Great Works of Literature Begin with Great Opening Lines

Believe it or not, one thing that does impact your reading is the starting line of a book. Not that it makes you super interested in the book, but it actually defines what to expect from the book. That doesn’t at all mean those without great opening lines aren’t great novels. But again, you can’t scoff at the impact a powerful opening line has.

Other than that, it sets the tone of the reading. Speaking of which, what can explain this point other than this very famous opening line from Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ that says, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ And once the reader reads this, s/he knows what to expect.

That’s one aspect. Add to that the fact that some of these great opening lines make you think about the crux of life, as is the case with the opening line of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’. The oversimplified statement here- ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’- sounds overly simple yet as soon as you read it, you realize that it’s the ultimate truth of life.

That said, one more kind of opening line that is quite impactful and forces the readers to think about it again is the one that holds the deepest thoughts. And to prove that what can be better than the opening line from ‘1984’ by George Owell. This classic novel started with the line ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ As simple as it may sound, it reflects a dystopic situation where everything is expected to go awry. The combination of the spring element (April) with the coldness and the unlucky number (13) gives you the idea of something dark. And that’s when your mind starts to boggle.

And sometimes it’s just more than that. It’s more of a pick-up line that gives you a mix of reality and virtuality. And to quote that, I don’t need to go far beyond. J.M. Barrie’s famous children novel ‘Peter and Wandy’: “All children, except one, grow up.” Now as virtual as it may sound, we all know there is reality hidden under it. Think hard and you’ll accept.

Where all the facets are covered, we can’t avoid the one that takes the whole controversial turn. Cause it’s not just about the great beginnings, it’s about where it’s going to take us. And as I say controversy, the one book that comes to my mind is ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov. ‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.’- Sure does the line indicate that the protagonist is obsessed about Lolita and somewhere deep down he knows it’s not right to feel that way… and that leads us to think that it has a controversial streak.

I’m sure these examples do tell you how important an opening line is. It marks the footprints of the novel and not only the tone and the structure. Yes, it can’t be the soul of the novel but eight out of ten times, it ensures that the readers reach its end.

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