Who Shmoop’s NOT Inviting to Thanksgiving Dinner This Year

Shmoop counts down the 10 most ungrateful literary characters who are persona non grata for this year’s Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving is a time to put aside all of your familial angst in the name of deliciousness, but after a hard day in the kitchen, Shmoop isn’t about to share with anyone who can’t spare a compliment to the chef.

Since Shmoop prefers its dinners to be low-drama and its guests thankful, here is Shmoop’s list of literary characters who will not be getting an invite this year. Shmoop’s ranked them from 10—allowed in if they bring a green bean casserole—to 1—never allowed in, even with a gourmet brined turkey. No offense, guys. It’s just that Peeta Mellark can both bake bread and say, “Thank you.” Maybe next year!

Ron Weasley

10.     Ron Weasley, Harry Potter

 Every year, Ron Weasley got a new sweater for Christmas, and every year he complained about it, ignoring all the hard work his mom put into creating a gift that would protect him from the chill of snow, if not dementors. Ron would be the kid at Thanksgiving dinner feeding his mom’s sweet potato pie to the dog under the table. No wonder Mrs. Weasley seemed to prefer Harry Potter; at least Harry was appreciative of her knitting exploits.

9.     The Trojans, The Aeneid

After years and years of war against the Greeks, the Trojans woke up one morning to see the Greeks gone and in their place, a beautiful wooden statue of a horse outside their walls. The Trojans were ecstatic to finally win, but were still suspicious of the giant wooden horse. Of course, all it took was a little convincing by a Greek spy and the Trojans brought the horse into their city. Once inside the walls, the horse burst open with Greek soldiers who burned Troy to the ground. Needless to say, the Trojans weren’t very thankful for their gift from the Greeks. Maybe one should look a gift horse in the mouth.

8.     Milo, The Phantom Tollbooth

After a hard day in the number mines, the citizens of Digitopolis like to get their fill of Subtraction Soup. The generous people they are, they even shared this delectable dish with total foreigner Milo. Milo, however, was completely unappreciative of this kind gesture and just started complaining that the soup made him hungrier instead of more full. That put the Digitopolians in a tough spot as they had to explain their completely sensical custom of eating until they’re no longer full. Milo should have known better: when in Digitopolis, do as the Digitopolians do.

7. Ender Wiggin, Ender’s Game

Ender spent the entirety of Ender’s Game talking about how he was going to end the war against the Buggers. When he finally did end the war, though, he started crying about how he didn’t end the war in the right way. Hey, Ender, you gotta remember: the ends justify the means. And Buggers certainly can’t be choosers.


6.     King Lear, King Lear

First rule of parenting: don’t ask children how much they love their parents. King Lear clearly missed this memo. When he asked his three daughters how much they loved him, his first two (arguably straight-up evil) daughters answered with lavish purple praise, while his youngest (and legit good) daughter tempered her response with reality. King Lear was so incensed by her honesty that he banished her. Talk about being ungrateful for getting what he asked for.

5.     Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield, the original emo teenager, wanted new ice skates, but when his mom finally got them for him, it turned out she bought him hockey skates instead of racing skates. Maybe next time, Holden will be a little clearer about what he wants—although, if the rest of the book is any indication, probably not.

4.     Jason, Medea

So Medea doesn’t quite get a pass here—murdering your kids? Total no-go—but Jason was probably the worst baby daddy known to man. First he seduced Medea to get her to betray her dad and help him succeed in his quest. He promised her that if she helped him secure the golden fleece, he’d marry her and be with her forever. She was so convinced by his charm that she killed her own brother to prevent her dad from capturing her new boyfriend. But what did Jason do to thank Medea? He broke up with her (after they already had kids together!) so he could marry the Princess of Corinth. There’s a reason why Medea is the ultimate woman scorned.

3. Edmund Pevensie, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Pre-Aslan Edmund was the worst possible guest you could ever have. He was a jerk to his siblings and made fun of the kindly Professor who took them in. His sister Lucy introduced him to a magical land called Narnia and instead of thanking her, he told everyone she was making it up. When all the siblings were transported to Narnia, he turned against them by siding with the White Witch just so he could stuff his face with more Turkish delight. Pre-Aslan Edmund would basically be the one staying at home eating all the mashed potatoes while his siblings were helping out at a food kitchen.

 2.     Everyone Except Charlie Bucket, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

 Given that there were only five golden tickets to visit the elusive Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, you’d think that the lucky ticket holders would understand how privileged they were to get the inside scoop. Nope! Other than our protagonist Charlie Bucket, they were all entitled snobs who thankfully ended up getting their just desserts.

1. Oliver, Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist is the poster child for ungratefulness. His catchphrase is literally, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Leave a little turkey for everyone else, eh?

Know another literary character who should be stuck out in the cold this Thanksgiving? Share with us in the comments!

10 Spookiest Literary Places to Visit on Halloween

All Hallow’s Eve is the spookiest night,

It’s filled with the scariest feelings of fright.

And what’s it all for with no stories to tell?

Shmoop’s got the goods since they know books so well.

For students who’re looking for candy to eat:

Shmoop’s Top Ten Places to Not Trick-or-Treat.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Miss Havisham’s House, Great Expectations. More like Great Exspooktations. Nineteenth-century England is dreary enough as is. Add a crazy lady with coping issues to the mix, and the result is a place meant to be skipped during trick-or-treating.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Coraline’s House, Coraline. A world where people have buttons for eyes? Creepy point proven. But what makes Coraline’s house in the “other” world so especially sinister is that it seems nice at first glance. Never trust appearances on Halloween.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Bottomless Pit, The Bible. The Bottomless Pit of the Bible’s final book features smoke, locusts, and an evil angel. In case that’s not enough, the Devil joins the party, too. The Pit is the pits every day of the year, but Halloween is sure to bring out its true stench.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Inferno, Dante’s Inferno. Medieval punishments were the best (read: worst), and Dante sure knew how to dole ‘em out. Unfortunately, those souls experiencing eternal pain aren’t just a cheap Haunted House decoration. Probably best to skip this one in favor of one of Dante’s less horrifying places, such as Paradiso.

  1. One of Coleridge’s Drug Trips, “Kubla Khan“. Shmoop just says no to drugs—but not to trippy literature. Coleridge’s adventures in la-la land are the stuff of ultimate ghost stories.

Source: Universal Pictures

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Post-Thneed Truffula Forest, The Lorax. Dr. Seuss’s worlds are usually filled with color and delight, but the decimated Truffula forest is as eerie as they come. The ghosts of trees past are not ones to mess with.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. A River with Marlow, Heart of Darkness. Floating down a river with Marlow on Halloween is like riding a ship straight into post-colonial hell. The horror! The horror!

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. The Veldt, The Veldt. Dystopian literature presents a world in which every day is spooky. Bradbury’s virtual reality kill-fest definitely makes Shmoop thankful for the other 364 days of normal.

Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Room 101, 1984. For Winston, it’s rats. For Shmoop, it’s bad grammar. Room 101 contains everyone’s biggest fear, so it’s best not to test the waters on the scariest day of the year. Oh, the split infinitives!

Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Everywhere, A Clockwork Orange. Even the the bravest faux Batman will quiver at the cover of Anthony Burgess’s classic. With blood, violence, brain zapping, and forcing-you-to-watch-violence-until-you-break torture, this book is definitely chill-inducing and boot-quivering.

Stay away from these places on All Hallow’s Eve.

Unless you find them within a book’s leaves.

What other lit locales deliver a spook?

Let Shmoop know by Tweet or Facebook.

Top Ten Heroines in Literature

There are so many literary heroines who inspire us with their razor-sharp wits (and sometimes razor-sharp aim). Regardless of who they are or where they’re from, these ladies kick butt and deserve our literary adulation. We’ve compiled a list of ten amazing literary heroines. There are way more than ten out there (ladies be fierce!), but these chicks are some of our favorites.

10. Artemis

File:Diane de Versailles Leochares.jpgRemember reading about mythology or, if you need more special effects, the Percy Jackson series? Artemis (or Diana, her Roman name) carries a hunting bow like The Hunger Game‘s Katniss Everdeen, but it’s not just because she’s starving and needs a meal: Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and wild animals. Pretty awesome, right? While her brother spends most of his time romancing the ladies, Artemis takes her virginity seriously and makes it a priority to protect young girls. While she has shown kindness to mortals, when things she cares about are threatened, Artemis has no problem showing her wrath. The way Artemis sticks to her convictions is admirable, but if you’re going to emulate our Virgin Goddess, you might want to try avoiding killing people.

9. Elizabeth Bennet


Photo from the BBC.

Ah, Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, the subject of many movie adaptations, including our personal favorite, Bridget Jones’s Diary. Elizabeth’s main task (as given to her by her mother) is to find a husband, but what makes her a fantastic heroine is that she sticks up for her sisters and what she wants. When she realizes at the end of the novel that she’s been clouded by her quick judgment and prejudice all along, she is willing to change her mind and, finally, agrees to marry the slightly awkward and curmudgeonly Darcy. Lessons learned from the lovely Miss Bennet? Follow your heart, but be open to changing course when the time is right.

