Plot twists always elevate a story. Readers love a juicy plot twist. This list includes what I believe to be some of the biggest plot twists in literature. While it does not include every book with a plot twist, it does include some worthy entries. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
1. Fight Club–Fight Club is a satirical novel written by Chuck Palahniuk that has an incredibly large cult following. The story follows the life of an unnamed narrator, who has an unsatisfied career as a product recall specialist for an unnamed company. Because his job demands him to travel a good amount of time, the narrator suffers from insomnia. After telling his doctor that he is in pain and requires sleeping pills, his doctor tells him to visit a support group for men with testicular cancer to witness real pain and the emotional toll the group puts on him alleviates his insomnia and allows him to sleep. Fast forward a bit and the narrator is confronted by an explosion that destroys his apartment. This prompts the narrator to move in with Tyler Durden, a charismatic extremist whom the narrator deeply admires and strives to be like. The two men start a Fight Club together as an alternative to the support group, which spirals into a terrorist group lead by Durden with the goal of destroying a nearby museum. By the end of the novel, we learn that (SPOILER): Tyler was a figment of the narrator’s imagination! It was actually the narrator acting out Tyler’s actions throughout the entire novel.
2. Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone–The very first Harry Potter novel that touched so many of our hearts, Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone written by J.K. Rowling, had one of the most unexpected twist endings in all of literature. The story opens with Harry discovering that he is a wizard and being shipped off to Hogwarts, the coolest school ever. A series of clues lead Harry, Ron, and Hermione to believe that Professor Snape is after the Philosophers’ Stone. After our three heroes work their way through all of the obstacles guarding the Philosophers’ Stone, we are shocked to find that it was Professor Quirrell who was after the stone the whole time and Snape was the one trying to stop him! What is even more surprising is that Lord Voldemort is actually attached to the back of Quirrell’s head! Say Whaaaaaa!
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban–In the third installment of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the wizarding is panic-stricken by the escape of Sirius Black from the wizard prison, Azkaban, and is the first person in the history of Azkaban to execute a clean escape. Black is first introduced as an insane and deranged Death Eater, who is absolutely devoted to Lord Voldemort. Because of his devotion to Voldemort, not only does he murder Peter Pettigrew, as well as a handful of muggles, but he also sells out his childhood BFF James Potter and his family to be murdered. Harry is warned on several occasions not to go looking for Sirius Black, but in an odd series of events, he is brought face to face with Sirius. After a short while, it turns out that Sirius was not the one to sell out the Potters, it was actually Peter Pettigrew! In yet another twist, it was revealed that Peter Pettigrew faked his own death and was living as the Weasleys’ pet rat for 12 years!
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–What can we say, Harry Potter is just oozing with amazing plot twists. In the very last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Snape is, at this point, the murderer of Albus Dumbledore, who was the worst headmaster Hogwarts ever had, as well as Lord Voldemort’s right hand man, and to everyone’s surprise, he is still madly in love with Harry’s mom, Lily Potter. Thanks to a series of memories that Snape gives to Harry as he is dying, we discover that Snape loved her from the day he first saw her until the day he died. Because of his love for Lily, Snape immediately becomes the loyal servant of Albus Dumbledore upon discovering that Voldemort intends to kill her in order to get to Harry. The flashbacks showed that, although Snape seemed to be loyal to Voldemort’s cause, he never once stopped fighting to bring him down. In an even bigger surprise, it is also revealed that Dumbledore had planned for Snape to kill him all along (he was already slowly dying) to ensure Voldemort’s trust in him.
5. Gone Girl–For the first half of Gone Girl, which was written by Gillian Flynn, the audience is lead to believe that Nick Dunne murdered and disposed of his charismatic, beautiful wife Amy Dunne. However, in a glorious plot twist, it turns out that Amy, who was unhappy with her marriage, had been plotting her own death for quite some time and planned to frame the whole thing on her husband.
6. The Pretties—The Pretties is the second installment of Scott Westerfeld’s thrilling Uglies trilogy. By the time we get to The Pretties, it is known that everyone in this dystopian future receives a surgery on their 16th birthday that makes them all “pretty” and everyone is brainwashed into wanting it. During The Pretties, we also discover that not only are the citizens physically being altered, but they are all having their minds altered as well! To control mankind’s violent nature, everyone has their brain altered AGAINST THEIR WILL during these surgeries. As a result, the surgery leaves everyone in a permanent dream-like state of induced euphoria and none of them even know their minds have been altered.
