The publication of Harper Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN got me thinking about her masterpiece TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I didn't actually read that book until my daughter The Flower was assigned it in middle school, and I read it at the same time she did. Like millions of other readers, I was deeply moved by Lee's novel.
There are many beautiful moments in the book, but one particular line always stayed with me. After Atticus Finch's impassioned closing statement, as he leaves the courtroom, Reverend Sykes in the upper gallery tells Scout, "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing."
What a moment! What a line!
And it got me thinking about other unforgettable moments in some of my favorite books:
"I didn't want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat." – Truman Capote, IN COLD BLOOD
"At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great." – Willa Cather, MY ANTONIA
"Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
-- the last lines of James Joyce's THE DEAD
"Ah," I can hear you say, "so it was all a build-up to bore us with his buggy jiving. He only wanted us to listen to him rave!" But only partially true: Being invisible and without substance, a disembodied voice, as it were, what else could I do? What else but try to tell you what was really happening when your eyes were looking through? And it is this which frightens me:
Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?"
-- the last lines of Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN
As great an ending as any novelist has ever written.
Here's the TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD moment from the movie
and a filmed treatment of the last lines of THE DEAD
I have a lot more of these.