6 Dinners We’re Sure Were More Uncomfortable Than Your Family’s Thanksgiving Will Be

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we’re most grateful for. It’s also a time to reflect on how incredibly awkward family dinners can be. But remember: you’re not alone. To help you get through whatever shenanigans are planned for you this year, we’ve got a list of dinners that were definitely more uncomfortable than your family’s Thanksgiving will be.


1. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Toward the beginning of Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones & co. find themselves at a classy nightclub dinner—fully equipped with a lounge singer. But when he’s introduced to said singer, Dr. Jones grabs her and pushes a dinner fork into her side. Indy, did you learn nothing in school? That’s the cold cuts fork. The stabbing-ladies fork is the second from the left

2. Beowulf

Heorot, King Hrothgar’s mead-hall in Beowulf, is home to a lot of not-so-fun stuff. Sure, everything starts out fine, but soon enough, Grendel starts going on the offensive. Let’s just say, things get brutal.

3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Apparently Spielberg loves him some awkward dinners. And while Temple of Doom has its share of the supernatural, it’s nothing compared to Close Encounters. Roy Neary’s UFO obsession makes things a wee bit awks when his kids start crying as he sculpts the mashed potatoes into his, uh, extraterrestrial vision.

4. Titus Andronicus

Okay, it’s a Shakespearean tragedy, so we expect a giant bloodbath. But did Titus really need to bake Demetrius and Chiron into a pie and serve it to Tamora for dinner? Or if he did, couldn’t he have at least…not told anyone? Ignorance is bliss, right? We’re guessing this is one dinner experience you’ll never have to live through.

5. Belshazzar’s Feast

The Hebrew Bible is filled with bad decisions. One of them? In the Book of Daniel, Belshazzar and his wives and guests drink out of sacred vessels that were stolen from the Temple in Jerusalem. Not a smart move, and a disembodied hand comes along to let him know he’s toast.

6. Back to the Future

Back to the Future gives us the peak of awkward: a mom hitting on her son. To be fair, Marty’s mom doesn’t know it’s him, but…yeah. We’re done here.

Here’s to a totally normal Thanksgiving.

Learn Spanish on Shmoop

Hi, Shmoopers,

Do you usually answer the question ¿Hablas español? with a tentative…¿Sí?

Yeah, that’s what we thought. And we want to turn that into a resounding ¡Claro que sí!—so we’ve put together complete curriculum in Spanish I.

We’ll take you from cero to héroe as you learn the Spanish language while also soaking up the culture of various Spanish-speaking countries. With grammar lessons, videos, authentic listening activities, cultural readings, and more vocab than you can shake a palo at, you’ll get everything you need to become a Spanish pro in no time.

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?

3 Ways to Turn Summer Reading into Pleasure Reading

Hey there, Shmoopers!

We know: you’re antsy for summer break. You can practically feel the sun on your shoulders and hear the ocean waves calling your name…

Oh wait. That’s just your teacher waking you up. (Come on, buddy. Third time this week.) What’s the wake-up call this time? Summer reading assignments. Yep, all you want to do is daydream about dropping a water balloon on your unsuspecting punk neighbor, and here comes Teach harshing your mellow.

Allow us to, uh, re-mellow that harsh. Here are a few tips for turning summer reading into pleasure reading.

Read your books on Shmoop.  

Whether you’re tackling Jane AustenFrederick Douglass, or just a particularly rich Edgar Allan Poe short story, our free eBooks will make sure you pick up what these authors are putting down—without getting a paper cut in the process.

Relate ’em to your life.

Newsflash: classic literature is classic for a reason—it’s relatable. If you can’t figure out how some dead white dude might understand your current sitch, find your favorite (or least favorite) book on Shmoop—and allow us to tell you why you should care. Plus, our guides will clear up any confusion, hit you with some analysis, and let you get back to summer fun ASAP.

Watch ’em on ShmoopTube.

When your eyes are worn out from reading (or maybe just the pool chlorine), switch gears and check out thousands of videos over at ShmoopTube, the lesser-known summer blockbuster. Our videos will help you preview and review all your texts without having to lift a finger. (Except to click that pesky play button.)

What’s on your summer reading list? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ShmoopSummerReading.

Stay cool,

Quote of the Week

“Oh! I am delighted with the book!
I should like to spend my whole life in reading it.”

~ Northanger Abbey

…said no one ever about summer reading.

Crunch-time ACT Tips

Hey Shmoopers,

Our calendars are telling us that a few Saturdays from now will be a big day for a bunch of you. That’s right: it’s the second ACT test day of the school year. With about a week left to study, you probably know everything there is to know about the content of the exam (…right?), so we’re here to arm you with five Shmoop-certified tips to ACE the ACT:

1. Stay calm.

Freaking out on the day of the exam is a recipe for disaster. Don’t make us tell you about the time we learned that the hard way, because we will.

2. Don’t be a zombie.

A lack of sleep will eat your brains and turn you into a brain-eater yourself. (Figuratively. Probably.) Let’s be real: a week of all-nighters with one night of solid sleep to cap it off won’t do the trick. Make sure to treat yo’ self right for the last few days before the exam. That means starting…now.

3. Keep your chin up.

If you think you’re going to bomb the exam, you’ll probably bomb the exam. But if you think you’re going to nail it, you’re guaranteed a perfect score.* In other words, stay positive.

4. Be prepared.

Not like Scar, and not really like the Boy Scouts, either—that is, unless they bring their photo ID and a calculator wherever they go. Make sure you’ve reviewed the must-havesand bring them with you on test day.

5. Guess away.

Remember, there’s no penalty for guessing. We wish that were the case for games of charades at Shmoop HQ, but someone just had to come up with the throw-the-potato-salad-at-the-loser rule. Take your ability to guess as the gift it is.

Now ACE that thing,

*Guarantee not guaranteed.

Quote of the Week

“Atticus, you must be wrong…”
“How’s that?”
“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong…” (11.54-56)

~ To Kill a Mockingbird

Here’s hoping you’re in the right on test day.

6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Internet

Hi, Shmoopers,

As the school year winds down, everyone’s starting to get antsy for summer. That means it’s harder than ever to focus—and easier than ever to fall down the internet rabbit hole. And while we’re sure you can find the perfect gif for any occasion without blinking an eye, do you know how the internet…works?

1. It’s physical.

The internet might seem intangible, but it still relies on a physical system. It’s an entire web of connected wires and cables. Try not to trip over ’em.

2. It has a very small vocabulary.

Computers may seem really smart, but they only work with 1s and 0s. Really. A

ll that high-speed calculation and rapid information processing comes down to the manipulation of two numbers.

3. It takes up space.

Just because you can store something in the cloud doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take up space somewhere. When you send an email, upload a file, or Skype your friends across the ocean, that data has to exist somewhere and…it does. Through a server.

4. It knows where you live.

Every computer on the internet connects from a unique IP address. It’s just like a regular address, except that the actual numbers for individual IP addresses can change every session. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) holds on to a bank of addresses and sends your computer a new one any time you log in.

5. The Cold War is its mom.

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, President Eisenhower saw that little antennae-decorated space ball shoot into the sky and rounded up a group of the nation’s brightest scientists to address the concern. Yada yada yada…the internet was born.

6. All those acronyms mean something.

That http at the beginning of a URL? That stands for hypertext transfer protocol. Speaking of URL, that one stands for uniform resource locator, the character-based address of a particular file on the internet. And of course there’s www, the world wide web. Get friendly with more acronyms with our internet glossary.

Okay, now get back to those gifs.

Quote of the Week

“Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I’m afraid.”

~ 2001: A Space Odyssey

Maybe we should learn more about how computers work before life starts imitating art.

What Does Shakespeare Sound Like in Modern English?

Hi, Shmoopers,

You already know Shmoop as your home for all things Shakespeare. Now we’ve added another treat to the mix:
Shakespeare in Modern English.

The way we see it, reading a modern English version of Shakespeare just isn’t the same. But, uh, not understanding what on earth he’s saying? Not so great either. We’ve got the best of both worlds: reading the original text while getting side-by-side insight into what’s actually happening in each scene.

We plan to get you a translation for every single one faster than you can say “to the fire i’ in the blood: be more abstemious, Or else, good night your vow!”

Now go get your Bard on,