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Wham Line: Literature

  • A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift starts out as a rather dull essay about the problem of widespread childhood poverty in Ireland (then a rather poorly treated possession of the United Kingdom). Then the speaker of the essay busts out the following:
    "A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled...."
  • Animal Farm:
    • All together now: "Four legs good, two legs better!"
    • And just before that: "It was a pig walking on his hind legs".
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    Joffrey: (regarding his mother and Sansa advising him to spare Ned Stark) But they have the soft hearts of women. [...] Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!

    Greatjon Umber: Why shouldn't we rule ourselves again? It was the dragons we married, and the dragons are all dead! There sits the only king I mean to bow my knee to, m'lords, the King in the North!

    "...and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons."

    "No one sang the words, but Catelyn knew “The Rains of Castamere” when she heard it."

    "Only Cat." Shove.

    "The next day when she woke up she was blind."

    "It was snow, drifting through the window."

    "No. Put this in the fire."

    High Septon: No.

    Doran Martell: Vengeance. Justice. Fire and blood.

    Your false king is dead.

    "For the Watch!"

  • The Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear, in the very last chapter, no less: "I am Birdy Edwards."
    • "The Dying Detective": "A match and a cigarette."
  • Dinin in Exile, with regards to an assault late in the book: "No, sister. Not House Fey-Branche. Baenre." Cue the Matron Mother of all Out-Gambitted Oh Craps.
  • From Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:
    You're a wizard, Harry
    "It wasn't Snape. It wasn't even Voldemort. It was Quirrell."
    "Lord Voldemort is my past, present, and future."
    "Quite the double act, Sirius Black and James Potter!"
    "That's not a rat."
    "Kill the spare."
    Harry: Karkaroff's gone? But then... he didn't put my name in that goblet?
    Moody!Barty Crouch Jr: No. No, he didn't. It was I who did that.
    Dumbledore: Severus... please...
    Snape: ...Avada Kedavra...
    "Certainly not. You must kill me."
    "Always."
    "The true master of the Elder Wand was Draco Malfoy."
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: "I could've sworn they said you was deaf!"
  • American Gods: "Jesus, Low-Key Lyesmith...Oh, Jesus. Loki. Loki Lie-Smith."
    • Another one is "It's a two-man con."
  • "Cathy's Key" has Guile Lancer Emma proclaim:
    "Nope", Emma said. "I just paid the caterer fifty bucks to dump the rest of the serum in the punch."
  • "Tonight, one of you will betray me."
  • Changes, the first line is one for the series as a whole: "I picked up the phone and Susan Rodriguez said, 'They've got our daughter.'"
    • Changes is full of these. Chock full. Perhaps one of the whammiest, halfway through the book: "I can't feel my legs." This is then followed up a few chapters later with Harry calling on someone to help him: " Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, Queen of the Winter Court! I bid you come forth!"
    • A line whose whamminess resulted in fist-pumping: "It was the Grey Council. The Grey Council!"
    • Not only Changes. A chapter of Blood Rites ends with "Not yours, Harry. Our mother."
    • "Charity...how long has it been since you've used your magic?"
    • Small Favor: "Where is your blasting rod?"
      • Also "They're coming for Ivy!"
    • Ghost Story: "They've been like this since they killed you."
    • From Cold Days:
    Mab: Kill my daughter. Kill Maeve.
  • A marvelous one for students of Tabletop Game/Warhammer40000 lore near the end of Pariah:
    Deathrow: "I am Alpharius."
  • L.A. Confidential has one of the whammiest of Wham Lines: "Captain Dudley Liam Smith for the Nite Owl." Notable for being whammy not because we didn't know who the villain was, but because Exley, Vincennes, and White putting it all together and saying it out loud is so powerful. As Ed says, they're crossing the only man on Earth more dangerous than Ed himself.
  • The Wheel of Time:
  • The Uncommon Reader, also the last line of the book: "Why do you think I called you all here?"
