So here we are at the end of another year, closing the book on 1987, so to speak. And speaking of endings, most of us are more familiar with the first lines of famous books than we are with their last ones. There's "Call me Ishmael" from "Moby Dick" and "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" from "A Tale of Two Cities." Jane Austen opened "Pride and Prejudice" by noting, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife," while Leo Tolstoy pointed out in "Anna Karenina" that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." And, oh yes, let's not forget Edward Bulwer-Lytton's infamous, "It was a dark and stormy night," which people know even if they've never picked up a copy of "Paul Clifford."
But endings usually don't stick in our minds the way beginnings do. Could it be perhaps that we don't finish as many books as we start? No, couldn't be. I'd rather think it's because endings are harder to write. It's one thing for a writer to grab a reader's attention at the outset, and still another to sustain interest throughout a novel's length. Writing an unforgettable ending is an art all to itself.
But some endings are just as memorable as some beginnings. Here then, in honor of the end of the year, is a little quiz. See if you can identify these famous last words from 15 novels. No prizes -- just the satisfaction of knowing that "all's well that ends well."
1. "Which do you think it was?"
2. "It's too late now. It will always be too late. Fortunately!"
3. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
4. "The creatures inside 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."
5. "He still held on to the bars. Then he smiled a faint, wry, bitter smile. He heard the ring of steel against steel as a far door clanged shut."
6. "After all, tomorrow is another day."
7. "But that is the beginning of a new story -- the story of a gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended."
8. "And it was still hot."
9. "But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can't stand it. I been there before."
10. "... come children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out."
11. "... and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky -- seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness."
12. " 'For me, there still remains the cocaine bottle.' And he stretched his long white hand up for it."
13. "And yes I said yes I will yes."
14. "They endured."
15. "God bless us, everyone!"
1. "Alice in Wonderland," by Lewis Carroll.
2. "The Fall," by Albert Camus.
3. "The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
4. "Animal Farm," by George Orwell.
5. "Native Son," by Richard Wright.
6. "Gone With the Wind," by Margaret Mitchell.
7. "Crime and Punishment," by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
8. "Where the Wild Things Are," by Maurice Sendak.
9. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," by Mark Twain.
10. "Vanity Fair," by William Makepeace Thackeray.
11. "Heart of Darkness," by Joseph Conrad.
12. "The Sign of the Four," by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
13. "Ulysses," by James Joyce.
14. "The Sound and the Fury," by William Faulkner.
15. "A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens.