8 Symbols of Light That Have Burned Into Our Brains

Hey, Shmoopers,

We thought it would be a good time to celebrate some symbols of light that have burned into our brains.

We’ll give you the rundown on eight of our faves and show you the light. 

8 Symbols of Light That

Have Burned Into Our Brains

1. The Green Light in The Great Gatsby

Who would have thought that a weird green light at the edge of someone’s dock would have become one of the most memorable symbols in western literature? To be fair, Fitzgerald does kinda hit us over the head with it—it’s basically the first and last thing we see in the book—so it makes sense that we remember it nine decades later. 

2. Light in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength to Love

Okay, no one’s surprised that MLK said something people remember. Here’s what he wrote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Light as a symbol of love? Sounds about right.

3. The Red Candle in The Joy Luck Club

Turns out candles are meaningful in just about every culture out there. In The Joy Luck Club, the candle is a symbol of marriage: if the two ends remain burning during the entire marriage night, the marriage bond is considered complete.

4. “Let there be light” in The Bible

Talk about standing the test of time. This line, which was written three-ish millennia ago, is still everywhere you look. And sure, it wasn’t written in English, but no matter how you translate it, we’re talking about light.

5. The Spark in Frankenstein

There’s plenty of light and dark imagery in Shelley’s novel, but it’s that spark we remember. Why? Because…Hollywood. The book describes the spark, but it’s the 1931 movie that burned it into our brains with an added bolt of lightning.

6. Matches in Like Water for Chocolate

According to a woman named Morning Light (again with the light imagery), every person has a box of matches inside them that must be lit. That’s a metaphor if we’ve ever seen one—and one that we’ll probably be talking about for a while.

7. The Candle in Othello

Most people have a pretty positive association with blowing out candles: it’s what we do on our birthdays before chowing down on some delicious cake. Well, sorry to put a damper on your b-day traditions, but in Othello, blowing out candles is synonymous with strangling your wife to death. No wonder we still remember that candle.

8. Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”

If it didn’t stick the first time, Elton’s reprisal of “Candle in the Wind” for Princess Di’s passing made this one stick. As the musician himself said, the “candle burned out long before [the] legend ever did.”

Here’s to our faves that are dripping with light symbolism,


Quote of the Week

Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

~ Albus Dumbledore

Subscribe to Shmoop and be…enlightened.

6 Movies That Deviate from Text to Screen

Hi, Shmoopers,

We’re always looking forward to a book-to-movie adaptation, even if the movie trailer and its source material have less in common than a walrus and a carpenter. But, hey, differences can inject some spice into what might otherwise be a pretty stale movie.

Here are six other movies that deviate from the text on the page…with varying levels of success.

1. Forrest Gump

Winston Groom’s novel sees Forrest Gump as a six-and-a-half-foot tall idiot savant with a foul mouth. The Robert Zemeckis film reimagines him as a gentler soul who’s roughly the size of Tom Hanks. In the novel, Forrest blasts off into space with an ape and is later captured by cannibals in Papua New Guinea. Both versions of Forrest start a shrimp business, although the movie proves that the most effective bait for shrimp is of the Oscar variety.

2. The Wizard of Oz

As Cinderella, Carrie Bradshaw, Tom Cruise, or anyone else who wears shoes to transform themselves into a princess would attest, footwear is the most important part of any outfit. Considering that fashion wisdom, it’s not surprising that the most striking difference between the Technicolor classic and L. Frank Baum’s original story is what’s on Dorothy’s feet. In Baum’s story, Dorothy’s shoes are silver. But to take advantage of color technology, the shoes in the film are an eye-popping sparkly ruby. There’s no place like home…except for a shoe store.

3. Jurassic Park

The Steven Spielberg film set the bar astronomically high for blockbuster action. But it’s not just the lack of CGI that makes the book seem tame in comparison. After all, in Crichton’s novel, Ian Malcolm is words on a page. In the movie, he is Jeff Goldblum. Need we say more?

