Top Ten Tuesday | Look at this (epi)graph


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week’s theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week’s theme is ‘Favourite Book Quotes’, but they’re something I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about before so today I thought I’d share some of my favourite epigraphs instead.

I love a good epigraph—they can be such a good way of setting up the mood of a book, and I love re-reading them after I’ve read the novel to see if I understand even more why the author chose them.

Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.

— Charles Lamb, epigraph for To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

‘You know how European literature begins?’ he’d ask, after having taken the roll at the first class meeting. ‘With a quarrel. All of European literature springs from a fight.’ And then he picked up his copy of The Iliad and read to the class the opening lines. ‘”Divine Muse, sing of the ruinous wrath of Achilles . . . Begin where they first quarreled, Agamemnon the King of men, and great Achilles.”‘ And what are they quarrelling about, these two violent, mighty souls? It’s as basic as a barroom brawl. They are quarrelling over a woman. A girl, really. A girl stolen from her father. A girl abducted in a war.’

The Human Stain by Philip Roth, epigraph for The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer,
If you’re a pretender, come sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin
Come in!
Come in!

— Shel Silverstein, epigraph for Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; translated by Anthea Bell

If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, epigraph for Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Who has not asked himself at some time or other: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?

— Clarice Lispector, epigraph for The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos

Her excellent reputation will never be lost;
the gods will create a song to delight mortals
about clever Penelope.
So unlike my wife, who did awful things . . .

— Agamemnon, Odyssey Book 24.196-9, epigraph for A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

She herself is a haunted house.

— ‘The Lady of the House of Love’ by Angela Carter, epigraph for The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

“I’m the witch. You’re the world.”

— Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods, epigraph for Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

I watch’d today as Giles Corey was presst to death between the stones. He had lain so for two dayes mute. With each stone they tolde him he must plead, lest more rocks be added. But he only whisperd, More weight. Standing in the crowde I found Goodwyfe Dane, who, as the last stone lower’d, went white, grippt my hand, and wept.

— Letter fragment dated Salem Towne, 16 September 1692, Division of Rare Manuscripts, Boston Athenaeum, epigraph for The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

…and the sun has perished out of heaven and an evil mist hovers over all.

— Homer’s Odyssey XX. 345, epigraph for After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott

What did you talk about this week?

52 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday | Look at this (epi)graph

  1. Rabeeah says:

    This is such a great take on the prompt Jess, and accompanied by a great title too haha. Really making me wonder why I never return to the epigraph after finishing a novel to see it with news — I should start doing that! It’s fun to see how many of these are Greek lit, but I guess it makes sense.

    The quote from The Wise and the Wicked is very interesting. I’m going to go learn more about that book rn I think!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lexlingua says:

    Wow! All hard-hitting, powerful quotes. Thanks for a wonderful selection, and some new books to read as well — if the quotes are this powerful, the books should be too. And if you want to talk about Penelope, have you read The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mareli Thalwitzer says:

    I literally clapped my hands while reading this post! How absolutely awesome! This was sooo clever and so apt. The Secret Garden’s is gorgeous and true and Shel Silverstein for Inkheart also fits perfect.

    10 out of 10 for this post! I loved it!
    Mine was pulled from the archives today as I didn’t have enough time or data to do a brand new post.

    10 Favorite quotes from books

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dinipandareads says:

    Aaah, I love Shel Silverstein so much! Reading that epigraph has finally convinced me that I need to have his books on my shelves. This gave me such wonderfully nostalgic and happy feelings — love it! And love your twist on todays’ topic! I enjoy a good epigraph but never re-read them at the end. You’ve made me curious and I just might do that from now 😍

    Liked by 1 person

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