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Famous opening lines in literature…well begun is half done?

The first line of a novel or literary work holds great responsibility…and if it sticks in the minds of readers, it will make the book timeless for eons to come. Listing down famous opening lines is always a herculean task for any reader…how can one choose between so many good words…from so many great works? But, we’ve managed….

BookedforLife lists a few famous opening lines in literature….and why we love them…

  1. For innate humour…and for probably being the most quoted beginning-line ever written!

 “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” 

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

2. For setting the tone for the mood to come, in a delightful mix of poetry and prose!

“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.”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

3. For its in-the-face provocativeness…especially when you know the theme of the novel.

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul”

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

4. A classic proverbial style opening!

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

5. For being disconcerting and arresting at the same time….

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”

Albert Camus, The Stranger

6. A lot is said…while unsaid..

 “I was born in the city of Bombay…once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. The time matters, too.”

 Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

7. Short and effective…

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

8. The quintessential beginning through all times!

“Once upon a time…”

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Grimm’s Fairy Tales

9. Introduces an element of surprise…

 ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” George Orwell, 1984

10. It dives directly into the thematic heart!

“All children, except one, grow up”.

M. Barrie, Peter Pan

11. An effective introduction despite staring with the minor characters…

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense”

JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

There are many more…but these famous opening lines do teach us a bit about the art of making an entrance! Indeed, well begun is half done! 

Dhanishta Shah

Dhanishta is a Counselling Psychologist and a freelance writer. She is the Founder of Bookedforlife.