4. Blade Runner

We’re guessing the original title of the Philip K. Dick novella—Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?just wouldn’t fit on a poster…the text would obscure the chiseled profile of Harrison Ford. But we should be thankful there’s just one title (Blade Runner) because there are seven different versions of the movie. If you get your mitts on all of them, you’re in for an all-day one-movie marathon.

5. The Fellowship of the Ring

Before Peter Jackson made three films from one small book, he made one film each from three large books. Without making any cuts, the films would be like Gandalf’s untrimmed beard: unruly, unkempt, and with week-old crumbs of stale honey cake buried within. Jackson made one major excision from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring: the singing woodsman Tom Bombadil. In the film, Bombadil is notoriously missing. He’s kind of like Alex Trebek’s mustache: once it’s been gone long enough, you forget it was ever there. Sorry, Tom.

6. A Clockwork Orange

Anthony Burgess’s original novel was infamously censored in the U.S.: the twenty-first chapter got the boot. Kubrick only read the twenty-chapter version, so his ending is a bit different. The novel shows Alex grow up a bit, whereas the movie brings him back to square one. Kubrick’s ending puts us in the awkward place of rooting for a violent murderer. Thanks, Stan.

Next time you head to theaters for a book turned blockbuster, make sure to read the book, too. Just be sure to wipe the popcorn butter off your hands first. No one likes a greasy e-reader. 


Quote of the Week

My mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

~ Forrest Gump

Life and film adaptations, that is.

8 Common Grammar Mistakes and Why You Should Avoid Them

Hey, Shmoopers,

Whether you are a grammar stickler or you hate grammar sticklers, it’s good to know when you need to be on point and when you can play a little fast and loose with those pesky rules. Our Grammar Guides will let you in on grammar’s biggest secrets while still helping you pass your next grammar quiz. Here’s a sneak peek.

8 Common Grammar Mistakes 

and Why You Should Avoid Them

1. Its vs. It’s, Your vs. You’re, and Their vs. There vs. They’re

You know the moment: you click send on the email, and then realize that you messed up a their/there/they’re. It happens to the best of us. Start by learning tips and tricks from yours truly, and then…implement the “undo send” function in Gmail. You can thank us later.

2. Dangling Modifiers

Dangling modifiers are just as gross and ridiculous as they sound. And they’re pretty easy to avoid, too. All you have to do is make sure that the word you’re modifying is actually in your sentence. (And, you know, in the right place.)

3. Comma Splices

The comma has absolutely no business joining two independent clauses together without a conjunction. It’s simply not strong enough. (Sorry, comma.) Find out how to fix comma splices in our Punctuation guide.

4. Compound Possessive Pronouns

This one sounds complicated, but we can explain it in terms of The Bachelor, which means…it’s not. Here’s the sitch. You know how the bachelor (or bachelorette: grammar mistakes are equal opportunity) always says stuff like “she and I’s relationship” or “her and I’s relationship” or “she and my’s relationship” or “her and my’s relationship” or omigodpleasemakeitstop? Yeah, those are wrong. What he’s looking for is “her and my relationship.” Or, you know, “our relationship,” but that would be too easy. Want more deets? Dig it.

5. Comma after But

Nope. Just no. With one tiny exception, you should never put a comma after the word but. We know it looks pretty, but…it doesn’t, actually. So you now have zero reasons to do it.

6. I vs. Me

How many times have you seen an Instagram post with the caption “LeBron James and I at the game!” Okay, maybe not that exact caption. We’re talking about the “[name] and I” construction. It’s…wrong. How can you tell? Well, would you ever caption it with “I at the game”? We sure hope not. So don’t add LeBron into the mix. What did he ever do to you anyway? Here’s more.

7. Double Prepositions

The who vs. whom debate will never end. That’s for sure. But one thing we can all agree on is that you should never double up on prepositions when using whom. “To whom would you like to speak?” Perf. “Whom would you like to speak to?” Also fine (according to common usage, at least). But “To whom would you like to speak to?” No thank you.

