A lot of people think (this people included :P) that a book’s tone is often set by its first line. While this is definitely a true statement, a lot can be said about a book’s last lines as well. Good last lines not only tie all the ideas and images together, they can also give a prelude of what’s in store for the character’s future, what the author desired to convey with the story, and, often, leave one with a great literary “aftertaste”.
The below PDF link was compiled by The American Book Review and contains 100 of the best last lines from novels…
A few of my personal favorites:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
“Then I went back into the house and wrote, It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not raining.” – Samuel Beckett, Molloy (1951)
“If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle (1963)
“Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.” – Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)
“Are there any questions?” – Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)
“It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.” – Toni Morrison, Sula (1973)
“And he couldn’t do it. He could not fucking die. How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here.” – Philip Roth, Sabbath’s Theater (1995)
Let me know in the comments if you agree (or disagree), what your personal favorite(s) is(are), or if you know of any you think were left off!