Jack Torrence, loving father when sober and aspiring playwright and author accepts a winter caretaker job at an old, large and isolated hotel in Colorado. Jack, his wife Wendy and their clairvoyant son Danny move into the Overlook hotel.
Danny's clairvoyance makes him sensitive to super-natural forces and shortly after their arrival at the Overlook he experiences premonitions about the danger the hotel poses to his family, he begins seeing ghosts and frightening visions about the hotel's past. Knowing that the caretaking job is important to his father and to the family's future Danny avoids telling his parents about the visions. As winter closes in and the small family become completely isolated Danny realises that his presence in the hotel makes it more powerful, the hotel has difficulty possessing Danny, so it begins to posses Jack, frustrating his need and desire to work. Jack becomes increasingly unstable and the ghosts of the hotel gradually begin to overtake him.
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With the heavy winter snow leaving them all totally isolated a true horror story unfolds as the hotel attempts to use Jack to kill Wendy and Danny in order to absorb Danny's psychic abilities.
#. Danny Torrence - The 5-year-old son of Jack and Wendy, he has the "Shining" ability which empowers him with various psychic abilities which render him sensitive to super-natural forces; this is what makes him the target of the hotel. Danny has a psychic guide, named Tony - taken from his middle name Anthony - through which he can see past and future events. At first Tony seems to just be an imaginary playmate but soon becomes a source of fear to Danny, followed by a source of strength towards the end of the novel. Being 5 years old Danny is only just learning to read, so he often becomes confused after some of his visions as they require some reading skill to be fully understood; this motivates Danny to achieve a higher than usual reading skill before he has even started school. With his "Shining" ability Danny can tap into people's thoughts but as mentioned above, his age limits his understanding of them. Danny is most definitely a likeable character, he is sweet, caring and has the innocence and ignorance of a 5 year old, yet he is also very intelligent for his age as he is forced to mature with the insight he has from his "shining" ability. His psychic insight gives him confidence at times but also scares him. He is enquiring and curious, always trying to further his understanding of things.
#. Jack Torrence - Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic, he lost his teaching position after beating up a student for slashing his car's tires. When he drinks he is very erratic and has an extremely short temper, one night after coming home drunk he broke Danny's arm because Danny would not stop crying; ever since the event his marriage had devalued and him and Wendy were contemplating divorce. However Jack's fatherly instinct took over and he managed to quit drinking and arrange a winter caretaking job at the Overlook, this was all an attempt to prove himself in order to save his marriage. Jack has a certain arrogance and stubbornness about him, he does not like being under authority and often compromises himself or his job by retaliating to it. The above and drinking are his weaknesses and the hotel identifies and uses them to turn Jack against his family and into a monster. Jack seems to be quite a likeable character at the beginning of the novel but as it progresses and the reader witnesses how Jack acts under pressure and his history is revealed one begins to dislike him, yet there is always a bit of pity for him because he tries so hard to make up for his past.
#. Wendy Torrence - Wendy is Jack's wife and Danny's mother, a likeable, kind, friendly and genuine lady. She had/has a bad relationship with her mother which has influenced her to be the best mother she can to Danny. She is extremely strong and capable; she sticks with Jack despite his alcoholism and short temper. When Jack is possessed she tries to balance staying alive, protecting her son and trying not to completely abandon her husband. Her actions are not always what would seem to be clever but she never disappoints, always keeping the reader in suspense. Her strength is evident in that she seems to be almost immune to the Overlook's evil. Wendy is also a very practical person, this contributes to her saving herself, Dick Hallorann and Danny at the end of the novel.
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#. Dick Hallorann - Dick Hallorann is the chef of the Overlook Hotel and shares the "shining" ability with Danny. Dick is a true hero in the novel, he is summoned to the hotel telepathically by Danny where he almost loses his life help save Wendy and Danny from Jack. He is also important to Danny's future well-being as he is the first person to 'verify' Danny's "shining" ability and to name it. Dick is a very kind, likeable, friendly man and is the only character introduced, besides Danny, who possesses the "shining" ability.
#.Horace Derwent - Horace Derwent was a self-made millionaire and former owner of the Overlook Hotel and is responsible for most of the Overlooks notorious history. Although it is not clear whether he is alive or not he appears to Jack in the Colorado Lounge as one of the apparitions at the ball. His current involvement in the Overlook is not clear but he comes across as a bad guy.
The Shining is the story of a desperate family, they believe the Overlook is their last chance of making it together. The Overlook however is all about destruction, destroying families by twisting the love within them. The family theme is quite complex, Jack is battling with his own childhood where he had an abusive alcoholic father, Wendy has a bad relationship with her mother who blames her for her parents' divorce, Wendy has little family contact other than with Jack and Danny - this runs into the other theme of isolation. The isolated Overlook hotel is quite like the family, both have their share of unsavoury pasts and like the hotel these also contribute to the family's isolation (isolation from their extended family and isolation within themselves due to Jack's short temper and drinking). Danny's "shining" ability isolates him from everyone else, he has to deal with a lot more than the average 5 year old let alone adults, when he meets Dick Hallorann - also a "shiner" - his isolation is slightly lessened. Violence is quite prominent in the novel, the Overlook hotel feeds on violence. Jack is quite vulnerable to it after battling with a violent childhood and still battling with his own violent temper. We see the Overlook take advantage of Jack's weakness as we watch him lose his battle to control his own violence becoming a slave to the hotel.
The novel is set at The Overlook Hotel in Colorado, September 30 - December 3, 1975. The Overlook has a long history of violence and questionable deaths. The date sets the novel in the fall and winter of 1975, just post the Vietnam War. The date 1945 is brought up in the novel quite often, with reference to the Overlook's history. 1945 marks the end of World War 2 and the beginning of the Cold War, both 1975 and 1945 were years of extreme post-war anxiety and relief. Making the setting in quite emotion-provoking times. The Overlook however intertwines different time periods, bringing together all of its horrific past. The hotel has so many settings within itself - Room 217, the ballroom, the cellar, the boiler room etc - that it provides the perfect platform for King to unleash a hell of a horror.
Style, form and structure:
Written in third person and including perspectives from all the characters with their thoughts included, the novel gives a nice all-round image of each character's personality and character. As perspectives change all the time, you feel as if you are watching a movie; I think this style and structure is why this novel has made such a successful film.
I really enjoyed the novel, it was my first Stephen King read and my first horror novel. It was quite difficult to get 'hooked' in the beginning but once the true horror started it was a book I could not put down, the suspense was great. I found it to be truly original and so entertaining with a well-thought out sophisticated plot that will still be great when it's re-read for the 5th time. I'd say definitely a masterpiece and it lives up to all the praise it has received. Stephen King is truly talented, can't wait to read another one of his books.
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