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Great Last Lines in Literature

29 Jul

It’s the last thought… the door closing… the last lines in some of my favorite works of literature.

I think a great last line is strong enough to stand on its own, to provoke thought even without the support of the rest of the work. Of course, if you are already familiar with these works, the last line may bring back your own thoughts on these writings, the feeling you may have had as you turned the last page. The last line is the end of the author’s thoughts and the beginning of your own. It inspires the reader to meander with the prose, even after the story ends. 

  • The eyes and the faces all turned themselves toward me, and guiding myself by them, as by a magical thread, I stepped into the room. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
  • Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody. J. D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye
  • He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
  • I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy, nor subscribe to the Salvation Army, nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill, nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant. That is a beginning. George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
  • “Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
  • And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly procession, besides neighbors not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown
  • Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity! Herman Melville, Bartleby, The Scrivener 
  • When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease–of joy that kills. Kate Chopin, The Story of an Hour
  • Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger. James Joyce, Araby
  • I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thing will come back no more. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winter Dreams
  • He went on down the hill, toward the dark woods within which the liquid silver voices of the birds called unceasing–the rapid and urgent beating of the urgent and quiring heart of the late spring night. He did not look back. William Faulkner, Barn Burning 
  • She kept watching him even when she was through cutting the onions and she kept on watching until it was no longer possible for her to see him, because then he  was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings
  • They all watched me dance with my grandmother. I was my grandmother, dancing. Sherman Alexie, What You Pawn I Will Redeem
  • A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen. Henry David Thoreau, Walden
  • I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita. Vladamir Nabokov, Lolita
  • Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

The End

P.S. What’s your favorite last line?

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