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,

7 Historical Texts You Never Knew Existed

Hi, Shmoopers,

Did Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination actually start World War I? Why did Nixon write an entire speech about a dog? And how is “Ich bin ein Berliner” even pronounced? These are questions you’ve asked yourself a zillion times. Or, you know, never.

With Shmoop’s new Learning Guides for Historical Texts, you can dive into nearly fifty primary sources and get the nitty-gritty on every last word.

1. Hope, Despair and Memory

The Holocaust was an unthinkable atrocity, and those few who survived had the experience burned into their minds. Elie Wiesel‘s speech, “Hope, Despair and Memory” (1986) reminded people that the social ills that led up to the Holocaust were still alive and well forty years later. His plea: mankind needs to stop ignoring its mistakes and come to grips with them—and with them firmly in mind, work toward peace. Maybe another forty years will do the trick?

2. The Checkers Speech

Richard Nixon, scrambling to preserve both his political career and Republican hopes of victory in the 1952 presidential election, planned a speech addressing his alleged misappropriation of a “secret fund.” Nixon’s “I’m just a regular guy with a dog named Checkers” approach, plus an unprecedented national audience via TV and radio, left an indelible mark on American political strategy and propelled the Republicans to an overwhelming victory in the election.

3. Ain’t I a Woman?

Sojourner Truth began her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech (1851) by pointing out that the status quo wasn’t okay. Women aren’t fragile things that need to be treated like weird glass-blown angels, but, uh, at that point? Black women were treated absolutely horrifically. She discussed the lack of logic present in inequality and used some religious imagery to prove her (obviously correct) point. Bottom line: with the combined forces of determined women, there can be change.

4. The Stamp Act

Taken on its own, the Stamp Act (1765) is pretty unremarkable legislation. It’s just a list of how much everything is going to cost under a new tax and the necessary framework to make it enforceable. Think of it like how Captain America suddenly has super-geometry powers when he bounces his shield off stuff to knock Hydra agents out. Without knowing the context, it would be pretty easy to dismiss or to gloss over it. The Stamp Act becomes interesting only after knowing the environment it was released into, and what came out of it. (Psst: the United States. It was the United States that came out of it.)

5. The Zimmermann Telegram

Back in 1917, this German Foreign Minister dude named Arthur Zimmermann sent a message to his German ambassador buddy in Mexico about a new strategy for winning World War I. His note got intercepted, and nations on at least three continents were not at all pleased with its subject matter. See, Zimmermann suggested that Mexico attack the U.S. as a distraction from all the nasty stuff Germany was planning to do in the Atlantic. As a bonus, maybe they’d get Texas, Arizona, and California. He also implied that Japan could attack the U.S., too, and that Germany would pay for it. The outcome? The U.S. joined WWI. Kind of a big deal.

6. A Left-Handed Commencement Address

It was the beginning of the end of the Second Wave of Feminism, so when Ursula K. Le Guin was asked to be the commencement speaker at the graduation of a well-known women’s college in 1983, she had some things to say about what it means to be a woman. She argued that women should stop fighting for success as it’s defined in a man’s world, and instead get more comfortable with what it means to succeed as a woman in a woman’s world. She advocated separatism, to a certain degree, in order to establish places where women could be women without the patriarchal framework upon which American society was built. Plus, you know, the future lies with women. (Men would have an awfully hard time trying to procreate on their own…)

7. The Man With the Muckrake

In 1906, the rich and the working class were in a knockdown, drag-out cage-match, and the press was making sure everyone had ringside seats. Teddy Roosevelt (you know, the president) had something to say about it in a speech now known as “The Man With the Muckrake.” He started his speech off by calling journalists out for, uh, exaggerating. He then went on to say that, instead of fussing over haves versus have-nots, America should be concerned with the individual character of its citizens. Not all businesses spend their free time twirling their Snidely Whiplash mustaches and petting their white cats, and if we kill that stereotype, he said, we can acknowledge the businesses that are actually doing some good out there.

Hungry for more? We’ve also got deets on the classics: “I Have a Dream,” The Declaration of Independence, The Gettysburg Address…the list goes on.

Check ’em all out here.

Happy reading,

Test Your Dr. Seuss Knowledge

Hey, Shmoopers!

You’ve purchased twenty-seven copies of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! to give as graduation gifts…but when’s the last time you actually read a book by Dr. Seuss? Yeah, that’s what we thought.

As you look back on your high school career (or look forward to whatever’s left of it), why not go on a nostalgic road trip through Seussville? As it turns out, there’s more to Dr. Seussthan meets the eye.


That’s just the beginning. Seuss wrote about everything from communist cats to nuclear goo—and he even threw a little semiotics in there. Because why not?

Check out all of the Seuss we’ve Shmooped. You’ll be serenaded by our rhymes, enlightened by our analysis, and blown away by what was really going on in Seuss’s kooky brain.

You’ll never think of cats or hats the same way again…

Quote of the Week

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent!”

Horton Hatches the Egg

See what Horton was up to in the sequel.

1. d;  2. b;  3. a; 4. e; 5. c