We often hear about people’s famous last words, but what about a book‘s famous last lines? After wading your way through hundreds of pages and a great story, a good author knows to finish on a high note by supplying you with a killer ending, and that includes some great last lines. Here are some of the best endings in literature that will leave you wanting more.
1984 by George Orwell
George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, which he wrote in the 1940s, concerns the protagonist Winston Smith going up against the towering figure of O’Brien, whom he thinks may have revolutionary thoughts like he does. But Big Brother and the vast state apparatus breaks Winston, and Orwell finishes the novel with one of the most chilling lines in literature given all that has come before, and one that still resonates so much today.
“He loved Big Brother.”
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This novel about the ultimate teenage rebel, Holden Caulfield, has been the bible of youthful angst for decades. Written in a subjective style that catches the inner workings of the mind of its main protagonist, it retains a modern feel to this day, even if it is firmly rooted in America in the 1950s. As you’d expect, Holden has some haunting final advice for his captive audience.
“It’s funny. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Arguably the book with the most famous opening line of all time – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – this titan of a novel by Charles Dickens also has a pretty good ending too. The setting is huge, that of London and Paris during the French Revolution. Many of his works were originally serialized in newspapers, making them the blockbuster mini-series of their time. If there is one thing Dickens knew well, it was how to keep his readers begging for more.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
Emma by Jane Austen
Jane Austen wrote a slew of masterpieces detailing the compromised situations women in middle-to-high society found themselves in. More than her other ensemble works like Pride And Prejudice and Sense And Sensibility, in Emma Austen focuses on youthful folly, incorrect notions of romance, and the consequences. But Emma’s good nature holds firm to the very end despite the challenges she faces.
“But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series, extending over 7 main novels, was beloved the world over, and it is fitting that the final one in the series should have an ending that was as positive as it was brief. After some great elaborate endings in the previous novels to set up the next one, the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is simple and sweet.
“All was well.”
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
One of the great horror classics, everyone knows the story of Frankenstein’s monster, even if they haven’t read the book. A common misconception is that Frankenstein is the name of the creature when it is actually the surname of the scientist, Victor Frankenstsin, who creates it. The horror continues to the end when the creature realizes that killing its creator will not bring it peace and it vows to remove itself from the world.
“He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Another dystopian gem like 1984, this tale of total domination of women in an uber-male world imagines what life in New England would be like after a hard-line theocracy takes over control of North America. Atwood doesn’t shy away from a chilling final line.
“Are there any questions?”