The novel features many of the themes and images that readers have come to love in Stephen King’s 40+ year career. This includes alcoholism, battles against evil, disembodied villains, corruption, and insanity.
Stephen King’s use of character development throughout this novel is what makes the book so thrilling and moving. When the novel begins, the Torrance family is teetering on the edge. Danny, although only five years old, is well-aware of the troubles his parents are dealing with. He fears the possibility of divorce more than anything else. This is, despite the fact that his father, Jack, recently broke his arm in a drunken accident.
Wendy Torrance is driven by a desire to improve her marriage but, beyond all, protect her son from any injuries that might come his way. This includes those that might be handed out by his own father. Wendy is well aware of the danger that her husband poses when he’s drunk.
Flashbacks also reveal that she has seen a marriage dissolve firsthand (her parents’) and fears that what happened to them is going to happen to her. King provides readers with just enough detail to make Wendy a well-rounded and interesting character. But, not so much where her story takes away from the main issue at hand—battling the Overlook Hotel. Here is a quote from the novel in which King is relaying Wendy’s opinion of Jack’s mental strength:
Once, during the drinking phase, Wendy had accused him of desiring his own destruction but not possessing the necessary moral fiber to support a full-blown deathwish. So he manufactured ways in which other people could do it, lopping a piece at a time off himself and their family.
When the reader is introduced to Jack Torrance, they learn about his alcoholic past and the reasons why he decided to quit drinking. His newfound sobriety is less firmly established than his wife would like it to be. It is put to the ultimate test when the family is caught up in the corrupting powers of the Overlook Hotel. Before long, Wendy is blaming Jack for the injuries that Danny sustains (despite it being the hotel’s fault). The family has progressively torn apart as the hotel works to corrupt Jack Torrance’s mind.
Mini stories and flashbacks included throughout the novel help readers better understand who Jack is and why the hotel is able to take hold of his mind. Particularly effective are the flashbacks to his father’s cruelty in his parent’s marriage. Jack remembers his father beating his mother and dealing with his own addiction to alcohol. He’s ashamed of who his father was, that is until he is firmly in the grasp of the hotel and has turned against his own family. In a particularly chilling moment, Jack expresses sympathy for his father. He feels as though he finally understands why his father had to hit his mother. Now, in his mind, his mother deserved it just as Wendy and Danny deserve to be punished.
The Theme of Family
The theme of family bonds is one of the most important in the novel. When the book begins and readers are introduced to the various issues that the Torrance family is facing, it is hard not to root for Jack and Wendy’s marriage and their relationship with their young son, Danny. All three are incredibly sympathetic characters.
Through King’s skill with language, Jack’s descent into madness and violence is almost painful to read. Because readers know how much he cares about his wife and son through flashbacks and King’s use of free indirect style, it is even more, moving to hear of his intense personality change and desire to inflict harm upon his family.
Towards the end of the novel, Jack’s genuine love for his son allows him to break through the hotel’s corrupting influence on his mind. He tells Danny that he loves him and should run for his life. But Danny, who has always loved his father indiscriminately, refuses to. Here is the quote:
Doc,” Jack Torrance said. “Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you.” “No,” Danny said. “Oh Danny, for God’s sake—” “No,” Danny said. He took one of his father’s bloody hands and kissed it. “It’s almost over.
King’s use of foreshadowing is one of the more effective literary devices at work in ‘The Shining‘. From the first pages, before Danny even steps foot into the hotel, it’s clear that the building will present the family with an evil that none of them can imagine. He experiences visions, given to him by his “imaginary friend” Tony, of the word “Redrum” and of a shadow figure wielding a weapon. Images like these make the novel so thrilling to read. It’s unclear what exactly is going to happen to the family, but King ensures that readers continue through the story and find out.
Another wonderful example of foreshadowing in the book also comes from Danny’s “shine,” or ability to read minds and see into the future. Tony tells Danny that he is going to remember something that Jack forgot. It’s not until the final pages of the novel that he knows what that is— that Jack forgot to check the hotel’s boiler. In the above quote in which Jack pleads with his son to run away, Danny says that it is “almost over.” He’s aware that the end is near and that soon the horrors will cease. The novel ends with an immense explosion that takes the Overlook and Jack Torrance with it.
Is The Shining worth reading?
Yes! ‘The Shining‘ is one of Stephen King’s best novels and a classic of the horror and psychological thriller genres. If you enjoy the supernatural, haunted houses, battles with evil, and psychological torment, then this novel is for you.
Is The Shining book scary?
‘The Shining‘ is filled with dark and terrifying images. But the book itself isn’t filled with jump scares or ghastly scenes of violence. Although there is darkness, readers aren’t likely to be haunted by King’s story.
Is The Shining a true story?
No, ‘The Shining‘ is not a true story. But, it was inspired by Stephen King’s time at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. This notoriously haunted hotel inspired the author to create fictional characters dealing with a similar environment.
The Shining Book Review: Stephen King's Horror Classic
Lasting Effect on Reader
The Shining Review
‘The Shining’ by Stephen King was his third novel and is still regarded as one of his best. It is a classic of the horror genre and has inspired numerous authors and filmmakers since it was written.
- Deep character development
- Psychologically thrilling
- Keeps readers on their toes
- Unresolved plot points
- Limited characters
- Not super scary