Cleaning out my storage in my "My Documents" folder in the computer I came across the final exam that I gave to the kids (ages 12-18) at the end of a year of reading American Literature. Their job was to tell me the author and the name of the piece (story, poem, essay, etc) for each quote. As I recal, no one missed more than two authors, but it is more difficult to name the source of the quote. How many can you name? I admit that even having taught the class I had to look up two of the authors names just now.
I know this is very unfair to my non-American friends. Sorry! I'll make it up to you soon.
1 A child said What is the grass? Fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
2 “Don’t know how old you are? Didn’t anybody ever tell you? Who was your mother?” “Never had none!” said the child, with another grin. “Never had any mother? What do you mean? Where were you born?” “Never was born!” persisted Topsy.
3 “All right then, I’ll go to hell”−and I tore it up. It was awful thought, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.
4 Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears; while the used key is always bright.
5 Then the man drowsed off into what seemed to him the most comfortable and satisfying sleep he had ever known. The dog sat facing him and waiting. The brief day drew to a close in a long, slow twilight.
6 Two roads diverged in a wood, and I−I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
7 She put her arms under her head and lay back, looking up at the sky. “If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.”
8 If ever two were one, then surely we. If ever man were loved by wife, then thee; If ever wife was happy in a man, compare with me, ye women, if you can.
9 “Why do you tremble at me alone?" cried he, turning his veiled face round the circle of pale spectators. "Tremble also at each other.”
10 'tis strange that an Indian should understand white sounds better than a man who, his very enemies will own, has no cross in his blood, although he may have lived with the red skins long enough to be suspected!
11 There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell's wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of, there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
12 were we lead all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly, We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
13 So on we worked, and waited for the light, and went without the meat, and cursed the bread; and Richard Cory, one calm summer night, went home and put a bullet through his head.
14 Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code. In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
15 “I” is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubtless clearer to the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselfs is difficult, but fine.
16 Because I could not stop for Death−He kindly stopped for me−The Carriage held but just Ourselves−And Immortality.
17 And if this had been all, it had been less, though too much; but the church must also be divided, and those that had lived so long together in Christian and comfortable fellowship must now part and suffer many divisions. And this I fear will be the ruin of New England, at least of the churches of God there, and will provoke the Lord’s displeasure against them.
18 These are the Wants of mortal Man, I cannot want them long, For life itself is but a span, and earthly bliss a son, My last great Want−absorbing all− Is, when beneath the sod, And summoned to my final call, The Mercy of my God.
19 The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.
20 I was a child and she was a child, in this kingdom by the sea; but we loved with a love that was more than love− I and my Annabel Lee−with a love that the winged seraphs of heaven coveted her and me.
21 Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
22 The murmur of the pine’s green branches is in her ears, she remembers how the white heron came flying through the golden air and how they watched the sea and the morning together, and Sylvia cannot speak; she cannot tell the heron’s secret and give its life away.
23 "They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions," said Atticus, "but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
24 I suppose I shall have to go back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard! It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!
25 All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event-- in the living act, the undoubted deed-- there, some unknown but still reasoning thing put forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is the wall, shoved near to me.
26 What matter how the night behaved? What matter how the northwind raved? Blow high, blow low, not all its snow could quench our hearthfire’s ruddy glow.
27 That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom−and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
28 O Thou who made those heroes dare To die, and leave their children free, --Bid Time and Nature gently spare The shaft we raised to them and Thee.
29 So live, that when thy summons comes to join the innumerable caravan, that moves to the pale realms of shade, where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death, thou go not, like the quarry slave at night, scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.
30 We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights.
31 Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land, taught my benighted soul to understand that there’s a God, that there’s a Savior too.
32 The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labour.