Stephen King’s The Shining : Review and Short Analysis

By  Frendy, Gabriel & Patty ( 1st year students)

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The Shining is a tale about the lives of a family in which the husband works as a caretaker in a hotel overlooking Colorado, named the Overlook Hotel, and much to the husband and wife’s unknowing, the hotel has a force within it that transcends the eras and would like to spread further terror to the ones inside it, and the one to notice, and experience it firsthand is the family’s son, Danny Torrance.

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Firstly, Jack Torrance is the sympathetic character, a father and a husband. He has a deep desire to be a good father, a good husband AND a good writer. He had lost a lot of things because of his temper, alcoholism and the bitter memory of his abusive father. He had even lost his job as a teacher, debate coach in a school, and he is offered the job of being a caretaker in the hotel. Spotting this as a chance to redeem himself and to ‘fix’ his family life that is going downhill, he decided to take it. Things start of nice and slow, but still engaging. From the flashbacks that provide the background story that affects the characters’ decisions and personalities, to the detailed flow of thoughts that drift inside the minds of these characters (and this is exposed more and better in the ‘Night Thoughts’ chapters).

We get to see how the husband, Jack Torrance, is a pretty nice person at heart (at first, that is); who simply wants a second chance to patch up, reconstruct his crumbling marriage with Wendy Torrance, his wife and improve his relationships with his son. For that, he quits drinking, he tries his best to keep his temper in check, he interacts often positively with his wife and son. All of those, however, begins to fall off gradually as the Overlook Hotel tempts him with the dark pasts of its own, intriguing him,  providing a top-notch reference for his writings, and he couldn’t ignore those sweet treats offered to him (Jack plans to complete a play, write a book). Things are becoming weirder and weirder gradually, and Jack even experiences the supernatural phenomena, which he refused to believe is real, until he is eventually forced to believe them, and in the end, becoming part of them. From Jack Torrance’s descend into madness, despair; we could see the realistic aspects, aspect that is there within us human beings. How easy it is for us to be tempted, even though we know that it is something we shouldn’t want, and how easy for such temptations to erase rationality from our minds. Another thing is that every single human has times when they are frustrated, and frustration comes in a lot of forms, and subconsciously, they are really scary. In Jack Torrance’s case, there are times when he tries hard not to think badly of his wife and son, even though he thinks that they are irritating at times; so irritating in fact, Jack wants to yell at them, tell them to shut up, tie them up, or even murder them. We all have the feelings when we would like to do those things to certain individuals, or even people in general, or closer ones, including our family. This is what makes the character development of Jack Torrance plausible, realistic, and entertaining at the same time.

English department Book Club
English department Book Club

In the case of Wendy Torrance, the housewife of the family, there aren’t much detailed developments, sadly, but she is a truly brave woman. At first she was just your average attractive female housewife that planned for a divorce, but after witnessing the tangible changes in her husband’s behavior, she decided to keep the marriage going. We were shown how strong a mother’s love can be through Wendy’s actions, in which she decides to preserve the family even though it means sacrificing the only job her husband has at the moment, but she thinks family safety is more important than wealth, which is a pretty nice point of view that Jack Torrance disagrees with. She also believes everything his son says, regardless of how absurd they may sound, not following the stereotype of people accepting things that they think are acceptable for themselves. Following the story, Wendy becomes a bold woman that is determined to protect her son, even if it means risking her life. The inner conflicts in herself is also quite shallow, in which she actually kind of doubts her husband after he decides to change, and this is becoming a reality during Jack’s negative attitudes due to the Overlook’s influence. Still, this is what makes it real. We often doubt ourselves in this life, and Wendy shows us that it might not be wrong for us to doubt ourselves from time to time, and which one is indeed more important; family bond or wealth for survivability.

In the case of Danny Torrance, he got to be one of the richest child characters ever. He’s intelligent, adventuresome, forgiving, loving and kind. Unlike your average five-year olds, Danny has a gift called the shining, in which he could sense, experience unnatural phenomena, have dreams about the future, and even read other people’s minds. This is interesting enough, but there’s more; Danny thinks in surprisingly deep ways throughout the story. When they first arrive at the Overlook Hotel, Danny already knows that something bad will happen, but he decides to keep quiet about it because he knows that his dad values this job extremely high. How Danny deals and suppresses the dilemma over this is something really admirable. His brave demeanor while facing the phenomena of the hotel, or even his very own father (physically, at least), contains cowardice, and this is precisely why it is good. Just like what Neil Gaiman says in ‘Coraline’: “when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave”, and Danny Torrance does exactly that. All of those things are done by him, while still preserving, showing the qualities of a five-year old kid; Danny Torrance deserves a standing applause.

Specific characters aside, The Shining manages to provide the readers a vivid depiction of the hotel, of the character’s flow of thoughts as well as their actions, making them able to put themselves inside the setting nicely; this is another point that makes The Shining a realistic work. Still, it doesn’t actually deliver a full-fledged super scary horror story; sure, it is scary, but not in a way that you would be checking behind you every few moments (though, it might make you think twice in booking a hotel room). It also provides the readers the tendency to think due to the book’s accomplishment in awakening further curiosity from the readers, for example, the story behind the first caretaker of the hotel; Delbert Grady and family, the man in a dog suit; Roger and even the woman in room 217; Mrs. Massey. However, the lack of frontal paranormal activities causes less frights, but enough spooks and thrills. Rather than jumping directly to the spooky parts, introducing the readers with horrifying scenes at the early pages, the novel provides us with the interactions among the family in a somehow peaceful manner, planting attractions to these characters when they are having fun, peaceful moments. The book is more psychologically disturbing, thrilling, and all of those are sprinkled with touches of spooks.

The Shining, even though might not be the one to deliver an extremely frightening tale, it manages to provide us a pool of drama, thrills, disturbance, and everything you could think of in a good horror story for us to dive into.

End of Review.


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