Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 668
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...
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- Critical Essays
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.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 843
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 struggled to control all his life.
Danny steals the passkey and enters room 217, where he is terrified to find the nude, bloated, decaying corpse of a woman in the bathroom coming to life. She attacks Danny before he can escape. Later, Jack’s investigation of the room at first reveals nothing, but then he has the sense that something from the bathroom is coming for him. However, he tells Wendy and Danny that he found nothing in the room.
Jack smashes the hotel’s citizens band (CB) radio while sleepwalking. He knows that Danny needs to get away from the hotel, but he also feels that he himself must stay. Struggling between the needs of himself and his son, Jack sabotages the hotel snowmobile. Snowed in, the Torrances are effectively cut off from the outside world.
The Torrance family soon realizes that they are living in a haunted hotel. Jack believes the Overlook wants him, but it soon becomes evident that the hotel wants Danny for his psychic abilities and is using Jack’s weaknesses to achieve its aim. Jack and Danny each have separate, terrifying experiences in which the Overlook’s topiary—hedges trimmed to look like animals—appears to come to life and attack them. All three have experiences that cannot be discounted as hallucinations or imagination.
Danny has continuously had visions of the seemingly nonsensical word “redrum.” In one vision, the word is reflected in a mirror to read “murder.” Terrified, Danny sends a psychic shout for help to Dick Hallorann in Florida. Hallorann, knowing the danger the boy and his family must be in, immediately flies to Colorado.
Meanwhile, the Overlook’s ghosts materialize, providing Jack with what he wants most—liquor. The ghost of Delbert Grady tells Jack that he must kill his wife and son. An inebriated Jack tries to strangle Wendy, who knocks him unconscious and locks him in the food pantry. However, Grady’s ghost releases Jack from the pantry.
Possessed by the spirits of the hotel, Jack goes on a murderous rampage, viciously attacking Wendy on the stairs with a roque mallet and similarly assaulting Hallorann when he arrives. Both are severely injured but remain alive. Danny realizes that his imaginary friend Tony is actually himself, Daniel Anthony Torrance, ten years in the future. Jack then corners Danny, who saves his own life by reminding Jack that the pressure on the hotel’s boiler has not been released that day, leading to an impending explosion. As Jack rushes to the basement to attend to the boiler, Hallorann, Wendy, and Danny make their way out of the Overlook to Hallorann’s rented snowmobile.
Jack is too late, and the Overlook explodes, killing Jack. Wendy, Danny, and Hallorann escape via the snowmobile. Hallorann gets a new job in Maine, while Wendy accepts a job offer from Al Shockley in Maryland. The three agree to stay in touch, Hallorann once again promising that if Danny is ever in trouble, he will come if Danny calls.