Liberal Arts Blog — Did E.B. White Write the Best First Page Ever Written? If Not, Who Did?
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day
Today’s Topic: Did E.B. White Write the Best First Page Ever Written? If Not, Who Did?
I believe that the first page of “Charlotte’s Web” is the best first page of a novel ever written. To help you decide whether or not you agree, I am making the page, ever so slightly re-arranged, the body of this post. My fantasy is that having read it closely, perhaps a few times, you will digest it. And then think long and hard about whether or not you have ever read as beautifully written and powerful a sequence of sentences and paragraphs ever in your life. If you decide “no,” please respond and thank me for making your day. If “yes” then please respond with the text of that first page which is its equal or superior. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
“WHERE’S PAPA GOING WITH THAT AX?”
1. Said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. “Out to the hoghouse,” replied Mrs. Arable, “Some pigs were born last night.”
2. “I don’t see why he needs an ax” continued Fern, who was only eight.
3. “Well,” said her mother, “One of the pigs is a runt. It’s very small and weak and it will never amount to anything so your father has decided to do away with it.”
“DO AWAY WITH IT?” SHRIEKED FERN,
1. “You mean kill it? Just because it’s smaller than the others.”
2. Mrs. Arable put a pitcher of cream on the table. “Don’t yell, Fern!” she said, “Your father is right. The pig will probably die anyway.”
3. Fern pushed a chair out of the way and ran outdoors. The grass was wet and the earth smelled of spring tim. Fern’s sneakers were sopping by the time she caught up with her father.
“PLEASE DON’T KILL IT FATHER.” SHE SOBBED, “IT’S UNFAIR.”
1. Mr. Arable stopped walking.
2. “Fern,” he said gently, “You’ll have to learn to control yourself.”
3. “Control myself?” yelled Fern. “This is a matter of life and death and you talk about controlling myself.”
NB: Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax and tried to pull it out of her father’s hand.
FOOTNOTE — I lied
1. The text above is more than the first page.
2. The text and large illustration are stretched over two pages plus a few more lines.
3. A little slack much appreciated.
A LINK TO THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.