I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.
“There was not an inch of room for Lottie and Kezia in the buggy.” – Katherine Mansfield’s Prelude in The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield (Wordsworth Classics)
This line is so elegant and simple it’s deceptive. It’s “not an inch of room for”, not “no room for”. “no room for” would be pedestrian, boring and unimaginative. “not an inch of room for” gives us a hint of character, mood, and atmosphere. We are shown the narrator’s attitude towards the environment the moment we start reading.
As with the opening line of A Catcher in the Rye, you have the entire book in that opening line. We learn in fourteen words the characters’ self-concepts and narrative voice is established. The names “Lottie” and “Kezia”, combined with “buggy”, provide a hint of time period although not place (it’s established quickly thereafter). The line hints of a claustrophobic existence, one that is tolerated though not enjoyed.
The rest of the story – beautifully told, I might add – never openly admits to any sense of voluntary or involuntary confinement or constriction but it’s there with every comment about the people, their comings and goings, their hopes, their sorrows, their successes and failures. The whole “move to the country” motif is a statement about escaping, and check out the descriptions of the father’s business, something he does but doesn’t want to do, something that provides him and his family with financial stability but a complete lack of fulfillment.
Do you have any great opening lines you’d like to share?
I’d love to know them. There’s a catch, though. You have to explain in context why a line is great. Saying a line is great because it comes from some great literature doesn’t cut it. Quoting from archaic and/or little known works doesn’t cut it.
Feel free to quote from archaic and/or little known works, just make sure you give reasons why something is great. I stated the Great Opening Lines criteria back in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 2 -What Makes a Great Opening Line?).
So by all means, make the claim. Just make sure you provide the proof according to the guidelines given. If not, your comment won’t get published.