Most memorable passages in fiction

Inspired by this thread.

What passages from your favorite novels or short stories stick in your mind the best? Can you recite them from memory with any accuracy?

I’ll try this bit fromThe Great Gatsby, moments before Gatsby is murdered, while he’s waiting for Daisy to call him to acknowledge the sacrifice he’s made in taking the blame for her killing of someone else. She never calls:

Anybody else?

This is why we need better Required Reading in schools. I read that book a month or two ago, didn’t particularly like it, and I have absolutely no recollection of the passage you quote.

Criminy, people, if you make a kid read a book for school, he’s almost certainly not going to enjoy it! I’ve reread books that I prviously enjoyed for school, and guess what: it wasn’t much fun.

The end of James Joyce’s “The Dead” sticks in my head, and yes, I can come close to reciting it.

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. 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.”

Several passages come to mind, but I think the one that has stuck with me the most is from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman book World’s End when the narrator is describing a funeral procession.

The ending to 1984.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

You’ll know where this comes from.

The end of Chapter 17, Stephen Coonts, “Liberty”.

"He was going to say more, then decided against it. A liitle voice told him,Don’t take a chance. Savor this moment. Treasure it. Re-member every nuance of it so that you can keep it in your heart forever. So he reached for her hand and grasped it and sat looking into her shining eyes.

That’s just mean, dude. For anybody who doesn’t recognize it, it’s from Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death.

I found the ending to Animal farm just as powerful.

“Before I could sit down in the chair she offered me, the miracle happened; one of those quiet moments that clutch the heart, and take more courage than the noisy, excited passages in life. Antonia came in and stood before me; a stalwart, brown woman, flat-chested, her curly brown hair a little grizzled. It was a shock, of course.It always is, to meet people after long years, especially if they have lived as much and as hard as this woman had.We stood looking at each other. The eyes that peered anxiously at me were–simply Antonia’s eyes. I had seen no others like them since I looked into them last, though I had looked at so many thousands of human faces. As I confronted her, the changes grew less apparent to me, her identity stronger.She was there, in the full vigour of her personality, battered but not diminished, looking at me, speaking to me in the husky, breathy voice I remembered so well.”

-Willa Cather
“My Antonia”

Great Expectations, Chapter 1. (And no, I can’t recite it from memory.)

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, Et In Arcadia Ego.

I’ve always found these passages from Wuthering Heights both memorable and powerful.

That book is so depressing. :frowning:

Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand

One of my favorite passages in fiction is from Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land. The following exchange takes place between Jubal Harshaw and Ben Caxton, as Jubal is trying to teach Ben how to look at art. They have just be viewing a copy of Rodin’s Carytid Fallen Under Her Stone.

*“It’s courage, Ben and Victory.”


“Victory in defeat, there is none higher. She didn’t give up, Ben; she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her. She’s a father working while cancer eats away his insides, to bring home one more pay check. She’s a twelve year old trying to Mother her brothers and sisters, because Mama had to go to Heaven. She’s a switchboard operator sticking to her post, while smoke chokes her and cuts off her escape. She’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.”*

Scuse me, I’ve got something in my eye. It always happens when I read that part.

I love that story, and that passage, and that sculpture. if I had no other reason to love Heinlein, I’d love him for introducing me to Rodin.