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Best Closing Lines in Literature

Last week, I posted a list of some of the best opening lines in literature. In that post, I said that the first sentence in a novel is arguably the most important component to any work. While I still think that that is true, I also think that the final lines in novels are a *very* close second. How disappointing is it to open up a book and read the entire story only to come to the last page and see that the final line is lame? It’s a huge letdown, am I right? The last thing a writer wants to do is have disappointed readers, and that’s why good writers slave away over their closing lines just as much as they do their opening lines. The payoff for their efforts, however, can sometimes be absolutely astounding, which’s why I’ve put together a list of some the best closing lines in literature to inspire you to do the same with your stories, dear readers.

Cloud Atlas~David Mitchell

Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?

The Cellist of Sarajevo~Steven Galloway

Her lips move and a moment before the door splinters off its hinges she says, her voice strong and quiet, “My name is Alisa.”

1984-George Orwell

He loved Big Brother.

The Handmaid’s Tale~Margaret Atwood

Are there any questions?

Memoirs of a Geisha~Arthur Golden

Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.

American Psycho~Bret Easton Ellis

Someone has already taken out a Minolta cellular phone and called for a car, and then, when I’m not really listening, watching instead someone who looks remarkably like Marcus Halberstam paying a check, someone asks, simply, not in relation to anything, “Why?” and though I’m very proud that I have cold blood and that I can keep my nerve and do what I’m supposed to do, I catch something, then realize it: Why? and automatically answering, out of the blue, for no reason, just opening my mouth, words coming out, summarizing for the idiots: “Well, though I know I should have done that instead of not doing it, I’m twenty-seven for Christ sakes and this, uh, how life presents itself in a bar or in a club in New York, maybe anywhere, at the end of the century and how people, you know, me, behave, and this is what being Patrick means to me, I guess, so, well, yup, uh…” and this is followed by a sigh, then a slight shrug and another sigh, and above one of the doors covered by red velvet drapes in Harry’s is a sign and on the sign in letters that match the drapes’ color are the words THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.

Lord of the Flies~William Golding 

He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together; and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance.

The Shipping News~Annie Proulx

And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.

Never Let Me Go~Kazuo Ishiguro

I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.

Out Stealing Horses~Per Petterson

The wind still came icily down between the houses from the river, and my hand felt swollen and sore where the nails had pierced the skin when I clenched it so hard, but all the same everything felt fine at that moment; the suit was fine, and the town was fine to walk in, along the cobblestone street, and we do decide for ourselves when it will hurt.

The Catcher in the Rye~J. D. Salinger

Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.

The Kite Runner~Khaled Hosseini

I ran with the wind blowing in my face, and a smile as wide as the valley of Panjsher on my lips. I ran.

Out~Ronald Sukenick

this way this way this way this way this way this way this

                                            way out this

                                                 way out


To the Lighthouse~Virginia Woolf

Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest~Stieg Larsson

She opened the door wide and let him into her life again.

The Great Gatsby~F. Scott Fitzgerald

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

The House of the Spirits~Isabel Allende

It begins like this: Barrabás came to us by sea…

Lolita~Vladimir Nabokov

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.

Bridget Jones’s Diary~Helen Fielding

An excellent year’s progress.

The Unnamable~Samuel Beckett

Perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.


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