The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Jack Torrance, a brilliant but uncelebrated writer, must deal with the underlying emotional problems caused by his violent childhood. He uses drinking to escape from his problems but in doing so creates still more problems for himself. Alcohol makes him lose his job, reinforces his feelings of inadequacy, and causes his already hot temper to grow even worse: On one occasion he breaks the arm of his son Danny while punishing him for spilling beer on his papers. Torrance is a pitiful figure, the weakest in the family, and he is the most clearly drawn. He is a study in the collapse of a human being.
Wendy Torrance is drawn, like many of King’s women, as a traditional wife and mother. Wendy has some psychological problems of her own: She is always unconsciously competing with her mother, who resented Wendy for the death of a younger sister, and who has derided her choice of Jack as a husband, and criticized the way she is rearing Danny. Wendy tries to be patient and understanding, but she has little pity or forgiveness for Jack, forever reminding him of his failures. She does not trust her husband to be alone with Danny and competes with him for Danny’s affection. In this family tug-of-war, it seems that Wendy has won, but Danny has not stopped loving his father even though Wendy almost has.
Danny Torrance is a very likable little boy, barely five years old, yet startlingly mature for his age. He has strong psychic powers, a “shining,” that he cannot yet control. At first the power is either a mere bother or a pleasant diversion, but soon Danny’s abilities grow too powerful for him to handle. The hotel, with its evil atmosphere, wants to corrupt Danny and use his power. It seeks to add him to the ghosts which haunt its halls.
Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Jack Torrance, a former preparatory school teacher in his early thirties who has taken the job of winter caretaker for the isolated Overlook Hotel, high in the Colorado Rockies. He hopes to use this time to restore intimacy to his relationships with his wife, Wendy, and his young son, Danny, and also to renew his earlier successes as a writer. These intentions are complicated and threatened by the darker elements in Jack’s character: a history of alcoholism, a background of child abuse (learned from his father and already manifested in one episode against Danny), an uncontrolled temper, and self-destructive thoughts and tendencies that, in the past, have led to a serious contemplation of suicide. These flaws make Jack especially vulnerable to the malevolent powers of the Overlook, and he is led eventually to betray loyalties to wife and son. In the final moment of his life, the strength of his love for Danny overpowers even the evil persona with which the hotel has endowed him. A final glimpse at Jack’s almost lost humanity materializes and then is destroyed in a climactic explosion and conflagration.
Wendy Torrance, Jack’s pretty wife, also in her early thirties. Despite past problems, she is committed to her husband, but only when this commitment does not conflict with her loyalty to her young son. She joins Jack at the Overlook with the highest hopes, but when the vicious ghosts...
(The entire section is 561 words.)