The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Shining was Stephen King’s third pub-lished novel, written as his rise to fame as a horror writer was beginning. The story centers on Jack Torrance, a struggling writer and recovering alcoholic with a history of violence. Jack obtains a job as winter caretaker of the magnificent Overlook Hotel in the Colorado mountains, hoping that the solitude will help him finish the play he is writing. The manager tells Jack about a former caretaker who went insane, murdered his family, and committed suicide. Later, in Boulder, Jack’s five-year-old son Danny has psychic visions of a bloody hand, a menacing figure swinging a mallet, and the word REDRUM.

Jack arrives on closing day at the Overlook, bringing with him his wife, Wendy, and Danny. The hotel’s cook, Dick Hallorann, who has powers similar to Danny’s but weaker, makes psychic contact with the boy. They discuss the power Hallorann calls “the shining,” the ability to read people’s thoughts, send thoughts to others, and see visions of past and future events. Hallorann warns Danny that the Overlook might be a dangerous place for someone with his abilities and tells Danny to call him psychically if he ever needs help.

Hallorann’s fears are soon justified as the hotel begins to exert a malevolent influence over the family. Danny is stung by wasps that spontaneously appear in a nest Jack had poisoned earlier. Jack grows obsessed with the Overlook’s history of violence, which...

(The entire section is 427 words.)