Themes and Meanings
The primary theme of this novel, one popular with writers of horror, is that evil or pain remains even when its object is long dead. The ghost of Jack’s abusive father, the monsters in the haunted hotel, Jack’s nightmares about abusing Danny, and the voices from a party that took place in 1927, all blend into a mélange of evil surrounding the isolated family.
The haunted hotel shows how the unconfessed sins of humanity build up and remain, finally detonating a deadly explosion. The evil in the hotel mirrors the darkness in Jack’s soul as he wrestles with the twin devils of drink and despair. The novel reminds the reader how much pain and stress a human mind can stand before it finally gives in to the horror and collapses upon itself.
King’s dialogue supplies a tone that darkens the story even during its lighter moments—and there are light moments, such as the scene in which Jack, Wendy, and Danny are sledding, happy and contented, in the snow surrounding the hotel. Yet even here the sadness and sorrow return: Jack sees once again the menacing figures of the animal topiaries in the garden coming for him.
King’s strength lies in his ability to create tension and atmosphere. Many of his descriptions are nearly Poe-like in their evocation of horror in the darkened halls. His dialogue is realistic, and the tortured thoughts of the evil-haunted Torrance, the silent cries for help from Danny, and the voices of the long-dead revelers blend into a fine buildup of suspense.