The Memorable Last Words of Literary Characters


Today, we’re celebrating literature’s first detective story, which became a prototype for the greatest modern mystery tales and the analytical sleuths that investigated them. This weekend marks the 173rd publication anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which first appeared in Graham’s Magazine back in 1841. Protagonist C. Auguste Dupin, a Parisian man who becomes embroiled in a bloody case, solves the bizarre murder mystery surrounding two women without the help of the police force. The story’s final line comes from a puffed-up Dupin, who after ruffling the prefect of police’s feathers, snarkily states: “I like him especially for one master stroke of cant, by which he has attained his reputation for ingenuity. I mean the way he has ‘de nier ce qui est, et d’expliquer ce qui n’est pas.’ (‘To deny what is, and to explain what is not.’)” We felt inspired to look back on some of the most memorable last words of literary characters — those that mark a character’s journey, several closing quips, and a few dying utterances. Add your favorite quotes, below.

Othello The ultimate sacrifice for love:

I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee: no way but this;

Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.

Moby Dick A defiant and dramatic end:

“Thus, I give up the spear!”

A Tale of Two Cities Philosophical resignation:

“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.”

Hamlet Only one lives to tell the story of a family gone wrong:

“The rest is silence.”

Heart of Darkness A reverberating revolt:

“The horror! The horror!”

The Sun Also Rises Disillusioned youth:

“Yes… Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Goodbye, McMurphy:

“I’ve took their best punch.”

The Dead Zone A bittersweet resolution:

“We knew each other.”

By Night in Chile Life, death, everything:

“And then the storm of shit begins.”

Anna Karenina Facing the ultimate judgment:

“Lord, forgive me everything.”

Candide Self-preservation:

“All that is very well, but let us cultivate our garden.”

Don Quixote Socially prescribed codes of honor:

“I was mad, now I am in my senses. I was Don Quixote de La Mancha, I am now, as I said, Alanso Quixano, the good; and may my repentance and sincerity restore me to the esteem you used to have for me; and now let the Master Notary proceed.”

The Godfather Ironical ending for a man who caused so much death:

“Life is so beautiful.”

Beowulf Death with honor:

“You are the last of us, the only one left of the Waegmundings. Fate swept us all away, sent my whole brave high-born clan to their final doom. Now I must follow them.”

The Great Gatsby The death of the American dream:

“Well, good-by.”

The Wings of the Dove Two lovers part:

“We shall never be again as we were!”

Peter Pan A middle finger from a man with no hand:

“Bad form.”

Gone with the Wind Total denial:

“Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”

The Public Burning “Vigorous satire“:

“Vaya con Dios, my darklin’, and remember: vote early and vote often, don’t take any wooden nickels, and… always leave ’em laughin’ as you say good-bye!”

The Trial The inhumanity of it all:

“Like a dog!”

The Return of the King Onward and upward:

“Well, I’m back.”