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Beyond the Lone Islands

Thursday, 15 April 2010

BTT: Beginning or End?

In general, do you prefer the beginnings of stories? Or the ends?

Hm. How about the middle? Well caught up in a good story, but still not knowing how it's going to end...?

In general, though, I'd say the beginning is immensely important because it often decides whether we'll let us get caught up in the story at all. If the beginning is not interesting enough, we might even consider it not worth while to continue reading - unless we feel compelled to do so by some other reason than sheer pleasure or interest. (Like a school assignment.)

The end however is important for our final judgment of the book. If we don't like the way it ends, that tends to cast a shadow back over the whole story.

(On the other hand, if it has been tedious reading all along, to see the end of it may seem a relief, whatever the end turns out to be!)

My guess is that there are probably more famous opening sentences than closing ones. Here's a selection from my own bookshelf. Seven quotations: Some are beginnings, some are ends. Do you know the books?

1/ Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o'clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.

2/ 'Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! - Selina would stare when she heard of it!' - But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predicitions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

3/ Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.

4/ The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon. Though he had taken off his school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his grey shirt stuck to him and his hair was plastered to his forehead.

5/ Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do; once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"

6/ I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth.

7/ ... now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

You will find the answers below these pictures.



1/ Charles Dickens: David Copperfield (beginning)
2/ Jane Austen: Emma (end)
3/ J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (beginning)
4/ William Golding: Lord of the Flies (beginning)
5/ Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (beginning)
6/ Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights (end)
7/ C.S. Lewis: The Last Battle (end)


Nithin said...

I prefer good endings because I don't like poor endings to leave me disappointed with a book that is good otherwise. In a prefect world, I'd like books to have great beginnings, middle and endings. ;-)

I too love to see how authors begin books, and it does make a huge impression on how you look at the book. I even wrote a list like yours in answer to a BTT question once about great opening lines.

My answer to BTT is here.

Ginny said...

What a clever post! I only guessed one book, but my memory is bad, because on looking at the answers, I have read or watched movies of many of them. I like the beginning of a book best of all. A fresh start that you have no idea where it's taking you. Love the flower pictures, especially the snowdrops!

Bobbie said...

Very well thought out post. Mine is here:

rae said...

What a thought provoking post.

I actually knew some of these - I was so proud of myself!

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I prefer beginnings, myself, but it didn't occur to me to think about actual opening sentences. I did recognize a few from your list -- well, "correctly guess" would be more accurate. :-)

Lori said...

Wow, very thought out post.Reading a book is like having sex. I require both ends.Here's mine.

young-ecletic-encounters said...

A post that got me thinking. Actually a truly great story you love all of it. the ones you read over and over. If any section is lacking you just don't go back to it. I really liked the clever quiz. I only guessed one, but it was fun to do and think about. Thanks for sharing. Johnina :^S

GB said...

Well I've read this post at last. Fascinating. I was quite surprised that I knew 1 (strange considering I do not read Dickens), 3 (well that it was HP though not which book 'cos I couldn't recall which was first), 4 (horrid book!!) 5 (of course; although I then had a struggle to recall the start of Through The Looking Glass) 6 (how could one forget?).

I never got to the end of Emma and I don't recall ever reading that CS Lewis.

A very interesting post I have to say.

I think that I would go for a Good Ending every time!


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