20 Classic Opening Lines in Books
To most people, this may just be a collection of openers from boring authors who wrote books you were forced to read in high school.
For me, it means a little bit more than that. When I was growing up, my dad suggested (forced) my brother and I to read the Classics every summer. He said that to stay ahead of the rest of the kids in our college prep school, we needed to become familiar with these books. He assured us that every other kid in our class had already read them. My dad also convinced us that these books would be in our curriculum during the school year.
So every year he would make a list of the books we had to read. Anything written by Dickens, Orwell, or Bradbury was fair game on this list. Every year my brother and I would reluctantly head to the library in search of these books written by old dead guys. My brother would have rather played video games and I would have rather watched endless hours of TV. After we read the books, we had to write a summary on what the book was about, the important themes, etc.
Talk about some nerds, geez.
Like clockwork, we would enter our English class each September and when our teacher mentioned the books that we would focus on for the school year, the Classics we spent all summer pouring over were never on the list. Needless to say, we were pissed.
It was not until late in my high school career that I realized we were fortunate to have read those stories. Not only were they timeless tales, but quite a few of them stay in my head as my favorite books to this day.
We were annoyed with our dad at the time and obviously would have rather spent our summer vacation relaxing, but he tried his best to expose us to important literature at a young age.
Having said that, I will leave you with some of my favorite opening lines from a few of my favorite Classic novels, short stories, essays, and poems:
"'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1868 (I received this book as a present from my godmother for my Kindergarten Graduation)
"Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door." The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, 1845 (Poe's writing still scares the crap out of me, in a good way)'
'It was a pleasure to burn.'' Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 1953
"Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom." Common Sense by Thomas Paine, 1776
"True! - nervous - very, very nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?" The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, 1843
"1801 - I have just returned from a visit to my landlord - the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with." Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, 1847 (Stephanie Meyer references this Classic in the Twilight Series)
''It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.'' A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, 1859
"You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings." Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 1818 (I chose to read this instead of Pride and Prejudice)
To me, these lines are special for a few reasons. They reflect an important issue that the main characters must overcome. They introduce the overall theme that will be revealed in the story. Ultimately, these opening lines expose some of the famous writing style that each of these authors will use throughout the reading.
I liked researching opening lines so much I think I will post my favorite closing lines soon. Leave a comment with your favorite opening line from a Classic or a Contemporary work.
"A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead." The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, 1951