12 Pretty Neat Last Lines from Literature

To round out last week’s post 11 swoon-worthy first lines from novels I tried to hunt for fantastic last lines. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was much harder to find great last lines. It seems like people are always talking about how important a writer’s opening line is, but I find as a reader I am more often disappointed by the last line of a novel or short story and as a writer I find them much more difficult to craft. Also, it turns out that there aren’t that many lists on the internet, other than this one. Shocking!

Here are some of my favorites that I found. I don’t see as clear of a theme between this list as clearly as the last list. If I was going to categorize them, I’d say that about half sum up the whole narrative and the other half have a great sense of finality. Enjoy the list below and please share some of your favorites!

“Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

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

“I saw them come out and I saw they were naked, unshy, beautiful, and fill of grace and I watched the naked women walk out of the sea” John Cheever, “Goodbye My Brother” (Full disclosure, this is a story not a novel.)

“I will never come back, and if I do there will be nothing left, there will be nothing left but the headstones to record what has happened; there will really be nothing at all.” John Cheever, The Wapshot Scandal

“He stayed that way for a long time and when he aroused himself and again looked out of the car window the town of Winesburg had disappeared and his life there had become but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood.” Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio

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

“She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life.” Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

“I been away a long time.” Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

“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

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

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” E.B. White, Charlottes Web

Eleven Swoon-Worthy First Lines from Novels

Writer’s Digest had a great giveaway this week (still going on) where commenters listed their favorite opening sentence from a novel. All writers (and most readers for that matter) know the importance of the opening line. We have been told again and again that it needs to act as a hook, and grab the reader. Below are eleven of my all time favorite first lines. They don’t just “hook” the reader but also seem to me to sum up the entire meaning of each book and immediately show the tone/voice of the writer or narrating character.

Please share some of your own favorite first lines in the comments or let me know which from the below you like! And if you have any advice for writing first lines, don’t be stingy! I’m still working on mine.

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

“All children, except one, grow up.” J.M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy

“All this happened, more or less.” Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

“You better not never tell nobody but God.” Alice Walker, The Color Purple

“My wound is geography.” Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides

“Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise

“Those girls’ people said, ‘think they can do anything and get away with it.” Zelda Fitzgerald, Save me the Waltz