“Marley was dead, to begin with.” I am rereading A Christmas Carol. The beloved tale that encourages generosity, celebration, family feeling and empathy at Christmas and all other times begins with the words “Marley was dead”.
Having reread the words, “Marley was dead, to begin with” and inspired by Kit Whitfield’s recent deconstructions of first sentences of novels, I begin to think of other first lines, the ones that when you hear them, you can automatically place in their respective works. This is the list I came up with:
- Call me Ishmael.
- Marley was dead, to begin with.
- In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
- There’s my last duchess, painted on the wall, looking as if she were alive.
- I sing of arms and the man*.
- Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph.**
- Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
- In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
- "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents.”*
- To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman.
- In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job.
- The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day.
- The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.
- All children, except one, grow up.
- My mind now turns to stories of bodies changed into new forms.
Six of those lines have been translated from other languages, but I think at least four of those should be recognizable anyway. I’ll post sources another time. Feel free to add any of your own in comments.
* That’s not the whole first sentence, but if you are going to recognize it, that’s the part you’ll recognize.
** I know, that’s not the first line of the book, but I would argue that it is the first line of the story.