Introduction & Overview of Last Courtesies by Ella Leffland

Ella Leffland
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Last Courtesies Summary & Study Guide Description

Last Courtesies Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Reading on Last Courtesies by Ella Leffland.

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 following year. Four years later, the story was selected as the title piece for Leffland's collection Last Courtesies. In a New York Times review of this collection, John Romano referred to Leffland as one of the “poets of alienation” but distinguished her from others “in being essentially moral as well as psychological.” Romano also praised Leffland for the sympathy that she arouses for her characters without judging them.

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