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5 Of The Most Heartbreaking Endings in Classic Literature

While everyone loves a happy ending, there's something to be said about a tragic final chapter too. Some of the greatest works of classic literature have some rather surprising and heartbreaking endings. In fact, the sad conclusion is often what makes these books as iconic as they are.

A heartbreaking ending can often be more reflective of real life. Rarely do people get to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Life is a series of ups and downs, and novels with sad ending tend to reflect that. Do you love a great book with a heartbreaking finale? Read on to find out which classic books boast some of the saddest endings in literature.

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights book poster

If you've ever read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, you probably remember that there are plenty of early signs Catherine and Heathcliff's relationship is not going to end well.

And while it could be argue they're a pretty toxic literary couple, what makes the end of Wuthering Heights so sad is that Heathcliff lingers on long after Catherine is gone, grief eating away at him like a slow-moving disease.

2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet book poster

Shakespeare penned plenty of plays with tragic endings (here's looking at you, Romeo and Juliet), but Hamlet arguably outdoes them all when it comes to heartbreaking conclusions.

Not only does Hamlet end in a veritable bloodbath, but the tale of the Prince of Denmark is drenched with a variety of relevant themes. Revenge, suicide, depression, betrayal, and deceit all feature heavily, and make Hamlet one of the most enduring and heartbreaking works of classic literature of all time.

3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick book poster

While it's not often marketed as such, Moby-Dick is without a doubt one of the greatest tragedies ever put to paper.

While on the surface Moby-Dick seems to be primarily a story of revenge, once you dive beneath the surface you'll discover heartbreaking tangents about friendship, camaraderie, fate, and nature.

4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina book poster

It's almost impossible to interpret Tolstoy's brilliant novel Anna Karenina as anything other than sad from beginning to end, if only because the titular character's love story doesn't have a happy conclusion.

I dare you to read Anna's final scene at the train station without tearing up the heartbreaking ending to her passionate story.

5. 1984 by George Orwell

1984 book poster

1984 probably has one of the grimmest endings in all of classic literature. It's the kind of sad ending that stays with you, and stays...and stays.

There are no winners (well, except for maybe Big Brother) in George Orwell's dystopian novel, but perhaps what makes it even more depressing is how it reflects some of our current realities.

Which classic book do you think has the most heartbreaking ending?

Share with us your favorites in the comments below!


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