Courtesies” is surprisingly violent. But the violence is, at least at the beginning, more suggested than explicit. In the foreground, the protagonist Lillian suppresses violent urges, while she is described as “too polite.” Throughout most of this story, Lillian is filled with fear and remorse, but she is determined to keep her emotions in check. She does go out of her way to not return rudeness expressed toward her. There are, however, moments when doing so is impossible, just as there are moments when the background violence of this story leaks through. This story is a psychological study of eccentrics. The violence erupts in ever mounting stages as the eccentricities of the characters collide, culminating in the brutality at the end.

“Last Courtesies” was first published in 1976 in Harper's Magazine. It was then chosen for the O. Henry Award for best short story the...

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