  • Falling Angels: The sole line in the last chapter from Ivy May's point of view: "Over his shoulder I saw a star fall. It was me." It is later revealed that she was raped and strangled by a man in the crowd after her sister loses track of her.
  • Friends Like These, a lighthearted retelling of Danny Wallace's quest to meet up with his childhood friends: "Daniel, I'm not sure how to tell you this, but Andy passed away." Read it in context here.
  • Many of John Wyndham's short stories end with a Wham Line.
  • "The sniper darted across the street. A machine gun tore up the ground around him with a hail of bullets, but he escaped. He threw himself face downward beside the corpse. The machine gun stopped. Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother's face."
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, from Cryoburn: "Count Vorkosigan, sir?"
    • Also the wham line from A Civil Campaign: "Will you marry me?" You know it's been coming since chapter one, and it still works. It's all in the timing.
  • The Hunger Games: "Katniss, there is no District Twelve." Bam! End of the second book!
    • "Because she's here with me."
      • And one year later: "...if it weren't for the baby." Different contexts out of and in-universe, but still a wham moment either way.
    • "Under the new rule, both tributes from the same district will be declared winers if they are the last two alive."
      • And then: "The earlier revision has been revoked."
    • "the male and female tributes will be reaped from their existing pool of victors."
    • Several unexpected deaths:
      • And then he drives the spear through her chest. Rue
      • Triggering the bomb that blows off his legs. Boggs
      • And then the second round of parachutes goes off. Prim
      • '' And President Coin drops from the balcony. Dead.
    • Suzanne Collins loves to end chapters on Wham Lines, which doubles as Cliffhangers.
  • Green Sky Trilogy: Pomma pretty much collapses a whole society with, "I know there are no Pash-San...Because Teera is a Pash-San."
  • Sphere - "What happens if Jerry gets mad?"
    • Even bigger: MY NAME IS HARRY.
    • The biggest: "Why, thank you, Norman," she said.
  • Philip Pullman loves these and will go for a wham line (even if occasionally he has to immediately retract it. E.g. 'They will never leave again. At least, not by that door.') From the chapter of Northern Lights where Lyra discovers Tony Makarios:
    • "That was intercision, and this was a severed child."
    • Also, the final line in The Subtle Knife.
  • 1984:
    • Julia slips Winston a note, and he fears what it might contain, such as an order to kill himself. It says "I love you."
    • "You are the dead."
    • O'Brien: "They got me a long time ago."
    • "Do it to her!"
    • The last words of the story, in reference to Winston: "He loved Big Brother."
  • On the more obscure side, cosmic horror author Thomas Ligotti, whose stories seem to culminate in Wham Paragraphs. A few notable single lines from his work:
    • "Nethescurial": I am not dying in a nightmare.
    • "The Chymist": Now, Rose of Madness...Bloom!
    • "Mrs. Rinaldi's Angel": "It was an angel, did you know that?"
    • "The Troubles of Doctor Thoss": "My name is Thoss, I am a doctor."
  • Sophie's Choice: "You may keep one of your children."
  • Anathem: "In my world, we call it a Faraday cage." The first half reveals that Zh'vaern is an alien; the second reveals that the aliens are from Earth.
  • The Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Armour of Contempt has "Since I switched it on", while Blood Pact has "Then it is Rime".
  • Ravenor Returned has two right on top of each other. "That's Zygmunt bastard Molotch." Immediately followed by "In the name of darkness, that's Slyte!!"
  • The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: From the third ending (the one with teeth): "And so the Princess ate them."
  • The last line of Surface Detail, by Iain Banks: "Your table is ready, Mr. Zakalwe."
  • The Turn of the Screw: "We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped."
  • The Lord of the Rings: When Gandalf goes to Saruman for help, Saruman reveals his Face-Heel Turn with, "We must join him, Gandalf".
    • "This fellow isn't dead!"
    • MASSIVE spoiler, for equally massive wham: "The Ring is mine!"
  • The Vampire Diaries Book 4: "Get away from my brother!"
  • From The Thief:
    Eddis: Oh. It's you, Eugenides.
