About the Book

Book Protagonist: Jack Torrance
Publication Date: 1977
Genre: Humor

Themes and Analysis

The Shining

By Stephen King

'The Shining' is a classic of the horror and psychological fiction genres. It was published in 1977 as Stephen King’s third novel.

Below, readers can explore some of the many important themes and symbols, like “Redrum” and the wasps’ nest, that King used in his classic horror novel, as well as consider important events and King’s writing style.

The Shining Analysis and Themes

The Shining Themes 

Family Bonds

When the Torrance family arrives at the Overlook Hotel, their bonds with one another are already shaky. Wendy is depressed and anxious about her future with her husband, and Jack is struggling to maintain his sobriety while also bringing in enough money to support his family. Danny, who loves both of his parents, is also struggling with the stress of a prospective divorce, even though he is only five years old. 

The Overlook Hotel’s disembodied evil uses these divisions to tear the family apart, making it possible for the hotel to further corrupt Jack’s mind and inspire him to turn on his wife and son.


Although the exact nature of the evil in the Overlook Hotel is never entirely revealed, it does make itself known through numerous forms. This includes the moving and violent animal topiaries outside, the ghost of Delbert Grady, the woman in Room 217, and more. These various ghostly figures and entities personify evil in various ways. Grady helps convince Jack that he needs to kill his family, and the animal topiaries attempt to kill or at least deter Dick from returning to the hotel.


Isolation is one of the most central themes in this novel. Without the family’s isolation at the Overlook Hotel and Jack’s isolation from his wife and son, the events of the novel would not have played out as they did. The hotel’s evil depends on divisions in family relationships. Without Jack’s alcoholism and violent tendencies, it is unlikely that the hotel would’ve been able to isolate him as it did. Plus, the fact that the family was totally alone added to the overall danger and suspense of the novel.

Analysis of Key Moments in The Shining 

  1. Jack accepts the job at the Overlook Hotel as the winter caretaker.
  2. Jack is told how important it is to remember to check the boiler in the cellar.
  3. The family moves into the Overlook Hotel and meets Dick Hallorann.
  4. Danny speaks with Dick about the “shine.”
  5. Jack gives Danny a supposedly empty wasps nest.
  6. The wasps attack Danny in the middle of the night.
  7. Danny gets more visions about “Redrum” from Tony.
  8. Wendy grows more suspicious about her husband after finding bruises on Danny’s neck.
  9. Jack throws away a key part of the snowmobile, preventing them from leaving the hotel.
  10. Danny knows that “Redrum” is going to happen on December 2nd and telepathically contacts Dick for help.
  11. Jack drinks at the bar and speaks with the ghost of Delbert Grady.
  12. Wendy finds him drunk and locks him in a pantry.
  13. Jack escapes, promises to kill his family, and assaults Wendy.
  14. Danny reminds Jack that he hasn’t checked the boiler and he runs off to do so.
  15. Dick, Danny, and Wendy escape from the hotel just as it explodes, taking Jack with it.

Style, Tone, and Figurative Language

King uses the omniscient third-person point of view when writing this novel. He shifts between different points of view, including Danny’s, Dick’s, and Jack’s throughout. As is common with Stephen King’s writing, he often uses the free indirect style. This means that the characters take over the narration for a period of time, distorting it through their perspectives and opinions.

Throughout, the tone is perplexing and tense. King reveals crucial information about the hotel and its past residence as the novel progresses. But, at the same time, he manages to maintain the mystery of the building. Readers are kept on their toes throughout as they deal with suspicious and suspenseful content.

Symbolism is one of the most important features of this novel. For example, the word “Redrum” that Danny sees before the family even moves to the hotel.

Analysis of Symbols 


“Redrum” is a word that Danny first sees prior to the family moving to the hotel. He sees it in his mind, written in various mirrors. He doesn’t know what the word means for the majority of the book. It is later revealed that the word is murder spelt backwards. It symbolizes the complete reversal of Jack’s intentions as the novel progresses. He begins with the hope of providing his family with a fresh start and ends up attempting to kill them and destroy the hotel. It also adds to the overall mysterious mood King achieves in the book.

The Wasps’ Nest 

The wasps’ nest that Jack finds and then gives to his son Danny is symbolic of unexpected dangers in the hotel. Danny was thrilled with this unusual gift from his father, but it turns out to be something quite dangerous. In the same way, Danny trusts his father, but this is a misplaced trust. This is clearly seen through Jack’s attempts to kill his wife and son at the end of the novel.

The Boiler 

In classic King fashion, the reader is provided with a great example of foreshadowing in regard to the boiler at the beginning of the novel. Jack is told how important it is to continually check the boiler’s pressure. If he doesn’t, it could explode and take his family and the entire hotel with it. This is exactly what happens at the end of the novel. The boiler is symbolic of Jack’s attachment to reality. At first, he diligently checks it. But, as the novel progresses and he loses his grip on his sanity, he forgets.


What is the theme of The Shining?

Readers may find several different important themes in Stephen King’s classic horror novel. These include family bonds, fear, isolation, and more. Each is as important as the next. But, the corrupt nature of evil and its ability to destroy families is at the centre of the book.

What do the twins symbolize in The Shining?

In the film, the Grady twins symbolize the possible murder of Wendy Torrance, Danny’s mother. The director, Stanley Kubrick, dressed the twins in outfits that remind the reader of Wendy. They are another foreboding symbol that foreshadows future events. 

Was Jack a ghost in The Shining?

At the end of ‘The Shining‘, Jack Torrance dies in an explosion that destroys the hotel. In the film (which changes the book’s original ending), Kubrick includes a scene in which the camera focuses on Jack in a photo from the early 1900s. In some viewers’ minds, this suggests that from the beginning, Jack was a reincarnated version of someone who had previously stayed at the hotel.

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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