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 he is still able to resist taking a drink as he fights the bizarre appearances and happenings in the deserted rooms.
Over the course of the winter, Jack begins to recognize danger in the hotel, but he cannot bear to leave it because of his pride. He is determined to hold on to this job. The hotel, haunted by the sins of the many evil humans who have lived within it, becomes a malevolent character as it recognizes Jack’s weakness for alcohol and uses drink to seduce him.
The hotel provides him with gin; the formerly empty bottles in the bar are suddenly filled with drink. Somehow, the hotel knows that Jack will not be able to resist its evil when he is drunk, that he will lose his reason and fulfill the hotel’s evil purposes.
Meanwhile, Jack’s wife and son have their own problems. Wendy, her marriage on the rocks because of Jack’s violence, fears that Jack will hurt Danny as his own father hurt Jack. Her anxieties are well-founded, for Jack has already broken Danny’s arm in a fit of anger, and Wendy lives in fear that Jack’s temper will be provoked, and that he will be unable to stop himself from destroying her and the child.
Danny’s psychic power, his “shining,” allows him to recognize the evil in the hotel: The hotel seizes him and holds him in its power with its dark secrets. The child sees in the empty rooms the figures of the evil people who have died there. The boy is almost strangled by the body of a woman who committed suicide many years before, while in another room he sees blood on the walls where a gangster was shot.
At the horrifying climax of the novel, Jack, having become totally possessed by the malevolent forces in the hotel, tries to kill his wife and child with a mallet; he fails and kills himself instead when his son forces him to resist the hotel by calling up within Jack the remaining shreds of fatherly love. Wendy and Danny, both wounded, barely manage to escape before the hotel burns, its furnace exploding in the same way that its evil has already exploded.
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...
(The entire section is 1,511 words.)