10 Powerful Closing Lines

Man writing

Plots, settings, and even characters fade from our memory in time, but endings can remain with us forever, if they are unforgettable…

(In no particular order.)

1. Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

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. – (Sydney Carton’s unspoken thoughts before being guillotined.)

2. Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.

3. George Orwell, Animal Farm

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.

4. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

At twelve o’clock Werther breathed his last. The presence of the steward, and the precautions he had adopted, prevented a disturbance; and that night, at the hour of eleven, he caused the body to be interred in the place which Werther had selected for himself. The steward and his sons followed the corpse to the grave. Albert was unable to accompany them. Charlotte’s life was despaired of. The body was carried by labourers. No priest attended.

5. Albert Camus, The Stranger

For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.

6. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR. I am haunted by humans.

7. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

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.

8. Bernhard Schlink, The Reader

As soon as I returned from New York, I donated Hanna’s money in her name to the Jewish League Against Illiteracy. I received a short, computer-generated letter in which the Jewish League thanked Ms. Hanna Schmitz for her donation. With the letter in my pocket, I drove to the cemetery, to Hanna’s grave. It was the first and only time I stood there.

9. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

10. Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

…The other skeleton, which held this [one] in so close an embrace, was that of a man. It was noticed that his spine was curved, his head close between his shoulder-blades, and one leg shorter than the other. Moreover, his neck was not broken, and it was evident that he had not been hanged. The man to whom these bones belonged must therefore have come hither himself and died here. When an attempt was made to loose him from the skeleton which he clasped, he crumbled into dust.

Which is your favorite?


52 thoughts on “10 Powerful Closing Lines

  1. My favorite is Moby Dick. Something about Ismael floating on the coffin and found. “One day you will smell land and there will be no land” great line.

  2. I am haunted by humans….
    Great compilation.
    Hey. Just a tip. You may want to put your blog in “summary” form so you get a view when people click to your blog to read, otherwise we can read your posts from email or the Reader. It’s in settings under “reading.”

    1. I like that much.

      I wonder, what would happen if Millie and Vincent met at night in a garden dark? Would Millie produce her scrapbook and her diaries and show them to him? And would he blush? And would Millie point at the moon and say, ‘It’s round!’ Curiouser and curiouser…

      1. I would recite that line verbatim, and then I would do all those things. However, I’d probably point out each individual moon crater and ask you to play connect the dots.

  3. Great article! I’ll cast my vote for this one:
    9. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
    So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

      1. Hi! I like the Alice in Wonderland quote the best, especially this part: “how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago…”
        How she’s sharing her experience with the other kids, and their excited reaction, is sweet. ~Kat

  4. “Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” by far! I’m curious, as well, about which ones you prefer? Or is this a list of your ten favourite ones?
    Hope you had a great week-end! 🙂

  5. I always liked the end of Middlemarch: But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

      1. I need to reread Middlemarch. I read it years ago and found it tedious. I think I didn’t know what to be looking for — the pieces that make the story beautiful.

  6. The closing line of Peter Pan was pretty interesting:
    ” . . . and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.”

  7. From this list, George Orwell would have to be my favourite. And have you seen Porco Rosso, by any chance? Has nothing whatsoever to do with this post, but it is a beautiful story of a man who is a pig who is a man…

  8. I like No.2 (Alice) because it reminds me that many members of my family have been storytellers for many generations, handing down magic from one to the other: from my granny, to my mother, to me, to my children, to my grandchildren.

    I also like, but don’t like No.2 (of Pigs and Men), as it makes me think of all the humans–mostly those in charge–who ruin this world. On the other hand, sometimes humans outdo pigs with grossness, as they should know better.

  9. The Tale of Two Cities’ last line resounds with me. It was completely worth trying to work my way through the book three separate times – only the last successful.

    A last line a came across this year was from the Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
    “He watches the ocean surrender to the night, knowing that the light will reappear.”

Leave a Reply to tkmorin Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s