9 of the Most Knockout Last Lines in Literature

Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day

Unlike Rick Astley, a character’s final words WILL give you up, let you down, run around, and hurt you. They can make you cry, say goodbye, tell a lie, and hurt you. And whether it’s the book that’s ending on that final, poignant line, or a beloved character who is eloquently kicking the bucket while the book goes on, last words can make your heart explode.

We’re celebrating a few of our favorites, because sometimes we like to make ourselves feel feelings just so we can be absolutely sure we’re still human beings. Is that so wrong? Here goes nothing:

—Severus Snape, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Why it tears us up: We were wrong about him this whole, entire time. THIS WHOLE TIME. And the real heartbreaker is that Snape never actually says it out loud. It’s all in the subtext.

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”
—Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind
Why it tears us up: Her daughter’s dead. Her husband’s missing and likely drunk. She’s wearing a dress she probs made out of drapes or whatever. She’s trying to eat a root vegetable she pulled from the ground. Are we mixing up the imagery of the book and the movie? 99% positive. Still, the optimism. It burns.

“I am haunted by humans.”
—Death, the narrator of The Book Thief
Why it tears us up: So are we.

“So this is what everybody’s always talking about. Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty!”
—Oscar Wao, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Why it tears us up: The line is delivered posthumously (in a letter), and it just seems all the more sad that way. Wao’s all-too-brief life is unfair, and that fact is annoying.

“Well, good-by.”
—Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby
Why it tears us up: SO SIMPLE.

“I should hope, then, that by the time of my employer’s return, I shall be in a position to pleasantly surprise him.”
—Mr. Stevens, The Remains of the Day
Why it tears us up: Stevens has totally nailed being a butler for his whole entire life—to his emotional detriment, let’s face it—and now, on top of everything else, he’s gotta learn how to banter? He’s been listening to other people talk so he can learn how to joke around?! It’s heartbreaking and he doesn’t even know it! Stevens—just Thelma and Louise it off a damn cliff. No wait, don’t. We love you.

“Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now.”
—Lenny, Of Mice and Men
Why it tears us up: Come on. We ALL know there will be no farm and no rabbits.

“Oh no! Please, not again! Have pity! Have mercy!”
—Roland of Gilead, The Dark Tower VII
Why it tears us up: Because everything is futile and nothing matters and we’re all just hamsters on wheels. Spoil it for yourself if you really want to know why this line leads to an existential crisis.

“‘Forever,’ he said.”
—Florentino Ariza, Love in the Time of Cholera 
Why it tears us up: Love, you guys. Love.

  • Lou Ellen Cryer

    …would be there all night and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” Father love, just keep on keeping on. Understated, simple, good.

  • Erin Moore Quinney

    “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.” –Charles Dickens. That is the first book that ever made me cry.

    • Sheri321

      My Uncle Jacob got a year 2013 Audi TT RS Coupe by working part time
      online. imp source B­i­g­4­1­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Trevor McKinley Robertson

    This would be a great list if it weren’t trying sooooo hard to be Buzzfeed. Do your own thang, B&N.

  • Heather Scott-Penselin

    “You’re joking, Perce! You actually are joking….I don’t think I’ve heard you joke since…” Fred – Harry Potter and the deathly hallows. Just so sad and just so Fred.,

    • Melissa Albert

      I’m rereading the whole HP series right now, and every scene with Fred and George hurts my heart a little.

  • crunchycon

    It is not often someone comes along that’s a true friend and good writer. Charlotte was both.

  • Russ Perry Jr

    “Maillot didn’t even know he was dying.” Punch-in-the-gut ending to “Weekend At Dunkirk” (originally “Week-end at Zuydcoote”) that put me in a funk after reading this somewhere in my high school years.

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