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.

“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.”

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

From David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.”

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

From Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”

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

From Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

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

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

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

From Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita.”

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

From Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

From Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep.”

From Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.”

From Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.”

From Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.”

From H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine.”

From Kurt Vonnegut’s, “Slaughterhouse Five.”

From Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”

From J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan.”

From Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.”

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

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