Can You Name the Classic Novel from Just One Line?


By: Isadora Teich

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Think you are well read and ready to put your classic novel knowledge to the test? The written word has been a part of expressing, shaping, changing, and reflecting culture for centuries. In fact, some of the characters and archetypes created centuries ago are still around today and have had a deep impact on all types of art, ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to paintings to the Netflix originals you binge from your couch. From the classic hero's journey to love triangles and terrifying monsters, all of it has been repeated again and again, often starting in an influential classic novel. 

Novels often become classics because they reflect their environment in a unique way or say something new about a time and place, maybe one that never existed at all. While some authors, like Charles Dickens, wrote with the aim of making the upper classes aware of the struggles of poor children in his city, others write for the art of it, or with the aim of playing with language itself. This is what makes classic literature so interesting. 

If you are a literature buff who thinks you can pick out a classic work from only a single line, then get your spectacles ready and try this quiz! 

"Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble."

This tragic play by William Shakespeare was first performed in 1606. This famous play mixes the supernatural with the pitfalls of political ambition.


“Please, sir, I want some more.”

Charles Dickens' 1838 novel "Oliver Twist" is one of the best-known works in all of English literature. In it, an orphan boy becomes the apprentice of an undertaker.


“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

This French historical novel by Victor Hugo was published in 1862. It was adapted into one of the most successful musicals of all time and an acclaimed film.


“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

1902's "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is the third Sherlock Holmes novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In it, Holmes and Watson investigate an attempted murder attached to the legend of a terrifying hound.


"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

This 1925 novel was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It explores the blind excess and hollowness of an era coined by Fitzgerald himself as The Jazz Age.


“The saints were his friends, and blessed him; the monsters were his friends, and guarded him.”

This French gothic novel by Victor Hugo was published in 1831. It centers on the lives of characters who surround the famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.


"And so it goes."

This anti-war science fiction black comedy novel written by Kurt Vonnegut was published in 1969. It is partially a semi-autobiographical retelling of his experiences surviving World War II as an American soldier.


“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

"Brave New World" is a 1932 dystopian fiction novel by Aldous Huxley. It depicts a scientifically advanced utopian future where humans are conditioned and pacified through drugs to live in a highly controlled society where the natural order has been discarded.


“We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?”

"Lord of the Flies" is a 1954 novel by British author William Golding. In it, a group of boys stranded on a desert island try to govern themselves with horrifying results.


"I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other."

First published in 1823, this is considered to be among the first horror or sci-fi novels. It was written by 18-year-old Mary Shelley.


“I told him I believed in hell, and that certain people, like me, had to live in hell before they died, to make up for missing out on it after death, since they didn't believe in life after death, and what each person believed happened to him when he died.”

This 1963 novel is the only novel of American poet Sylvia Plath. It is semi-autobiographical and believed to mirror her own mental health decline before she committed suicide.


“Any damn fool can beg up some kind of job; it takes a wise man to make it without working.”

1971's "Post Office" is the first novel by Charles Bukowski. This autobiographical novel puts a sardonic spin on Bukowski's years working as a mail carrier and sorter.


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

Originally published in 1813, this novel by Jane Austen is one of the best selling in all of English literature. This novel of manners follows protagonist Elizabeth Bennet as she emotionally matures.


“The difference between treason and patriotism is only a matter of dates.”

Alexandre Dumas wrote this 1884 French adventure novel. It follows the imprisonment, escape and epic revenge of an innocent man.


"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

This dystopian fiction novel by English author George Orwell was published in 1949. It follows the efforts of an average man to rebel against an oppressive totalitarian government.


"Terror made me cruel."

This 1847 novel was written by Emily Bronte. This book was controversial when released for its unflinching exploration of cruelty and challenging Victorian ideals.


"Hell is empty and all the devils are here."

Written between 1610-1611, many experts think that this is the last play that William Shakespeare wrote completely by himself. It follows a sorcerer and banished duke who schemes to restore his daughter to nobility using magic.


“As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

"Moby-Dick" is an 1851 novel by American author Herman Melville. It follows Captain Ahab's quest to get vengeance on a whale that had injured him.


"We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep."

"The Scarlet Letter" was published in 1850. This Puritan historical romance novel was written by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne.


"There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee was published in 1960. In it, a southern small-town lawyer tries to defend an African-American man who was falsely accused of a crime.


"Ask no questions, and you'll be told no lies."

Published in 1861, "Great Expectations" was written by Charles Dickens. It follows the personal journey of an orphan named Pip.


"Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road."

Published in 1957, this Beat Generation novel was written by Jack Kerouac. It explores the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the United States.


"Your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others."

Published in 1899, this novel was written by Polish-British author Joseph Conrad. A man tells the tale of sailing the Congo River on a journey where things turn out not to be as the seem.


“That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they're not much to look at, or even if they're sort of stupid, you fall in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.”

This 1951 novel by J.D. Salinger is told from the point of view of teen Holden Caulfield. While originally written for adults, it has become a staple in high school English classes across America.


“Jim said that bees won't sting idiots, but I didn't believe that, because I tried them lots of times myself and they wouldn't sting me.”

This novel by Mark Twain was published in 1884. It follows teen outcast Huckleberry Finn, who aimlessly sails the Mississippi River with an escaped slave named Jim.


"The curves of your lips rewrite history."

Originally published in 1890, this philosophical fiction novel is the only novel completed by Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. This novel was considered highly controversial at the time.


"Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other."

"Of Mice and Men" is a 1937 novel written by John Steinbeck. It follows a pair of friends and workers doing what they can to survive in the Dust Bowl.


“I've always loved you, and when you love someone, you love the whole person, just as he or she is, and not as you would like them to be.”

Originally published in installments in a magazine starting in 1877, this famous novel is by Russian author Leo Tolstoy. It tells the tale of a tragic affair and is considered to be one of the best novels ever written by many.


“Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot?"

This 1897 Gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker is arguably one of the most influential books ever written. This book is the father of all the vampire horror and fantasy media that has been created over the past century or so.


“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart.”

This 1866 novel is by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In it, a poor ex-student considers committing what he considers a morally justifiable murder.


“We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives.”

"Lolita" is a 1955 novel written by Russian-American author Vladimir Nabokov. It is famous for its controversial subject, a middle-aged protagonist infatuated with a child.


“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

This Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes was published in 1615. This book about a man so obsessed with the age of knights that he travels around dressed as one fighting largely imagined foes has been translated into more languages than almost any other book.


“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure.”

Albert Camus wrote this 1942 philosophical fiction novel. In it, a man who appears to care about nothing kills a man following the death of his mother.


“I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.”

"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is a gothic horror novella by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. It was published in 1886.


“He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink.”

"Mrs. Dalloway" is a 1925 novel by Virginia Woolf. It explores the thoughts a high society woman has as she goes about a seemingly normal day.


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