Quiz: Can you identify these first lines from classic literature?

Most experienced, professional writers, have agonized over opening sentences. After all, opening lines set the tone, establish style, and are often the deciding factor in your reader’s decision to keep reading.

No pressure.

When I find myself struggling with a writing project, I read fiction to find inspiration. And recently, I’ve found inspiration in reading famous opening lines from the great works of literature.

In the spirit of finding that creative spark and broadening our knowledge, I offer the following list of the famous first lines. Can you match these with their literary works?

1. “All this happened more or less.”
a. “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift
b.” Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe
c. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
d. “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut

2. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
a. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
b. “1984” by George Orwell
c. “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
d. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams

3. “A screaming comes across the sky.”
a. “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pynchon
b. “Ulysses” by James Joyce
c. “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Remarque
d. “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner

4. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
a. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
b. “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens
c. “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
d. “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

5. “It was a pleasure to burn.”
a. “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
b. “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
c. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
d. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

6. “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
a. “Don Quixote” by Miguel De Cervantes
b. “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez
c. “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein
d. “In Search of Lost Time” by Marcel Proust

7. “You better not never tell nobody but God.”
a. “Mrs Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf
b. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
c. “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
d. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

8. “It was love at first sight.”
a. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
b. “Vanity Fair” by William Makepeace Thackeray
c. “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
d. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

9. “124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.”
a. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
b. “1984” by George Orwell
c. “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote
d. “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie

10. “TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”
a. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
b. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
c. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
d. “Jude the Obscure” by Thomas Hardy

Here are the answers:

1. D

2. B

3. A

4. D

5. C

6. B

7. B

8. D

9. A

10. B

Readers, how did you do? Any other famous opening lines to add to the list?

This article was first posted on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.


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