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Famous Last Words: Parting Lines From Our Favorite Characters

Sarah Jane Abbott is an assistant editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.  She grew up having NANCY DREW books read to her by her father, and is now an avid reader of mystery, thriller, and horror, along with everything from literary fiction to poetry to personal essays.  She graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing.  Sarah Jane is an advocate of quasi-destructive book love—her best-loved volumes are highlighted, scribbled in, dog-eared, and wavy from being dropped in the bath tub.  

Legend has it that Oscar Wilde’s last words were “Either the wallpaper goes, or I do.” Unfortunately, the offensive wallpaper outlived Wilde—and his last remark has also outlived him and become part of literary history. In a great novel, a character’s last words can cover a vast range of emotions: despair, spite, hope, anger, peace. They are the words that stick with us long after the character is gone and the book is closed. We have collected some of our favorite famous last words here—the epic final utterances of characters who, despite their deaths, are immortal in our hearts. Be warned—if you haven’t read these books, spoilers ahead!


The Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien

“Fly, you fools!” —Gandalf the Grey

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A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens

“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.” —Sydney Carton

A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens

“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.” —Sydney Carton

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Famous Last Words: Parting Lines From Our Favorite Characters

By Sarah Jane Abbott | May 21, 2015

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The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
"Fool!...You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia,' but only slightly less well known is this: 'Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'" —Vizzini
The Princess Bride
William Goldman

If Your Favorite Character is Dustin Henderson

In the mind of “Toothless,” his best friend didn’t almost die. His comrade was captured by a monster, thus his band of merry adventurers went on a quest to rescue him. For more eccentric goofballs in perilous situations, try the book that preceded the classic movie “The Princess Bride.”

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Moby Dick
by Herman Melville

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!” —Captain Ahab

Moby Dick
Herman Melville

“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!” —Captain Ahab

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Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare

“A plague o’ both your houses!/They have made worms’ meat of me: I have it,/And soundly too. Your houses!” —Mercutio

Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare

“A plague o’ both your houses!/They have made worms’ meat of me: I have it,/And soundly too. Your houses!” —Mercutio

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The Godfather
by Mario Puzo

“Life is so beautiful.” —Vito Corleone

The Godfather
Mario Puzo

“Life is so beautiful.” —Vito Corleone

MENTIONED IN:

Famous Last Words: Parting Lines From Our Favorite Characters

By Sarah Jane Abbott | May 21, 2015

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The Lottery
by Shirley Jackson
“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right.” —Tessie Hutchinson
The Lottery
Shirley Jackson

On Sarah Jane’s wish list

THE LOTTERY has always been a favorite of mine, so when I heard that it was being adapted into a graphic novel by Shirley Jackson’s own grandson, I was hooked. I can’t wait to see a fresh, visual interpretation of the iconic story.

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The Most Dangerous Game
by Richard Connell

“Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford.” —General Zaroff

The Most Dangerous Game
Richard Connell

“Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford.” —General Zaroff

MENTIONED IN:

Famous Last Words: Parting Lines From Our Favorite Characters

By Sarah Jane Abbott | May 21, 2015

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Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck

“Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now.” —Lennie Small

Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck

“Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now.” —Lennie Small

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Famous Last Words: Parting Lines From Our Favorite Characters

By Sarah Jane Abbott | May 21, 2015

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Peter Pan
J.M. Barrie

“All children, except one, grow up.”

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The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some consider it “the great American novel.” The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his powerful love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan is an exquisitely crafted tale that has been essential reading since it was published.

Read the full review here.

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