Thursday, August 1, 2019

A Literary Pop Quiz by Susan Van Kirk

by Tamarcus Brown at
“It is a truth universally acknowledged” that most readers can recognize the first line of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Because I taught American Literature for many years, I retain a love of American classics. Here are ten first lines from books I have loved or taught during my years in a public high school. Can you name these books and their authors? The answers are at the bottom, but no peeking!

1.“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

2.“When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself…”

3. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

Ben White at
4. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time.” [okay, more than one sentence.]

5.“When Caroline Meeber boarded the afternoon train for Chicago, her total outfit consisted of a small trunk, a cheap imitation alligator-skin satchel, a small lunch in a paper box, and a yellow leather snap purse, containing her ticket, a scrap of paper with her sister’s address in Van Buren Street, and four dollars in money.”

6.“To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the late rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.”

7.“One winter morning in the long-ago, four-year-old days of my life I found myself standing before a fireplace, warming my hands over a mound of glowing coals, listening to the wind whistle past the house outside.”

8.“I went back to Devon School not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student there fifteen years before.”

9.“The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.”

10.“My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.”

         1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald   2. Walden by Henry David Thoreau  3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 5. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser  6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
7. Black Boy by Richard Wright  8. A Separate Peace by John Knowles  9. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane   10. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy


Kait said...

Back to school for me! What a fun quiz. I've read most of the books, but while the stories stayed with me, the first lines did not.

Fun post, Susan.

Susan said...

Ah, Kait. Back to American Literature in 11th grade. I still love to sift back through some of these books. Favorite is "The Great Gatsby." Most loathed (by me) "Moby Dick."

KM Rockwood said...

Certainly reminds me of some books I would like to reread.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Eleventh grade American lit! A rite of passage.

Susan said...

School is about to start again for my grandchildren. I can hear my children sighing with relief. Thought it might bring back some happy memories for you readers!

Grace Topping said...

Fun quiz. It showed that I am woefully ignorant for some of the great novels you taught. Some I recognized, others I hadn't.

Susan said...

Oh, Grace. It has been a long time for many of us since high school classics were in our backpacks for school the next day. Yes, teaching them does give me a lot of ideas for titles. Sometimes these first lines have a HUGE clue, and other times you have to scratch your head. I think you get an "A" for effort.

carla said...

THis was fun! I didn't do very well, I'm sad to say ...

Susan said...

You always have more time to read some of these, or at least their first lines!!