7. I Am Legend—I Am Legend is the post-apocalyptic novel written by Richard Matheson. The story follows the life of Robert Neville in the wake of a worldwide pandemic that has caused everyone except him to turn into vampire-like creatures. As the last man on earth, Robert takes it upon himself to try to discover a cure to the virus, while also discovering new ways of defending himself against the savage infected. Robert is eventually captured by the vampires, and to his surprise, they have banned together to form a new society that greatly resembles humanity before the world became infected. In a major twist, it is discovered that not only are the vampires intelligent, but they have also manufactured medicine that while not curing their affliction, does alleviate some of the more severe symptoms of the virus. Moreover, Robert is also shocked to discover that the new society views him with the same amount of fear and hatred that he originally felt for them and fully understands that he, to them, is a superstition and his existence will be one of legend.
8. Oedipus Rex–The story of Oedipus starts out with the King of Thebes, Laius, visiting an oracle who tells him that any son he bears will eventually kill him. Sure enough, Laius and his wife, Jocasta, give birth to a son. Not one to be threatened by infants, they have the Oedipus’s ankles tied together so he cannot crawl and order servants to abandon him on some nearby mountains where they hope he will die from exposure. However, instead of the child dying, he somehow became the adopted son of King Corinth and Queen Merope. An adult Oedipus visits the same oracle as his biological father, and the oracle tells him that he is destined to murder his father and marry his mother. In an attempt to avoid this horrible fate, Oedipus moves to Thebes, the town where he was born. Then, you know what happens? Yup. Oedipus murders his biological father and marries his biological mother, as well as gets her pregnant. This has got to be the worst plot twist of all time.
9. American Psycho—American Psycho is written by Bret Easton and follows the life of Patrick Bateman, a Manhattan business man who has a small flaw of wanting to murder everyone he meets. After killing one of his colleagues, Paul Owens, Bateman turns his apartment into a killing fun house, in which his victims are tortured to death in various gruesome ways. After completely going insane, Bateman proceeds to go on a killing spree, hides in his office where he calls his attorney, and confesses to everything on an answering machine. Later on, when Bateman finally approaches his attorney about his confessions, his attorney only laughs, thinking it was some sort of joke. It is revealed that Bateman never murdered his first victim, Paul Owens, and that he hallucinated the entire thing!
10. The Book of Exodus–The biblical Book of Exodus tells of how the Israelite slaves escape Egypt and travel to the promise land guided by the prophet Moses. The Bible tells us that when Moses was only a baby, the Pharaoh of Egypt was fearful that he might one day be overthrown and had ordered the death of all newborn baby boys. Then, in a fortunate plot twist, Moses got pretty lucky via divine intervention, escaped the genocide, and actually came to live with the Pharaoh of Egypt as his adopted son! Years later, Moses kills an Egyptian overseer and flees to Midian, where he starts a new life. After many years of living his new life as a shepherd in Midian, Moses discovers God as a burning bush inside of a cave. Moses is instructed via God to liberate all of the Israelites in Egypt and lead them to the “Promise Land.” After failing to convince the Pharaoh of Egypt to free the Israelites, God smites Egypt in the form of now very famous plagues: water turns into blood, frog infestation, lice infestation, livestock mysteriously dying, boils, hail and fire storm, locusts, darkness, and the horrifying death of first-borns. Then, what happens? You guessed it, the pharaoh’s initial fears all come to be realized and a Hebrew baby grows up to liberate all the slaves.
Blog By Emily Browen
Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: A.A. Levine, 1998. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 1999. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine, 2007. Print.
Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl: A Novel. New York: Crown, 2012. Print.
Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. New York: ORB, 1995. Print.
Westerfeld, Scott. Pretties. New York: Simon Pulse, 2005. Print.
Oedipus Rex. Hoboken, N.J.: BiblioBytes, 1679. Print.
Ellis, Bret Easton. American Psycho: A Novel. New York: Vintage, 1991. Print.
The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books : New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.