Five…Iconic First Lines

The first sentence of a book is an introduction to a new world. Some are philosophical, some are funny, some are just sentences. There are, of course, some first lines, first sentences that have become part of the collective consciousness, and therefore assumed Iconic status.

Five Iconic First Lines (books edition)

Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling (1998)

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

I’m fairly certain this one became iconic simply because it is Harry Potter. Personally, I really, really love the “thank you very much.” at the end – I mean, that is what makes the line for me. Also, it introduces the Dursley’s, their home address, and how they think of themselves in twenty-one words.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.”

I knew this first line before I had even read Pride and Prejudice, before I knew what a Jane Austen was and how they’d come to be my favourite classics. I love that everyone knows this line, but my favourite part is the second sentence, despite it being a lot longer:

“However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one of other of their daughters.”

Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie (1911)

“All boys grow up, except one.”

And bam we know it’s Peter Pan, because that is Peter’s defining feature – that he is a boy who never grows up. I know a few boys like that myself, adolescents in the bodies of grown men, but I wouldn’t call any of them Peter Pan’s! This line by J.M.Barrie introduced the intrigue of Peter, what made him so interesting before he is fully introduced on the page.

Nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell (1949)

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

Voila. Instantly something has gone skewy because clocks that strike have twelve points. By putting this in the first sentence, it is clear that this world isn’t quite like out own, even if it is still cold in April.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab (2015)

“Kell wore a very peculiar coat.”

I’m not sure I’m able to complete a list without including ADSOM in some way! I love that the first thing you have to know about Kell, is about his clothing. The coat is actually incredibly important to him, so it makes sense, but on first reading the book, it makes you wonder what Kell is like if the first thing to remark about this Kell is that they have a “peculiar” coat.

Well, these are my favourite of the first lines, shout out your favourite first lines in the comments!



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