  • Zombie Apocalypse! by Simon Jones is pretty much made of this trope (and others). For an example: the first segment is a letter from a man to his mother, which seems to show the beginning of the titular occurrence. Two-thirds of the way through, we discover what we thought was a pre-disaster segment is being written during the disaster; the mother he was writing to has been dead for years; and as soon as the letter is finished he's going to do down to his zombie wife and burn the house down around the two of them. The letter cuts out mid-sentence, and we are told by a coda that it was recovered from a laptop whose battery ran out, which itself was recovered from the ruins of a burnt-down house months after the fact.
  • In Jorge Luis Borges's "The Immortal", a Roman soldier goes looking for the Fountain of Immortality. His journey - across hostile lands only inhabited by mindless and speechless troglodytes - is for naught: the City of Immortals he finds is an abandoned, incomprehensible labyrinth in the middle of nowhere. And just as the protagonist has lost all hopes, a troglodyte recites a line from The Odyssey. When asked how much more he knows of it, he answers "Not much - it's been more than eleven hundred years since I wrote it".
  • Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects has a few.
    Nozdormu:You asked me how I knew the infinite dragonflight was behind Blackmoore'sss creation and liberation. I know this because... I ssssent him after you.
    "Thank you, my lord," Archbishop Benedictus said.
  • Warrior Cats has the last line of Rising Storm.
    And with a cold shiver of dread, Fireheart realized that the new leader of ShadowClan was Tigerclaw.
    • Long Shadows:
    Squirrelflight: You'll have to try harder than that {to hurt me}. They're not my kits.
    • And right before that:
    Ashfur: You're the blind one, not Jayfeather! Who do you think sent Firestar the message to go down to the lake, where the fox trap was waiting?
    • In Sunrise:
    Hollyleaf: I'm sorry...I was only trying to do what was best. I couldn't let Ashfur live! It was for all our sakes! You understand, don't you?
  • In one chapter of Shirley Jackson's family comedy ''Life Among the Savages', her son Laurie, a new kindergartener, is constantly telling stories about a mischievous classmate Charles whose inventively naughty behavior fascinates both parents. The narrator sets out for her first parent-teacher conference eager to meet Charles' mother. The teacher remarks that Laurie has had some trouble adjusting and his mother blames it on Charles' influence. The teacher is confused:
    "Charles? We don't have a Charles in this class."
  • Agatha Christie's Why Didn't They Ask Evans? A man falls off a cliff, and his last words are "Why didn't they ask Evans?". Two amateur detectives, Bobby and Frankie, assume he's been murdered, and in the course of investigating, find themselves looking into the will of a man who'd committed suicide several months prior. Frankie wants to know why the man had the gardener called in to witness the will, when there was a parlormaid in the house who could have done just as well:
    Frankie: Why didn't they ask the parlormaid?
    Bobby: Funny you should ask that...The parlormaid's name was Evans.
    • And the last line of The Witness for the Prosecution"I knew - he was guilty!"
    • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: After Poirot explains everything he knows about the murderer:
    Poirot: In fact - Dr. Sheppard
  • A Thread of Grace: The war is over, there is celebrating in the streets of Italy. We just went through what was the trauma of the last days of shelling and the deaths of several major characters. Renzo, one of the leaders of the resistance and pilot during the war in Ethiopia, was undercover as a Nazi sympathizer. He goes into town during the last non epilogue chapter. Most everyone who knew he was actually part of the resistance and not actually a Nazi sympathizer, was already dead. The people in the streets quickly turn on him, hanging him for his "crimes." The last line:
    "It's like flying, except you never come down."
  • Prisoners of Power: It's not the line itself, but the fact that it was spoken in German:
    "Dumkopf! Rotznase!"
  • The last line of J.D. Salinger's short story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish": "Then he went over and sat down on the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through his right temple.
