The Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 312

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

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 561

Jack Torrance

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

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 of the hotel begin to absorb Jack’s personality, she finds unforeseen strength to protect Danny and to survive their encounter with the Overlook.

Danny “Doc” Torrance

Danny “Doc” Torrance, Jack and Wendy’s five-year-old son, gifted with “the shining,” a telepathic ability to read the thoughts of other people and to visualize future events. It is Danny’s presence and his special abilities that seem to activate the stored-up evils of the Overlook. Danny inspires great love in his father, a love that is Jack’s strongest claim to respectability and, ultimately, to his own humanity.

Dick Hallorann

Dick Hallorann, a single black man in his sixties, the summer-season cook at the Overlook Hotel. When he meets the Torrances in the autumn, on closing day, he feels an instant affinity with Danny; Hallorann, too, has a touch of “the shining.” An urgent telepathic message from Danny eventually summons the kindly Hallorann to return from Florida to the Overlook in the depth of winter to rescue Wendy and Danny.

Albert Shockley

Albert Shockley, a shadowy character, a single man of independent, and perhaps illegally obtained, wealth. During Jack’s days at Stovington Prep, Shockley, a board member, was Jack’s drinking buddy and fellow alcoholic. More recently, as a part owner of the Overlook, he is responsible for Jack finding employment as caretaker. By telephone, he later discourages Jack’s interest in researching and writing the history of the Overlook and its unsavory background.

Stuart Ullman

Stuart Ullman, the short, plump, officious manager of the Overlook. He gives Jack Torrance the caretaker’s job, against his better judgment, because of Shockley’s influence.

Delbert Grady

Delbert Grady, the ghost of an earlier Overlook caretaker who murdered his wife and two young daughters many winters before, apparently in a fit of cabin fever. He is one of Jack’s hallucinations during the period when the hotel seduces and overpowers Jack’s personality.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 348

The Shining has a relatively limited cast of characters for a novel of its length and scope. At the work's core, at the place where all thematic and structural lines intersect, is Jack Torrance — a man ridden by guilt and failure in his roles of husband, father, teacher, and aspiring author. Haunted by memories of his own alcoholic, violent father. Jack's career has been largely that of a man caught in the throes of Poe's "Imp of the Perverse," and the opportunity to serve as the winter caretaker of a luxury hotel deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains is for him, literally, a last chance to set his life in order. Instead of providing the opportunity to become the man he wishes to be, however, Jack's sojourn in the Overlook Hotel becomes a nightmarish descent into the depths of subhuman depravity, and a large part of the novel's appeal rests with the skillful manner in which its author depicts the gradual disintegration of this character's personality.

Danny Torrance, Jack's five-year-old son, is an interesting but somewhat imperfectly realized character. Children and adolescents figure prominently in many of King's works as highly creditable and thematically central characters, but in The Shining Danny's principal function seems to be that of a somewhat esoteric potential victim. Danny is possessed of "The Shining," an essentially precognitive and telepathic talent, which seems to be the ultimate objective of the collective evil which infests the hotel. Although he can foresee certain critical events, he seems largely unable to interpret them correctly, and, with the exception of his final confrontation with the hotel in the form of his transformed father, he is able to do little to affect their outcome.

Ever growing in intensity as the novel develops pace is its most diffuse and disquieting character, The Overlook Hotel, and the force which inhabits and animates the place. Through a host of manifestations, in word and in action, it gradually assumes the form of a vast and threatening antagonistic force, rendering it perhaps the most memorable and highly personified of all haunted houses.

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