8. Homophones

Yeah, spelling is part of grammar. And yeah, it’s hard. The worst? When words are pronounced the same (or…close) but spelled differently. Accept and except, we’re looking at you. You and 21 other common homophones. (And those are just the ones we could do before we ran out of breath.)

Still itching for more? Try our Common Grammar Mistakes video playlist.


Quote of the Week

Mr. Allen, this may come as a shock to you, but there are some men who don’t end every sentence with a proposition.

~ Pillow Talk


7 Classic Books Brought to Life

Ever wondered what Jay Gatsby looks like when he isn’t being played by Leo? Trying to map Holden’s travels in The Catcher in the Rye? Not sure what a Nazgûl actually is? Shmoop infographics have all the answers.

7 Classic Books

Brought to Life


Lord of the Flies

What the stink is a conch?

Hint: it’s not the nickname our brother gave us in 3rd grade. We swear.

The Harry Potter Series

Is Hermione’s hair really that fabulous?

Yes. And don’t try to disagree with us.

Romeo and Juliet

Do opposites really attract?

Sometimes with deadly results.

To Kill a Mockingbird

What did Boo Radley’s porch look like?

It was actually kind of inviting, if you ask us.

The Lord of the Rings Series

What did Hobbits look like before Hollywood got its hands on ’em?

Er, don’t blame the messenger.

Animal Farm

What does it all mean?
It’s an allegory with a capital(ist) A. To each pig his own, you know?

Pride and Prejudice

Who loves (and lusts) whom?
It’s complicated. Like, really, really complicated.

Oh, and in addition to full Learning Guides on each text, our most popular infographics have corresponding Online Courses, which you can access via a Shmoop subscription.

Feast your eyes,


Quote of the Week

“Who are you wearing?

~ Joan Rivers

We think we heard Daisy ask Gatsby that, too.

5 Things to Know About Purim

Hey, Shmoopers,

Everyone’s pretty solid on what Easter is all about: Jesus and bunnies. But fewer people know the deal with Purim. (Spoiler alert: it’s not just “Jewish Halloween.”) So, as per uzh, we’re here to fill you in. Here’s the rundown.

1. The story comes from the Book of Esther.

2. Esther is a queen. She’s Jewish.

After Queen Vashti snubs the king, Esther is chosen by King Ahasuerus to be his new queen. How does he pick his bride? With a BCE-era beauty pageant of course. Apparently “announcing your background” isn’t part of the talent portion of the competition because Esther stays mum on being Jewish.

3. Mordecai is Esther’s cousin. He’s pious.

Mordecai basically raised Esther, and now he’s kind of like the little angel on her shoulder. Even though Esther is the only book in the Bible that doesn’t use the word “God,” it’s pretty clear that Mordecai is one pious dude: he refuses to bow down to the evil counselor, Haman. Which brings us to…

4. Haman is the bad guy. He loses.

The anti-Semitic Haman is plotting to destroy the Jews. Esther puts the kibosh on that—finally revealing that she’s Jewish—and everyone rejoices. (Okay, we left out a few plot points, but that’s the gist.) We all know that the best way to celebrate the death of your mortal enemy is with cookies and loud screaming…hence, hamentaschen and the tradition of shouting every time Haman’s name is said.

5. Purim is dress-up day. 

The Book of Esther officially makes Purim a holiday. But, uh, it’s pretty vague beyond that, so people went their own way with it. One tradition? Because Esther hides her true identity for much of the story, many modern Jews celebrate Purim by dressing up in costume. While Queen Esther is a classic fave, really anything goes. Arya Stark, anyone?

Cookies, costumes, and good guys prevailing. What more could you want?

Happy Purim,


Quote of the Week

For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.

~ The Book of Esther

Party like it’s roughly 500 BCE.

6 Easy Ways to Teach Math to Reluctant Mathletes

“When am I ever gonna use this?”