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has "I never could see over your shoulders before". It's the one line you read, and understand that you haven't understood anything else in the book.
  • "Ten Years to Doomsday" is a light-hearted science fiction, and almost seems like a comedy until the very last line. "When he awoke the next morning, the sky was full of ships."
  • The Stormlight Archive: From The Way of Kings:
    • Syl: "I am honorspren."
    • Honor: "I am...I was God. The one you call the Almighty, the creator of mankind...And now I am dead. Odium has killed me. I am sorry."
    • Jasnah: "We didn't destroy the Voidbringers. We enslaved them."
    • Shallan: I killed my father.
  • A Deepness in the Sky
    Sherkaner Underhill: "It's all messed up now."
  • From the Warcraft Expanded Universe novel, Lord of the Clans
    • When Thrall defeats an orc who insulted the Frostwolves.
    "My name, son of Durotan, is Orgrim Doomhammer."
    • Thrall gets a very unpleasant surprise in the final assault on Durnholde.
    "Taretha's blue eyes stared sightlessly up at him from her severed head."
  • From Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion series: In Paladin of Souls, "Lord Arhys, how long have you been dead?" and "I wasn't expecting You here." And in The Hallowed Hunt, "...you are the heir of my blood, should you be living when next I die."
  • The ending of Isaac Asimov's short story "The Last Question": And AC said: "LET THERE BE LIGHT!" And there was light.
  • Astrid Lindgren's Mio, My Son: "Take my hand, and I shall help you!" And I took his hand. But it was no hand. It was an iron claw.
  • The Changeling Prince:
    "The dragon bit her head off."
  • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy Book 2, The Well of Ascension.
    "Alendi must not reach the Well of Ascension... for he must not release the thing that is imprisoned there.
    • And when Vin goes to the Well and does exactly what she shouldn't:
    Ruin: "I am free!"
  • The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: "You would think that someone in her thirties would have a little more sense than a typical teenager."
  • John Dies at the End: And that was the second thing: The body on the floor was me.
    • "They-they called you 'nigger'? Even though you're white?"
  • Cloud Atlas:
    HÔTEL MEMLING, BRUGES
    QUARTER PAST FOUR IN THE MORNING, 12TH—XII—1931
    Sixsmith,
    Shot myself through the roof of my mouth at five A.M. this morning with VA.’s Luger.
  • The Help: "That was horrifying even to me." To explain, this is the moment when you realize that Skeeter is a segregationist.
  • Holes: "My real name is Hector Zeroni."
  • Pride and Prejudice: "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." Lizzie Bennet certainly didn't see it coming.
  • Gormenghast: Steerpike shouting out " And the twins will make it five" while in a feverish delirium is the real beginning of the other characters' suspicion of him and his motives.
  • Cold Vengeance
    Judson Esterhazy: You want an answer to your question? Here is is. I never did murder Helen. She's still alive.
  • From Farewell to the Master.
    Gnut: You Misunderstand. I am the master.
  • Boba Fett: Pursuit, despite being an Expanded Universe novel aimed at a younger audience, has one for Star Wars as a whole, although it's more like an Untwist for fans:
    Boba Fett: "Count Dooku and Tyranus are the same person. Your greatest enemy created your armies. It is a trap."
    Palpatine: "I know."
  • In Tides Of War, Kalecgos finds the Focusing Iris that he's been searching for over the course of the entire book thus far. Garrosh is using it to in a "mana bomb" that he will use to destroy Theramore
    Now it was moving. Fast.
    And it was moving northwest. Toward Theramore.
  • Nothing but the Truth by AVI
    "I don't know the words."
  • From Liar, in Micah's narration: "I am a werewolf."
  • Maggie Stiefvater likes to end each book in The Raven Cycle this way. The entire plot of the second books revolves around the last line of the first.
    • The Raven Boys: "I pulled Chainsaw out of my dreams."
  • The works of H.P. Lovecraft contain a few:
    "You needn't ask how Wilbur called it out of the air. He didn't call it out. It was his twin brother, but it looked more like the father than he did."