8. Ántonia Shimerda

https://i0.wp.com/www.waukeshareads.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/my_antonia.jpgNow we’re out West–Nebraska, to be more specific. Sure, it may be a super-long state to drive through, but a lot of things happen there. Ántonia’s character (or at least how Jim views her) is embodied by the Western landscape, full of warm colors. This fits perfectly with her strong personality and her refusal to fit into traditional gender roles. Through Jim’s nostalgic narration, the nature of his relationship with Ántonia is revealed (it is exactly what Avril Lavigne sings–“Complicated“), yet, at the same time, keeping it together in the face of her father’s suicide and harsh winters. We like ourselves some strong ladies and Ántonia is that in spades.

7. Matilda

Photo by Jersey Studios and TriStar Pictures.

Matilda is a young heroine–she’s only five–but she has the independence (who doesn’t love the part of the 1996 movie adaption where Matilda makes pancakes by herself?), smarts, and moral convictions of someone four times her age. Yet, she doesn’t brag (or humblebrag) about it. Oh, and our book-loving five-year-old also has telekinetic powers that she uses for good and to punish those who deserve, instead of going on a crazed rampage like Stephen King’s Carrie. Girl’s gonna go places.

6. Stargirl

https://shmoopuniversity.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/3b5c0-stargirl.jpgBefore Zooey Deschanel and quirky chic became popular, there was Stargirl. She does her own thing, and doesn’t care what other people think. Among other things, Stargirl cheers when the other team scores because she genuinely is happy for their success, even though her classmates don’t like it. Stargirl is connected to the universe and ignores the people who bully her, instead choosing to be kind to everyone. Sounds pretty amazing, right? She changes for a brief while for love interest Leo, but finally finds solace (and popularity) by being herself at the Ocotillo Ball. The next time you think about changing yourself to fit in, channel your own inner Stargirl.

5. Scout Finch


Photo from Universal Pictures.

Harper Lee’s novel starts when Scout is only six. She’s a tomboy who gets into fights and figures the person who wins is in the right. Throughout the next four years, though, she matures and realizes that fighting is not so black and white anymore (even though the racism in her town would beg to disagree). While Scout is initially scared of shut-in Boo Radley, she comes to see him as a caring neighbor, though she is saddened she is not that to him. From putting herself in Boo’s shoes, she learned about both him and her own self. The pint-sized heroine shows the importance of self-knowledge and empathy.

4. Lisabeth Salander


Photo from Columbia Pictures.

She can hack into things easily while sporting spiked hair, tattoos, and provocative T-shirts. Her obvious smarts are tempered by a likely diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome, trust issues, and a history of promiscuity with men and women. Due to previous experiences, Lisabeth hates when men hurt women–and punishes those men accordingly. Despite her struggles, though, she keeps it together in order to carry out her moral code.

3. Jo March


Photo by Columbia Pictures.

Jo (short for Josephine) is a tomboy with a wicked temper. As a teen, she would pick reading, writing, and the company of her sisters over anything–especially getting married. Even though it is unusual for a lady of her class, Jo had a job as a writer. With time (and a good measure of trial and error), her perspective shifts, and she ends up finding a man she truly loves who respects her and fits her idea of what an equal marriage could be. And then they proceed to be ridiculously adorable and open a school for ragamuffin boys. Jo March, you are the best.

2. Celie

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/6/60/ColorPurple.jpg/200px-ColorPurple.jpgCelie was handed a tough life: she was raped by her father several times and becomes part of an abusive marriage. She’s passive–except when people she loves are threatened, like her sister Nettie. Despite a considerable amount of hardship, Celie successfully stands up for herself and the people she cares about and ends up finding someone to care for who saves her. When you send love out into the universe, the universe responds with love–as Taylor Swift knows, love makes the world go round.

1. Esperanza Cordero

http://onmaturerecollection.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/mango1.jpgEsperanza narrates The House on Mango Street in a series of stories in which she isn’t always the central character. Throughout the book, the reader gets a sense of Esperanza’s character: she struggles with loneliness and wants to fit in (who hasn’t felt this way?), in addition to experiencing shame about being poor. Instead of letting it bubble up (we’re talking to you, Hamlet), she uses writing as a productive method to sort out her feelings and experiences. Esperanza illustrates that anyone can have access to their own personal catharsis whether it involves blasting music, decorating cupcakes like a pro, or something completely different.

Is your favorite lady not on the list? Let us know who your favorite lit lady is in the comments!

