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13 of the Funniest Quotes From Great Novels

Sometimes a good laugh can sneak up on you in the most unexpected places, as in the middle of an otherwise dramatic scene in a piece of great literature.

Even when we expect a book to be humorous, reading an unexpectedly funny line feels like stumbling upon a hidden treasure. It’s a secret, knowing wink shared between author and reader, connecting countless generations of readers and reminding us of humor’s timeless nature.

Eliciting chuckles using silent words printed on a page is no easy feat — but these witty gems, tucked away in books both classic and modern, are capable of doing just that. We remember them because they resonate with us, and we share them because we recognize ourselves and our experiences in them.

From Jane Austen and Douglas Adams to Oscar Wilde and David Foster Wallace, here are 13 of the funniest lines in literary history.

After God Shakespeare has created most.
James Joyce, “Ulysses”

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Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three.
Joseph Heller, “Catch-22”

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Mother cooked a big breakfast. And then, when she cleared off the table, she found a quarter and a dime and three pennies by Father’s coffee cup. He’d tipped her.
Kurt Vonnegut, “Cat’s Cradle”

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Fox-terriers are born with about four times as much original sin in them as other dogs are, and it will take years and years of patient effort on the part of us Christians to bring about any appreciable reformation in the rowdiness of the fox-terrier nature.
Jerome K. Jerome, “Three Men in a Boat”

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It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It should have been, but that’s the weather for you.
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, “Good Omens”

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In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

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Money’s a horrid thing to follow, but a charming thing to meet.
Henry James, “The Portrait of a Lady”

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An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.
Jane Austen, "Pride and Prejudice”

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There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
C.S. Lewis, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

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There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.
Sylvia Plath, “The Bell Jar”

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This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.
William Goldman, “The Princess Bride”

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She was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest.
Oscar Wilde, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

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It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.
Roald Dahl, “Matilda”

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Featured image credit: sjbooks/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Kristina Wright
Kristina is a coffee-fueled writer living happily ever after with her family in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia.
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