Once upon a time… It was a dark and stormy night…, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, Those are some memorable opening lines to stories that we are all very familiar with, but may not know the true origin.
Many writers say that the first line is the most difficult to come up with, It is those few words that help to shape the remainder of the book. Here is a look at some popular opening lines and the books that they were in.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Pride and Prejudice was one of Austen’s most beloved novels that is still cherished today. It has been adapted into various films throughout the years and even though it is more than a century old, the words in the book are still highly relatable to today’s readers.
In this historic romance, we follow the life of a young Elizabeth Bennett who strives for love, independence, and honesty in the high society lifestyle of 19th century England.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
“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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
In Dickens popular novel, A Tale of Two Cities, he focuses on the events occurring in Paris and London before and during the French Revolution. The story mainly focuses on Charles Darnay, the self-exiled nephew of French nobility and his wife Lucie Manette, the daughter of Dr. Alexandre Manette.
The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)
“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by a Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.”
Mark Twain’s work has crossed generations and his tales of young boys growing up during a difficult time of segregation, wars and poverty have captivated readers for many years. His work has been transformed into film and other forms of media and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” remain one of the most popular books in our culture.
The Catcher and the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)
“If you really want to hear about it, the first think you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
The Catcher and the Rye is a story that was set around the 1950s and it is narrated by a young man named Holden Caulfield. Holden isn’t specific about his location while he’s telling his story, but it makes it clear that he is undergoing treatment in a mental hospital or a sanatorium. The events that he talks about take place a few days between the end of the fall school season and Christmas, when Holden was 16 years old.
The book is still extremely prevalent (and no doubt sparked the popularity of the name “Holden”).
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, he told me, just remember that all the people in the world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
The book has had several film adaptations made and remains one of the most popular pieces of American literature today. The story is narrated by Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate who moves to New Yrok and lives next door to Gatsby, an affluent man who lives a frivolous and extravagant lifestyle. At a party, Nick finds out that Gatsby is in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy. And Nick sets up a meeting between them.
When Daisy accidentally hits and kills a woman, Gatsby’s takes the blame to protect her. The woman’s husband finds out, goes to Gatsby’s house, and kills him.
The book gives an accurate depiction of the lifestyle for the wealthy people during the 1920s. But it also challenges the values of the American dream. Fitzgerald’s novel questions the idea that money, prosperity, and popularity are all one needs to be happy.