Study Guide

The Shining

by Stephen King

The Shining Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In order to provide for his family, Jack Torrance, a former college professor and writer, becomes a caretaker at a resort hotel in the mountains of Colorado. Torrance’s life is a shambles: Following the example of his violent father, he abuses his wife, Wendy, and his five-year-old son Danny, and he has become an alcoholic. When he is fired from his job at Stovington University, Torrance finds the only job that he can, at the Overlook Hotel, which is closed for the winter. Torrance’s job is to maintain the furnaces and to repair any broken items. He is relieved that it is so easy because for the past year he has been planning to write a play.

Once the family gets to the hotel, the horror slowly begins. The cook, Dick Hallorann, who is about to leave for the season, shows Wendy and Danny around the kitchen. As he does so, he is able to communicate with the child telepathically. Recognizing a fellow psychic, Hallorann admits his own powers to the child and tells Danny to call him if he is in need.

Early in the season, as Torrance is checking the roof for broken shingles, he finds a wasps’ nest. Remembering that he once had an empty wasps’ nest as a boy, he thinks that Danny might like it in his room. After smoking out the insects, Torrance hangs the nest in his son’s room. That evening when Danny is asleep, he is stung by the “dead” wasps. This is the first of many unexplained incidents involving Danny and his father.

One day while working in the garden, Torrance sees the topiary animals moving menacingly toward him. He begins to think that his imagination is playing tricks on him, but...

(The entire section is 668 words.)

The Shining Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Jack Torrance is chosen to be the winter caretaker of the lavish Rocky Mountain Overlook Hotel by an old friend from his drinking days, the wealthy Al Shockley. Nevertheless, Jack must sit through a humiliating interview with Stuart Ullman, the hotel manager, who does not believe he is right for the position. Jack has few options left. He was forced to resign from his last job as an English teacher at Stovington Preparatory School in Vermont after he assaulted a student whom he caught slashing his tires. During his tour of the hotel, Jack meets Watson, a foul-mouthed maintenance person who warns him to release the pressure in the boiler every day because it steadily creeps up, creating a potentially disastrous situation.

Jack, his wife, Wendy, and their five-year-old son, Danny, meet the Overlook’s African American chef, Dick Hallorann, on closing day. Hallorann discovers that Danny possesses what Hallorann calls “the shining”: telepathic and precognitive powers. Danny exerts this power through an invisible friend named Tony. Hallorann, who also has these powers but to a much lesser degree, tells Danny that nothing he sees in the hotel can hurt him. However, he also says that if there is trouble Danny should shout out to Hallorann with his mind, and Hallorann will come from Florida to help.

Jack and Wendy have had a strained marriage ever since a drunken Jack accidentally broke Danny’s arm. They hope that spending the winter at the Overlook will bring them closer together and allow Jack to finish a play he has been writing. Danny has nebulous fears and horrific visions of the hotel, but he wants to stay for the sake of his parents’ happiness.

Soon, unexplained things begin to happen. A wasps’ nest supposedly destroyed by pesticide returns to life, and reanimated wasps sting Danny. Jack becomes increasingly fascinated with hotel memorabilia he uncovers in the basement. Though the hotel is devoid of liquor, Jack’s old drinking habits return—he wipes his mouth and chews Excedrin—as does his temper, which he has...

(The entire section is 843 words.)

The Shining Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

As ’Salem’s Lot is dominated by the brooding presence of Marsten House, The Shining is similarly occupied with the evil possessing the Overlook Hotel, an elegant old resort on a remote Colorado mountain. Built early in the twentieth century, the Overlook has passed from owner to owner, unprofitable and unlucky for all of them. It has frequently been the scene of murders, suicides, and other unspeakable crimes. Within the hotel lives a demoniac spirit that has corrupted nearly everyone who has spent time there.

When the hotel prepares to close down for the winter, as it does every year, Jack Torrance is hired to maintain the building and grounds through the off-season. Jack is a writer and former English teacher trying to recover from alcoholism. He has also inherited a volcanic temper from his father. Though he loves his son, Danny, deeply, Jack once broke Danny’s arm in a fit of anger. He lost his last job when he beat a rebellious student, and he has frequently abused his fragile wife, Wendy, who has borne her own cross of a hateful mother. Through a friend’s help, however, Jack has gotten a last chance to knit his life and family back together by working for the Overlook Hotel as the winter caretaker.

Upon the family’s arrival at the hotel, Danny senses that something is terribly wrong; He is haunted by visions of “REDRUM” (“murder” spelled backward) and a monster trying to kill him. As they tour the hotel, the Torrances meet Dick Hallorann, a hotel cook, who has “the shine”—psychic perception. Dick recognizes that Danny, too, has this ability, and to a much greater degree than himself. Before he leaves for his winter home in Florida, Dick warns Danny to stay away from room 217. He also tells Danny to call him telepathically if he gets into serious trouble.

After everyone else leaves, the Torrances begin to settle into a routine, and Jack repairs the hotel roof and tends the Overlook’s dangerously unreliable boiler. The evil spirit, however, has decided it wants Danny, and it begins to work through his father. Soon, the snows isolate the hotel from the outside world. In the boiler room, Jack discovers an old scrapbook filled with items about the hotel’s scandalous past, and he becomes obsessed with the history of the hotel. He soon begins to exhibit his old temper...

(The entire section is 959 words.)