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Top 10 Saddest Deaths in Fiction Novels

VO: MW WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
Top 10 Saddest Deaths in Fiction Novels Subscribe: Shop: https://shop.WatchMojo.comcollections/msmojo-merchandise Script written by Savannah Sher These are the saddest deaths in fiction novels! We’ve included Bubba’s death in Forrest Gump, Algernon from Flowers for Algernon, Bruno & Shmuel from The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, Boromir from the The Two Towers and more!

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Top 10 Saddest Deaths in Novels

Many tears have been shed for these ill-fated characters. Welcome to MsMojo and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Saddest Deaths in Novels.
For this list, we’re looking at the most devastating deaths in fiction and we’re excluding picks from children’s and YA books because they deserve a whole list of their own.


#10: Bubba
“Forrest Gump” (1986)

While the film adaptation starring Tom Hanks may be more well known that the 1986 book it was based on, this character death was heart wrenching in both renditions. The book follows much of the same trajectory as the movie, including Forrest’s heartfelt friendship with Bubba. Forrest’s relationships are all felt keenly by him, because each person in his life is so meaningful. So when Bubba is injured in Vietnam, the reader is made to feel just as strongly as Forrest when his friend finally succumbs to his wounds.

#9: Algernon
“Flowers for Algernon” (1966)

This 1966 novel by Daniel Keyes is emotionally depleting on all fronts, with many moments throughout making readers feel forlorn. Based on a 1959 short story of the same name, “Flowers for Algernon” tells of Charlie Gordon, a man with intellectual impairments who undergoes a surgery to improve his IQ. The prior test subject for this procedure was a white lab mouse named Algernon. Charlie records both his and Algernon’s progress but the mouse’s newfound intelligence begins to fade and he eventually dies. Charlie’s reaction to Algernon’s death is made all the more touching because he realizes he may share the same fate.


#8: Bruno & Shmuel
“The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” (2006)

Every story that takes place during the Holocaust will inevitably be devastating, but this one packs an extra punch. Interestingly, author John Boyne wrote the entire first draft for this 2006 novel in only a couple of days. The deaths of Bruno and Shmuel in the gas chamber is especially hard to read because of their youth and innocence despite their circumstances. The book received criticism because it would have been unrealistic for a child of that age to have ended up at Auschwitz, as all those too young to work would have been gassed immediately. Sometimes reality is even crueler than fiction.


#7: Boromir
“The Two Towers” (1954)

When J.R.R. Tolkien created his opus of “Lord of the Rings”, he always intended for it to be published as one tome. Though it was eventually split into several books, the story flows as one. That’s why although Boromir dies at the end of the first film, “The Fellowship of the Ring”, his character only perishes at the beginning of “Two Towers” in the book. As the first member of the fellowship to be killed, his death was felt strongly because it reminded readers of the mortality of the characters they were becoming so invested in.

#6: Jay Gatsby
“The Great Gatsby” (1925)

One of the most beloved works of 20th century literature tells the story of the American dream, and the cultural disillusionment of the 1920s. While the novel is rife with personal drama, the explosion of violence that takes place in the final act of the book is both shocking and unexpected. Gatsby is shot by a man who wrongly thinks he was having an affair with his wife. It’s not his death scene itself that is the most emotionally stirring, but rather the fact that his funeral is so sparsely attended, despite all of the guests who had previously attended his fabulously extravagant parties.


#5: Ned Stark
“A Game of Thrones” (1996)

George R.R. Martin’s world of Westeros is filled with violence and brutality, but in the first book of the series, readers were still unaware of just how disposable his main characters were. Though we had seen minor characters being killed, having the head of Stark family die was something no one could have predicted. His family’s reactions were what really made this devastating, along with the fact that it gave readers a feeling that no one, even the noblest of people, was safe in this fictional world. In the TV adaptation, however, it's yet another film death for Sean Bean, something the actor has jokingly become known for.

#4: Lennie Small
“Of Mice and Men” (1937)

The entire story is tinged with melancholy, following two migrant workers as they try to make a place for themselves in the world. The most sympathetic figure is Lennie Small, a mentally disabled but physically imposing man who unintentionally kills all the small furry creatures he loves so dearly. When the same thing happens with a human woman, Lennie has to make a run for it, and knowing what the outcome of the situation will be, his friend George shoots him to prevent any further strife. Knowing how sweet and innocent Lennie really was makes his death all the more sad.

#3: Anna Karenina 
“Anna Karenina” (1877)

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid spoilers regarding this 1800's epic novel, we’re sorry to tell you how this tragic tale ends. After many, many pages of strife, the titular character – a Russian aristocratic princess – throws herself under a train, ending her own life. After reading almost a thousand pages about her troubles, it’s pretty depressing to witness Anna’s suicide, especially as a modern reader who has probably been yelling at their copy of the book for her to just get a divorce already.

#2: John Coffey
“The Green Mile” (1996)

Stephen King may be better known for his horror stories, but he has written many works that take on some heavy real world subjects. Still, there is a hint of magical realism in this 1996 novel. The main character, John Coffey, a black man who has been falsely accused of the rape and murder of two young white girls, has seemingly magical healing powers. He ends up in the electric chair, even though one of the guards is convinced of his innocence. Because John knows just how cruel the world can be, he willingly goes to his death, but that doesn’t make the situation any less tragic.


#1: Tom Robinson
“To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960)

Though it was published in 1960, and set in the 1930s, the themes of “To Kill a Mockingbird” still resonate today. The main plot revolves around the trial of a black man named Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a white woman. He is defended by the narrator’s father, Atticus Finch. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, the jury still convicts him of his crimes. Further coaxing the waterworks, Robinson is later shot when trying to escape from jail. While it's hard enough to accept he was wrongly imprisoned, it's harder still to see him killed while trying to take back his rightful freedoms.  

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