Famous opening lines

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Famous opening lines have the power to captivate readers and draw them into a story. They set the tone, establish the setting and introduce the characters, all in just a few words. From the iconic “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” to the chilling “Call me Ishmael,” these lines have become timeless and beloved by readers all over the world. But why should you keep reading? Well, each of these opening lines hints at an intriguing story that is waiting to be explored. By continuing to read, you’ll uncover the secrets, unravel the mysteries and become fully immersed in the world of the characters. So, buckle up and get ready to embark on a journey that will leave you breathless.

Famous Opening Lines: A Look at the Most Iconic Openings in Literature

When it comes to literature, the opening lines of a book are perhaps the most important. They set the tone for the entire work, drawing the reader in and giving them a taste of what’s to come. Some opening lines are so famous that they’ve become ingrained in popular culture, quoted and referenced time and time again. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most iconic opening lines in literature.

“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

This opening line has become one of the most famous in all of literature, and for good reason. It sets the stage for the entire novel, establishing the importance of marriage and social status in Regency-era England. It also introduces the novel’s protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, and hints at the romantic tension that will drive the plot.

“Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

This short, simple sentence has become one of the most recognizable opening lines in literature. It immediately draws the reader in, inviting them to get to know the narrator and the story he has to tell. It also establishes the novel’s theme of obsession, as Ishmael becomes increasingly fixated on the elusive white whale.

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

This opening line is both memorable and profound, setting the stage for Tolstoy’s exploration of love, marriage, and family dynamics. It hints at the novel’s central conflict – the affair between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky – and establishes the idea that happiness is a universal experience, while unhappiness is unique to each individual.

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

This opening line immediately establishes the dystopian world of 1984, where even the basic concept of time has been distorted. It sets a mood of unease and uncertainty, drawing the reader into a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

This opening line is deceptively simple, introducing readers to the charming and whimsical world of Middle-earth. It immediately establishes the novel’s protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, and sets the stage for his unexpected adventure.

“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

This opening line is a masterclass in setting the stage for a novel. It establishes the novel’s themes of duality and contrast, while also giving readers a taste of the vivid and vibrant language that characterizes Dickens’ writing.

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” – Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

This opening line is simultaneously beautiful and disturbing, setting the stage for Nabokov’s controversial exploration of a man’s obsession with a young girl. It draws the reader in with its poetic language, while also hinting at the novel’s darker themes.

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

This opening line is both evocative and haunting, setting the stage for Plath’s semi-autobiographical exploration of mental illness and societal expectations. It establishes the novel’s setting and tone, while also hinting at the emotional turmoil that the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, will experience.


The opening lines of a novel are like a first impression – they set the tone for the entire work, drawing the reader in and giving them a taste of what’s to come. The most famous opening lines in literature are memorable for a reason – they are beautifully crafted, evocative, and often hint at the themes and conflicts that will drive the plot. Whether you’re a lover of classic literature or a fan of contemporary works, there’s no denying the power of a great opening line.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most famous opening line in literature?

The most famous opening line in literature is “Call me Ishmael” from Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick.

Why are opening lines important in literature?

Opening lines are important in literature because they set the tone for the entire story and capture the reader’s attention. A strong opening line can hook the reader and make them want to continue reading. It can also give the reader a sense of what the story will be about and what themes or motifs will be explored.

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