Enter Details

Comment on stories, receive email newsletters & alerts.

This is your permanent identity for Business Insider Australia
Your email must be valid for account activation
Minimum of 8 standard keyboard characters


Email newsletters but will contain a brief summary of our top stories and news alerts.

Forgotten Password

Enter Details

Back to log in

23 Sentence Diagrams That Show The Brilliance Of Famous Novels' Opening Lines

In their magna opera, famous authors have written some of the most beautiful and well-known lines in literature.

Elements like word order, vocabulary, and grammatical construction give these sentences their power.

To demonstrate this, Pop Chat Lab diagrammed some famous novels’ first lines. If a staunch logophile taught your seventh grade English class, you probably saw similar images.

Depending on the part of speech and function within the sentence, each word sits on a different line in a different colour.

Consider George Orwell’s “1984,” for example.

Famous Sentence 1 Pop Chart Lab

“It,” a noun, as shown by the colour grey, is the subject of the first clause. The first slot on a line always represents the subject.

Next comes the verb “was,” shown in olive green. Because “was” is a linking verb that doesn’t require an object, the diagram uses a slanted line. A straight line — like the one between “were striking” and “thirteen” in the second clause (the lower line) — shows a direct object.

Adjectives (and articles) are shown on slanted vertical lines below the word they modify. The same applies to prepositional phrases like “in April.”

In sentences with more than one clause, like Orwell’s above, dotted lines connect them.

Feast your eyes on more examples of opening sentences from famous books below.

From Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”

Famous sentence 2Pop Chart Lab

From Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Famous Sentence 3Pop Chart Lab

From David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.”

Famous sentence 4Pop Chart Lab

From Gabriel Marcia Marquez’ “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Famous sentence 5Pop Chart Lab

From Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”

Famous sentence 6Pop Chart Lab

From David Markson’s “Wittgenstein’s Mistress.”

Famous sentence 7Pop Chart Lab

From Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

Famous sentence 8Pop Chart Lab

From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

Famous sentence 9Pop Chart Lab

From Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow.”

Famous sentence 10Pop Chart Lab

From John Steinbeck’s, “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Famous sentence 11Pop Chart Lab

From Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita.”

Famous sentence 12Pop Lab Chart

From Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Famous sentence 13Pop Chart Lab

From Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

Famous sentence 14Pop Chart Lab

From Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep.”

Famous sentence 15Pop Chart Lab

From Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.”

Famous sentence missingPop Chart Lab

From Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.”

Famous sentence 16Pop Chart Lab

From Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.”

Famous sentence 17Pop Chart Lab

From H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine.”

Famous sentence 19 Pop Chart Lab

From Kurt Vonnegut’s, “Slaughterhouse Five.”

Famous sentence 20Pop Chart Lab

From Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”

Famous sentence 21Pop Chart Lab

From J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan.”

Peter pan diagramPop Chart Lab

From Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.”

Famous sentence 22Pop Chart Lab

Here’s the full poster from Pop Chart Lab, available in a 24″ by 18″ print for $US29.

Famous novels' sentencesPop Chart Lab

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.