Things to Do When You’re Bored: Summer Edition

It’s finally summer.  Three glorious months of sunshine, no school, and freedom.  You’ve suffered through an entire school year, taken all those finals, and here’s your reward…but now what?

You’ve probably already forgotten what it’s like to have so much time on your hands and what it’s like to be bored.  We’re not talking about bored because you’ve been listening to a two hour long lecture on the history of Brittany France (although, secretly: super interesting!), but bored because there’s actually nothing to do.  Your friends are all out of town, and you’ve already watched all the reruns on TV and it’s gotten to the point where you already know the culprit of every Law and Order: SVU episode ever. But never fear: Shmoop is here!

We’ve made a list of all of the fun things you can do over the summer, so let’s get on with it!

1. Embrace Your Inner Child

We know you guys are all big bad middle and high schoolers (and the select super-cool college students), but come on, be honest: everyone loves a good animated movie.  The summer of ’13 promises the long-awaited to sequel to Monsters, Inc., Monsters University. We’ve already seen it, and trust us, it’s everything you wish your college experience would be like, but never will be, since, you know, you can’t enroll in the kick-butt School of Scaring.

2. Indulge in Harry Potter Marathons

Now that all seven books and, ahem, eight movies are out, immerse yourself into the world of Harry Potter for a weekend.  Because, really, who doesn’t love Harry Potter?  (That was rhetorical, by the way. If you’re raising your hand right now, we’re officially no longer BFFs.)  Seriously. If you manage to re-read all the books AND watch the movies in one weekend? You might put Hermione Granger to shame.

3. Pick Up Archery

Yeah, archery.  You know, with bows and arrows and stuff.  Not only will you be able to shoot a bull’s eye from 50 feet away and compete in the Olympics, but you could become the next winner of the Hunger Games.

4. Learn How to Drive

Okay, so this doesn’t apply if you’re under the age of 15—and if you’re already driving under 15, don’t let us or the government know—but if you are at that time when you can get your learner’s permit, go get it!  Study for the written test here, and enjoy the perks and responsibilities of being On the Road.  Just stay safe please! The last thing you want is to recreate this classic (and horrifying!) scene from Clueless.

5. Learn a New Language

As students, there really is no better time than now to learn a new language.  Right now, your brain actually has the capacity to remember an entirely new language.  When you get older, which will happen, your brain won’t be able to remember as much. Trust us, we’re speaking from experience. Anyway, decrepit brains aside, Shmoop’s got a ton of languages, from Latin to Japanese.  And, if you know Spanish, you can use the mirror universe of our site, Shmoop en Español.

6. Go to the Zoo

It’s been awhile since you’ve thought about relaxing and spending the day with animals.  But you still haven’t forgotten how cute those zebras, elephants, lions and tigers are.  Go on, we know it’s tempting. Here’s a picture to tempt you some more:  

Aww, isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? Plus, animals are totally weird. Like, why do lions lick each other? Don’t worry. Shmoop’s got all your insights into animal behavior here.

7.  Read Dr. Seuss

Time for an elementary school flashback! Bet you’ve forgotten about all of those Cat in the Hat books you read back in the day. But don’t you miss ole’ Sam and his green eggs and ham?

P.S. Want a recipe for Sam’s delightful delicacy? You can find one here.

And here’s some for those of you who want to be more productive with your summer (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone):

8. Take a Career Test

There’s no better time than the summer to figure out what you actually want to do with your career.  It’s a big decision, and an important one, so we’re here to help you along.  We know it seems daunting, but you’ll find one that’s right for you. Most importantly, make sure you end up doing what YOU want to do, not anybody else.  It’s your life, and even if you don’t feel like it, you’re the one who ultimately controls the reins.  So steer your life down the path that calls to you. You won’t regret it.

9. Write College Essays

If you really want to jump ahead, feel free to take a look at how to write college essays.  For the rising juniors and seniors out there, trust us, you’ll feel a lot less stressed out if you start planning out your essays over the summer.  Think about what you want to write about and develop a game plan for college application season.  There’s a lot of brilliant schools out there—most of them almost as brilliant as you—so take the time to find the one that’s right for you.

10.  Study for the SAT or ACT

Yay, studying! Okay, we can see your eyes rolling already. But we’ve got a great idea to get your study on: have study dates with your summer fling. Study those 1000 vocab words with your special someone and quiz each other on math facts.  It’ll make it pass by a lot faster (and might result in an awesome song and dance number).  Whether you need the SAT and ACT, Shmoop’s got you covered.  Go on, pick your lucky buddy. We think you two are adorable.

Shmoopers, do you have any suggestions for summer fun? Let us know in the comments!