Last Words

Characters die.

Sometimes they’re characters we don’t like. But sometimes they’re characters who mean so much to us that we mourn their deaths almost as a friend would do.

I’ve never liked killing off my own characters – even the truly evil ones. Yet sometimes an author must.

Recently I had to work on writing the death scene of a beloved character … a heartbreaking process, to say the least. To aid me (emotionally more than anything else), I refreshed myself on some famous last words, or “death speeches,” in literature.

As I read them, I had to wonder: What was going through each of the authors’ minds as they wrote their characters’ last words? Did their hearts break, even a little, as they composed the scenes that would mean the end of someone so close to them?

More so: What do last lines say about the characters themselves and their stories?

HONOR

“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 by Charles Dickens)

BETRAYAL

“Et tu, Brute?” (Caesar, Julius Caesar by Shakespeare)

IRONY

“Bad form.” (Captain Hook, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)

PASSION

“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 romeo and julietcan 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 by Herman Melville)

“Precious, precious, precious! My Precious! O my Precious!” (Gollum, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“Yea noise? then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die.” (Juliet, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

REMORSE

“Lord, forgive me everything.” (Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)

“Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed.” (Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“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.” (Othello, Othello by William Shakespeare)

FRIENDSHIP

“Cher ami …” (Hercule Poirot, Curtain by Agatha Christie)

“Harry … Potter …” (Dobby, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling)

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’sthorin a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” (Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White)

“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!” (Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Is there a character whose death broke your heart? Who was it? What were their last words?

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About bookishashlee

Ashlee is the author of The Word Changers, a Christian YA fantasy that released June 2014.

Posted on February 9, 2015, in Authors, Books, Life and Death, quotes and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Awww! Sydney Carton and Charlotte!!! I hate killing off my characters, too, but I think that’s going to happen soon…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an impressive collection of quotes – I don’t know what the authors were thinking as they wrote them, but my heart broke a little as I read them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That last quote. ❤ Pretty much my favorite last words of any character.
    Probably the character whose death broke my heart the hardest was a certain character in The Seventh Door . . . I don't want to say who because spoilers, but the last words were "It's not insane to give your life so another can live. Goodbye, ___. I love you."

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Much as I hate death-scenes, I’ve discovered it’s even worse when a character dies and doesn’t even GET a death scene! They’re just… gone. Meh. I hate this topic. 😦 ALL THE DEAD CHARACTERS. D: *sob* (My sister keeps an entire list of all the characters she loves who died… There’s like 60 on there… I don’t think I could do that — I would be too sad. 😛 )

    I think we all need this t-shirt… XD https://www.pinterest.com/pin/471611392203887582/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Character deaths always hurt, though they get me more often in movies than in books. Or maybe I just haven’t read many books where characters die lately… that could be it. One of the deaths that tore me up inside the most was Wash from the movie Serenity, “I am a leaf on the wind.” {sob}

    Writing a new series, and so far I’ve only killed off one character, and he was a bad guy… though I’m kind of regretting it now, because he was just so much fun to write. sigh. The conundrums we writers face…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Okay, I’ll be the odd one out – I love killing off my characters – not in an nefarious spirit, of course, but just in the sense that, this is where the story is going and there’s great pleasure in writing fitting deaths and endings – relishing in the emotional agony and all that! 😉

    Like

    • Haha! Hey, if it works for you, that’s great! At least it makes things easier on you! And I can understand a small bit of that, I guess. Even when I’m sad that a character needs to die, there is still something satisfying in knowing that their death has made the story that much “better.” And by better I guess I mean more realistic or viable. After all, even the good guys can’t have happy endings every time, right?!

      Like

  7. What a lovely, bookish post, Ashlee! Lovely in a bittersweet way, of course!

    It is so sad to kill off characters… 😦 I sometimes find myself tearing up while I read my little sisters emotional death scenes that I wrote… :p Ha.

    Wow… as I read over these comments… you guys are making me think of all the sad “characters dying” moments I’ve been through… *sniff*

    I’m ever intrigued by your new story though! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sydney Carton! Hercule Poirot! Thorin Oakenshield! why….why? Good post- every piece of dialogue should count, but even more so the dying word.

    but…

    Sometimes actions speak louder than words. I am tempted to wax lyrical about Les Mis….

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so right. Actions do speak louder than words. I was even tempted to not only quote these characters’ dying words, but include the entire scenes of their deaths. But decided that would be too long of a post! Yet even that wouldn’t have been enough to sum up who they were in the course of their entire stories/lives.

      And … I’d love for you to wax lyrical …! Bring it on 🙂

      Like

  9. Hello, Ashlee! I just thought that I’d say “Hello,” since I’ve just started following your blog. Hello!

    And the character whose death broke my heart the most? The dragon that had been Diarmid from the Tales of Goldstone Wood. His last words were, “Away from me!”

    Like

    • Welcome, Natasha! So glad to meet you 🙂 I’ve read the first couple books of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, but haven’t yet met Diarmid. Definitely need to finish that series!!

      Like

      • Thank you, Ashlee! 🙂 If you’ve read Heartless, you’ve met Diarmid. You just wouldn’t have recognized him by that name. Spoilers! You’ll really enjoy it, I think.

        Like

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