    • In The Thing on the Doorstep, the final line reveals what has been hinted at:
    What they finally found inside Edward's oddly-assorted clothes was mostly liquescent horror. There were bones, too - and a crushed-in skull. Some dental work positively identified the skull as Asenath's.
    • In Pickman's Model, we discover what made the artist's painting so lifelike:
    "Well - that paper wasn't a photograph of any background, after all. What it showed was simply the monstrous being he was painting on that awful canvas. It was the model he was using- and its background was merely the wall of the cellar studio in minute detail. But by God, Eliot, it was a photograph from life!"
    For the things in the chair, perfect to the last, subtle detail of microscopic resemblance - or identity - were the face and hands of Henry Wentworth Akeley.
  • The Discworld Novels are full of them:
    • In Maskerade. delivered by none less than Granny Weatherwax.
    Life's not neat! Whoever said there's only one Ghost?
    • And another, just before.
    Andre: I... skulk around places I shouldn't be looking for trouble.
    Granny: Really? There's a nasty name for people like that.
    Andre: Yes, it's policemen.
    • In Night Watch, we get this chilling one from Carcer.
    Carcer: I got three knives, Mister Vimes.
    • Thud! contains perhaps the biggest in the series.
    Bashfullson (translating the Cube): I WHO SPEAK TO YOU NOW AM B'HRIAN BLOODAXE, BY RIGHT OF THE SCONE THE TRUE KING OF THE DWARFS!
  • In The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, revealing to the heroine that all her efforts so far have only just scratched the surface of the conspiracy and that there are many, many more still affected by it:
    Through the woods leading to the Infirmary, a little porcelain doll walked of its own accord, dragging the unconscious Magdalene Chase.
  • From Ready Player One: Sorrento: "Sit down, Wade!"
  • In Caught, book 5 of Margaret Peterson Haddix's time travel series The Missing:
    Mileva: Or should I say, I love you, my son, JB?
  • The moment of revelation in Steelheart:
  • In The Sisters Grimm, there's The Reveal of The Master's identity.
    Sabrina: You sick, twisted monster. Do you know the nightmare you have inflicted upon my family? You're a horrible, evil worm!
    Pinnochio: I'm not the Master!
    Puck: Why should we believe you?
    Mirror: Because I am the Master.
  • In The Last Ship, the Soviet captain informs Thomas of his hometown. The city that Thomas nuked:
    “Where is your home, Captain?”
    “Insofar as I have one—Charleston, South Carolina.”
    He smiled softly. “I’ve seen it—through a periscope.”
    “Yours?”
    “A place called Orel. You probably never heard of it.”
    My heart skipped a beat.
  • I Want My Hat Back appears to be a children's book about a bear looking for his hat and politely asking around to see if anyone has seen it, and then, in a Eureka Moment:
  • That encoded message in Gregor and the Code of Claw? It says Twitchtip died in pit. Also, Luxa's declaration of war against the gnawers.
  • James Bond
    • After a lenghty speech about the greatest criminal undertaking ever, Goldfinger reveals what exactly is his Evil Plan:
    Goldfinger: Mr. Bond, we are going to empty Fort Knox.
    • Role of Honour has two: First the reveal whom Dr. Joe Antem Holy is working with ("Our principals are a group who call themselves SPECTRE") and the second one comes when the supposed Evil Plan is put to action, the novel's real Big Bad tells how it is really going to go down ("You didn't think we were really going to allow the Soviet Union to suffer the indignity of being stripped of her assets as well?").
  • The October Game: "Then... some idiot turned on the lights."
  • William Goldman intentionally invokes this trope several times in The Princess Bride. From the first chapter:
    "Even the village girls would nod and smile now, and some of them would ask after Westley, which was a mistake unless you happened to have a lot of spare time, because when someone asked Buttercup how Westley was—well, she told them. He was supreme as usual; he was spectacular; he was singularly fabulous. Oh, she could go on for hours. Sometimes it got a little tough for the listeners to maintain strict attention, but they did their best, since Buttercup loved him so completely. Which was why Westley's death hit her the way it did.


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