So my little brother (or not so little anymore I guess) and I were talking about great first lines in books. We talked about the first line of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself”) but he hadn’t read that book. Then my mom mentioned “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” which is from Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. Then I remembered my favorite opening line which happens to be the closing line as well. It comes from The Outsiders by SE Hinton.
“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had just two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”
So then I started looking up more first lines. First lines tend to get ignored because I am so excited to get into the book, but looking back, first lines are very important. So here’s a few from some good books.
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen): “IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Now how true is that?
1984 (George Orwell): “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” What does that mean, striking thirteen?
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (CS Lewis): “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” This is on my ‘need to read’ list.
Farenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury): “It was a pleasure to burn.” I need to finish this book now.
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald): “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” Maybe it’s time to take the advice?
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott): “Did you hurt yourself Jo?” Okay so not a great first line, but still a great book.
So books have great first lines, but do people? I don’t know what my first words were, but I sure hope they were great.