10 of the Greatest Last Lines in Literature

On the walk to school, my third grade writing friend asks me what to do if she can’t figure out how to end her story.

“I don’t just want to write, And they lived happily ever after.”

Another friend adds in, “Or what about, And they were never heard from again? That’s bad, but it’s my favorite.”

We talk about endings on this walk. We talk about how some of us like a little summary–a neat bow–that wraps everything up. Others like a little mystery. They want a cliffhanger that keeps them up all night. Another friend says she wants endings with hope and a promise that the story will continue.

We talk about the greatest endings in all of literature. We can quote some by heart, but others, we search for.

Here are my favorites:

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

“He would be there all night, and he would be there when Gem waked up in the morning.” To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.

“All of them, all except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way–if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy.” A Separate Peace, John Knowles

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

“After all, tomorrow is another day.” Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.

“‘God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,’ whispered Anne softly.” Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery.

“They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow / through Eden took their solitary way.” Paradise Lost, John Milton.

“Then shouldering their burdens, they set off, seeking a path that would bring them over the grey hills of the Emyn Muil, and down into the Land of Shadow.” The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien.

“I love you right up to the moon–and back.” Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney

“My troubles are now over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple trees.”Black Beauty, Anna Sewell.

And one more just because:

“From the Land of Oz,” said Dorothy gravely. “And here is Toto, too. And oh, Aunt Em! I’m so glad to be at home again!” The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

I love a great ending! What would you add to this list?

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  1. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past. Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)