The 20 Best Last Lines in Novels

Last linesFamous Last Words

Some books’ final sentences are like a ribbon tied into a pretty bow and handed to the reader as a satisfying conclusion. Others completely alter the story line and make the reader re-think everything about what was just read. In both cases, the closing lines of a novel are the last chance for an author to make an impression on the reader and to leave the reader thinking about the novel long after the reading process is over. Below are some of the most poetic, puzzling, evocative and effective last words – 20 of the best last lines ever written.

1. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

2. Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you? – Ralph Ellison,
Invisible Man

3. …you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on. –Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

4. So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing. —  A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

5. In a place far away from anyone or anywhere, I drifted off for a moment. —  Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 

6. “Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises 

7. He loved Big Brother. – George Orwell1984

8. No got… C’lom Fliday — William S. Burroughs, The Naked Lunch

9. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway
leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky—
seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness. –Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

10. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my
vision. –Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

11. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the
universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and
the dead. –James Joyce, “The Dead” in Dubliners

12. 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. –Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita 

13. And you say, “Just a moment, I’ve almost finished If on a winter’s night a
traveler by Italo Calvino.” –Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler

14. And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea – Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

15. Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. –Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

16. When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

17. So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.
–Jack Kerouac, On the Road

18. In the morning it was morning and I was still alive. Maybe I’ll write a novel, I thought. And then I did. — Charles Bukowski, Post Office

19. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody. J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

20. The eyes and faces all turned themselves towards me, and guiding myself by them, as by a magical thread, I stepped into the room — Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

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One thought on “The 20 Best Last Lines in Novels

  1. Pingback: 20 More of the Greatest Last Lines in Novels | readers+writers journal

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