(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Shining is considered by many critics and readers to be one of King’s best works. The characters are interesting and well rounded, especially Jack, an essentially decent man battling not only supernatural forces but also inner demons of alcoholism, resentment, and rage. Although Jack becomes dangerous and terrifying, he remains a real, three-dimensional character, capable of love and sacrifice as well as brutality; thus he is a stronger character than some of the menacing male figures in King’s later works, such as Joe St. George in Dolores Claiborne (1992), who is essentially a one-dimensional villain. The narrative moves at a steady pace, not rushed and not excessively drawn out. Many of King’s later novels, such as Insomnia (1994), suffered from literary excess.

King conceived The Shining as a contemporary version of classical tragedy. The novel contains all the traditional tragic elements: a restricted setting, a small cast of characters, a protagonist with a fatal flaw, and an unrelenting sense of impending doom. Ironically, King strays from the classic tragic format in providing a less horrific ending for his work than did such writers as Sophocles and William Shakespeare for theirs. Plays such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606) and Hamlet (c. 1600-1601) end with most of the major characters dead, but everyone except Jack survives The Shining’s climactic disaster. Although...

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