Critical Context

The Shining was Stephen King’s third novel. His first, Carrie (1974), became an immediate best-seller. His later books, from ’Salem’s Lot (1975) to The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999), have been consistent best-sellers.

His work is important because of its understanding of the depths of human misery. His stories and novels show human problems in an austere light. He shows no mercy for human faults, and he is not above endowing his characters with many vices when he deems them necessary to move a plot along.

King has also admittedly no shame about the lengths to which he will go to produce an effect. In Danse Macabre (1981), in which he reflects on the horror genre and on the evolution of his own work, he says that he recognizes terror to be the finest emotion. He tries to terrify the reader; if he cannot terrify, he will attempt to horrify, and if he cannot horrify, he will “go for the gross-out, I’m not proud.”