Because every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)
Word on the street for years was that the last word would be “scar.” This is better. “All was well” was Harry’s goal for just about the entire series. Earlier I complained about how Harry Potter’s first lines failed to capture the scope of the series; these last lines, by reducing thousands of pages to a simple all clear, nail it by understatement.
Or so Bill Denbrough sometimes thinks on those early mornings after dreaming, when he almost remembers his childhood, and the friends with whom he shared it.
Stephen King, It (1986)
Good ol’ Steve never met an overwritten sentence he didn’t like. Actually, I’ve loved this sentence for years, and it was only in typing it out for this post that I went: “Seriously?” The use of “dreaming,” “almost remembers,” “childhood,” and “friends” in one sentence is a pile-on of Norman Rockwell-iana. But since most of the book is about little children getting eaten by a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, I think Steve earned it.
I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)
Kristin and I just got our nerd on talking about Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I’ve long maintained that Wuthering Heights is the better of the two: Jane Eyre orients itself around convention, whereas Wuthering Heights is a strange animal. It bears mentioning, however, that I’ve only read Wuthering Heights once, versus my multiple trips through Jane Eyre. (Damn that marriage plot…) Nevertheless, in my hazy memory, this placid paragraph is a great capper to all the lunatic violence that preceded it.
“My Master,” he says, “has forewarned me. Daily He announces more distinctly, ‘Surely I come quickly!’ and hourly I more eagerly respond, ‘Amen; even so, come, Lord Jesus!'”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)
Bag it, Sin-Gin: no one cares. This is what I mean by Jane Eyre‘s inclining toward convention; the book is over when Jane kisses Rochester’s hand, but god forbid we not get a summative postscript, like one of those final chapters of Jane Austen’s that always shat the bed. “Reader, I married him,” Brontë sees fit to inform us, as if we hadn’t already figured that out, and as if we really cared about anything else. WE GET IT. MOVE ON.
1847 was a big year for the Brontës; Anne published Agnes Grey, and Branwell was still alive. Since I’m covering Brontës, I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to Hark! A Vagrant.
I heard her suck her breath with satisfaction. “He’s cured!” she whispered slowly. “He’s cured!”
Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier (1918)
Just keep telling yourself that, dude.
But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn’t any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)
I read about Hemingway before I ever read him, in a biography (don’t remember which) that busted its ass tearing down Papa’s myth. Makes sense to me. After the panicked praying and the fear of numbers above two, this conclusion is less “grace under pressure” and more “shocked into speechlessness.”
And finally, since I mentioned it last time out:
Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1947)