Math teachers around the world are all too familiar with that question. And it’s especially tough when you’re trying to drill math concepts into the brains of kids who are sure they’re going to be pet sitters or deejays or screenwriters or other professions that don’t require mad math skills.

Don’t sweat it. We’re here with a few tips to help you bring those kids to Mathland.

6 Easy Ways to Teach Math to Reluctant Mathletes 

1. Relate the concepts to books they love.

This one’s easy—and kind of hilarious. Never again will students wonder what mathematical negations have to do with Edward and Bella.

2. Ease them in with word problems.

Word problems are sneaky suckers. They trick students into thinking it’s more about reading than math, and then—ka-blam!—students are doing complex math concepts before they realize it.

3. Use videos to explain concepts.

We’ve got hundreds of videos to get you started. And if your students are into it, you can even have them make their own Shmoop-style video. Which leads us to…

4. Get hands-on with the material.

What better way to explain scale factor than by having students actually go out and make, say, a giant tube of toothpaste?

5. Make it interdisciplinary.

Team up with your school’s history teacher to have students calculate the probability that the next president will be over 6 feet tall or that voter registration will increase in any given year.

6. Use Shmoop’s Math Common Core Teaching Guides.

Shmoop’s Common Core-based Math Teaching Guides will arm you with assignments and handouts that’ll make teaching math positively alge-breezy. Inside each guide, you’ll find quizzes, activity ideas, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time.

Happy teaching, and save us some pi.

10 Women Who Changed U.S. History

Hey, Shmoopers,

If you’ve been forgetting your weekly #WCW or you missed out on your Galentine’s Day brunch, then you’re in luck. March means Women’s History Month, so you have a full thirty-one days to make up for your slacktivism. 

While there are obviously more than enough ladies to fill the whole month and then the rest of the months to follow forever, we want to highlight just a few. They might not all agree when it comes to ideology—and you might not agree with them—but they do have one thing in common: they’re women warriors.

 10 Women Who Changed U.S. History

1. Angelina Grimké Weld

An abolitionist, Grimké Weld presented an anti-slavery petition to the Boston State House, making her the first American woman ever to address a legislative body. A little more impressive than being the first woman to sign a petition on change.org. Get off the couch, peeps.

2. Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Not only is she the namesake for Lindsay Lohan’s character in Mean Girls (uh…right?), but Elizabeth Cady Stanton also founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. We can’t decide if she’d love Mean Girls or hate it.

 3. Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman not only brought hundreds of runaways all aboard the Underground Railroad, but she also acted as a covert spy for Union forces in South Carolina, making her the most amazing female spy ever. Beating even you, Melissa McCarthy. (We know you read our blog.) When was the last time you helped abolish slavery?

4. Eleanor Roosevelt

Traveling across the country, penning a newspaper column, and speaking on the radio, Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and put her money where her mouth was. So it’s fitting that she’s being considered as one of the candidates to grace some U.S. currency, getting a woman on a greenback for the first time in over a hundred years. 

 5. Betty Friedan

After demystifying (demystiquefying?) the creature known as woman with The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan convinced President Johnson to fight against gender discrimination in the workplace, doing her best to slam his head right through the glass ceiling. Metaphorically, of course.

 6, 7, 8, and 9. The Supremes 

Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan are the only women to have ever served on the Supreme Court. Out of 112, that’s not a great showing, but these four women have certainly made their mark. And while they might not “Stop! In the Name of Love,” these Supremes do stop in the name of injustice. Plus, no one will ask them who they are wearing, that’s for sure.

 10. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Talk about a list of firsts. A former teacher, Ros-Lehtinen was the first Latina in Congress. She was also the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the House of Representatives and Senate in Florida. And to round it out, she was the first person to deliver the State of the Union response in Spanish. ¿Qué genial, no?

So, uh, what have you done today? 



Quote of the Week

“I am not afraid; I was born to do this.”

~ Joan of Arc

Speaking of women warriors…