We’ve already seen how important a novel’s hook is, but the final lines of a book tend to say a lot about the story as a whole.
Getting the first line of a book right is a challenge, but the last line has its own pressures as well. It has to enact the proper closure for the story and communicate the overall meaning of the book. 9 times out of 10, the ending of the story comes with the devastating ends of beloved characters or settings.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a sad ending, so long as it also satisfies in some way. Regardless of how it ends, there’s a lot you can learn about a book by reading its last line.
Let’s begin with one of the more obvious ones:
All was well. —J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I figured this was a fair way to end the series, but then I read The Cursed Child…
Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this! —Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Sweet and satisfying.
He loved Big Brother. —George Orwell, 1984
You really cannot get any bleaker than this.
Please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard. —Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
Please, can I have my heart back now?
I’m so glad to be at home again. —L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
An honest response to a rather unfortunate adventure.
Well, I’m back. —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
I AM NOT OKAY WITH HOW CHILL THIS ENDING IS. REPEAT, I AM NOT OKAY.
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. —George Orwell, Animal Farm
Okay, that one hit a little too deep.
And they walked away together through the hole in the wall, back into the darkness, leaving nothing behind them; not even the doorway. —Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
Utterly haunting, as Gaiman always is.
After all, tomorrow is another day. —Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
Optimistic? No, more like unrealistic, heartbreaking, and tragic.
He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. —Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Leave it to a Romantic to end on such a devastating note.
It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a great writer. Charlotte was both. —E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
I can feel my childhood crumbling all over again.
I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fl uttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. —Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
A gentle ending for Brontë’s long-suffering characters.
“Shut up, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said. “It’s no real pleasure in life.” —Flannery O’Connor, (A Good Man Is Hard To Find (From The Complete Short Stories)
This one hit me right in the face.
A Last Note from Your Narrator: I am haunted by humans. —Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
And I am haunted by this entire book, what else is new?
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
As much as I disliked this story, I must admit—this is likely the best ending to a book ever.
Did I miss any good ones? Tell me in the comments.