The Greatest Ending

in the history of the English novel:

“It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”–spoken by the about-to-be-guillotined Sydney Carton, Charles Dickens’s most heroic protagonist in the classic A Tale of Two Cities, who bravely sacrifices himself for the happiness of the woman he loves, but, tragically, will never achieve.

The Antiheroic, Cynical Twentieth-Century Variation:

“What can I do, Holly? Be reasonable. Give myself up? This is a far far better thing. The old limelight and the fall of the curtain. We aren’t heroes, Holly, you and I. The world doesn’t make heroes outside your books.”–spoken by Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in Carol Reed’s movie The Third Man, script by Graham Greene. Lime is an underground drug smuggler on the lam, who has caused the deaths of many innocent victims, and who coldly refuses to help and betrays his former lover Anna who has been jailed by the police.

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