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30 Stunning Opening Lines From Famous Works of Literature

From the scandalous opening lines of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita to the arsonist rant that begins Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, we've collected some of the most stunning literary openers out there. If you are a writer looking for inspiration for your own novel's opening, look no further, we've got you covered.

  1. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.

  2. Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.

  3. It was a pleasure to burn.

  4. You better not never tell nobody but God.

  5. He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.

  6. The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.

  7. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

  8. Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.

  9. Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo…

  10. "Where's Papa going with that axe?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

  11. I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won't bother to talk about, except it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead.

  12. Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure.

  13. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.

  14. 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 short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

  15. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.

  16. Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941.

  17. 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 this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

  18. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

  19. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

  20. It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

  21. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

  22. They shoot the white girl first.

  23. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

  24. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing 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.

  25. I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man.

  26. What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings?

  27. Francis Marion Tarwater's uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up.

  28. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women.

  29. We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.

  30. I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.

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