8 Portraits of Famous Fathers from Literature

Happy Father’s Week, Shmoopers!

As we get ready for Dad’s Day on Sunday (you’re welcome for the reminder), we decided to draw a few portraits of literary dads to hang on our walls. We skipped Atticus since we already have a life-sized cut-out of Gregory Peck, but we hope we did justice to the rest.

Victor Frankenstein

The monster refers to Frankenstein as his creator, so we’re tempted to think of him as a father figure and talk about him like he’s a deadbeat dad. But we don’t think that’s entirely accurate. It’s more likely that Shelley saw him as a mean mommy. Check out our character analysis for more on why, and for now, just be glad that your parents didn’t name you “The Monster.”

Willy Loman

Spoiler alert: in Death of a Salesman, the salesman dies. Even after Willy’s son, Biff, totally lays it out for his dad that all he wants to do is spend some shirtless, sweaty time in a Midwestern haystack, Willy refuses to understand. He takes his own life in the hopes that his son will use the insurance money to start a business. Guess what? He doesn’t.


Baba of Kite Runner fame is generous, gracious, and generally larger than life, but let’s be real: he doesn’t offer Amir much in the way of parenting. Baba keeps his distance, which is one of the major motivations for Amir’s betrayal of Hassan. Ah, the old “I blame my dad” defense. Classic.

Tom Buchanan

Yep, Tom’s a dad. And Daisy’s a mom. Which means their daughter is the unluckiest rich kid this side of the Valley of Ashes. Gatsby doesn’t give us much intel on the Buchanan baby, but we’re thinking of penning some fanfic about how she grew up to fly in the face of everything her parents stood for. She moved to Brooklyn, lived in a loft, and called herself a starving artist. The title? Beautiful Little Fool.

The Ghost

Sure, it’s possible the Ghost in Hamlet is just a figment of Hamlet’s imagination (he does talk a lot like the younger dude, eh?). But regardless of whether or not we believe the ghost is “real,” the spirit definitely represents the way young Hamlet is haunted by his dad’s memory. Hey, we get it: the prince has just lost one of the most important figures in his life, and everyone is just telling him to move on. Not the best support group.

King Lear

Note to all future fathers: don’t make your daughters compete for your love. Or at least when people tell you it’s a bad idea, take some constructive criticism. If King Lear is any indication, that kind of fathering won’t end well. Lear’s daughters end up hating him (duh) and he dies of a broken heart. Poor Papa Lear. Actually, no. He had it coming.


If you could land a job based simply on experience, this guy would get Senior Dad in Charge every single time. He fathered more kids than we can count, many of whom ended up being in the Greek big leagues (Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Athena, Dionysus, Persephone…should we go on?). While he may not have been the best dad around—ahem, eating your own children won’t win you any points in that category—he sure has the numbers on his side.


What is it with lit and deadbeat dads? Unoka is a talented musician, but he’s lazy and irresponsible, falling into debt and bringing shame upon his family. Unoka’s bad reputation in Umuofia haunts Okonkwo throughout Things Fall Apart, and not in the my-dad-is-haunting-me-in-ghost-form way that Hamlet got. (We’re not sure which is worse.)


Looks like our Dad Wall of Fame turned into a Dad Wall of Shame. Hey, at least they’re all fictional.

What dads would you like to see all done up by Shmoop? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ShmoopDads.

Quote of the Week

“I am your father.”

~ Darth Vader

Is it possible Darth Vader is a better father than all these other schlubs?

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