Opening Lines: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This is the blog where we dissect the opening sentences of popular works of fiction. Few people outside of the writing community know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into crafting the perfect Opening Line; and for that reason, I want to bring attention to the incredible work that a writer puts into these first few words. Today we will examine Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

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First, let’s look at the blurb:

As the Bennets prepare their five grown daughters to enter into society, each shows personality traits that illuminate their future prospects as wives. Jane, the oldest, is the most demure and traditional, and Lydia, the youngest, the most headstrong and impulsive. Attention centers on haughty second-born Elizabeth, and her blossoming relationship with the dashing but aloof Fitzwilliam Darcy. Adversaries at first in the endless rounds of balls, parties, and social gatherings, they soon develop a grudging respect for one another that blossoms into romance when each comes to appreciate the tender feelings that course beneath the veneer of their propriety and reserve. 

Now, let’s examine the Opening Line:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

This is another example where the author’s voice makes us want to read more and learn more about what’s going on. (Refer to Opening Lines: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.)

Let’s break this down.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged…”

This is obviously something that has been proved true–many times over–that it is now considered to be fact.

“…that a single man in possession of a good fortune…”

Now we know this “truth” concerns single, wealthy men.

“…must be in want of a wife.”

Since this wealthy man is rich and single, he must be in want of a wife.

This is a great line because this “truth” is obviously an opinion, but the voice of the narrator compels us to find out why they believe this.

We want to find out who this person is that considers this universally acknowledged statement as fact. Why do they believe this? Is it because they know this man? Do they know other wealthy men that were single and in want of wives? And what is to come of this single, wealthy man that we know we’ll soon be reading out.

If you want to find out about this mystery man and see if there was any truth to this statement, click on the Barnes & Noble link.

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