- "Isolated for months on end Jack Torrance, an abusive alcoholic writer has been given the responsibility of caretaker of the famous "Overlook". With his beautiful and strong willed Wife- Wendy and misfit son Danny, the three will come to learn that they are not alone in the Hotel which they reside in."
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This classic novel is arguably King's most famous story. It deals with many of King's recurring themes, including alcoholism, domestic violence, misfit, yet gifted children and the insanity of authors. It has been made into an iconic horror movie of the same title , starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall and a miniseries that was aired on TV in the 90's. In 2016 the Minnesota Opera Company staged an opera based on both the novel and the 1980 movie. The production enjoyed strong reviews and sold out performances. There are plans to stage it again, but the Covid-19 Pandemic has deplayed those plans.
Jack Torrance, a loving father when sober, is a temperamental alcoholic and aspiring writer. He is trying to rebuild his life after previously breaking his son Danny's arm and assaulting a pupil at a Vermont prep school where he was a teacher. After being expelled from his teaching position and giving up drinking, Jack accepts a job as a winter caretaker at the large, isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado to prove that he has recovered from alcoholism and is now a responsible person. Jack also plans to write a new play, believing the isolation will inspire him. Jack, his wife Wendy, and the clairvoyant Danny move into the Overlook. Jack's job was provided to him as a last chance by a close friend of his, Al Shockley, a fellow recovering alcoholic, who knows the hotel's board of trustees. The hotel's manager, the snobby Stuart Ullmann, interviews Jack and makes no attempt to hide his contempt for him due to his alcoholism and his recent termination. Jack also meets Watson, the hotel's seasonal caretaker, who shows Jack the heating and power systems of the hotel. Watson emphasizes that Jack must keep a close watch on the hotel's aging boiler, which could explode and destroy the hotel if the pressure isn't "dumped" on a regular basis each day.
Danny's clairvoyance makes him sensitive to supernatural forces. A warning comes from Danny's imaginary friend, Tony, who tells him the hotel has an evil history and his family might be in danger. Shortly after the family's initial arrival at the hotel, Danny and the hotel's friendly chef, Dick Hallorann, talk privately to discuss Danny's talent and the hotel's sinister nature. Dick informs Danny that he shares Danny's abilities (though to a lesser degree), as did Dick's grandmother, who called it "shining". Dick warns Danny to avoid Room 217, and reassures him that the things he may see are merely pictures which cannot harm him. The conversation ends with Dick saying to Danny, "If there is trouble...you give a shout." When Halloran asks Danny to demonstrate his ability to talk to Dick through his mind, Dick experiences a huge and sharp burst of pain. He realizes that Danny may be the most powerful person possessed of the shining he's ever met.
The hotel has a personality in its own right, and acts as a psychic lens: It manipulates the living and the dead for its own purposes, and magnifies the psychic powers of any living people who reside there to make them more sensitive to its urgings. Danny has premonitions of the hotel's danger to his family and begins seeing ghosts and frightening visions from the hotel's past, but puts up with them in the hope that they are not dangerous in the present. Although Danny is close to his father, he does not tell either of his parents about his visions because he senses that the caretaking job is important to his father and his family's future. However, Danny realizes that his presence in the hotel makes it more powerful, and enables it to make objects and situations dangerous that would normally not be dangerous, like topiary animals that come to life.
While checking on the hotel's boiler, Jack finds an old scrapbook that contains clippings that provide a detailed history of the hotel. Presidents, dignitaries and famous celebrities had all been guests at the hotel. At one point, Jack discovers, the hotel was owned by Mafia interests and one of their number was murdered there. Believing that the hotel's history will make for a bestselling book, Jack first calls Stuart Ullmann, and grills him about the more nefarious events that took place there, mainly as revenge for Ullmann making his interview an uncomfortable experience. Ullmann is infuriated and places a call to Al Shockley, demanding that Jack be removed from his position. Shockley is able to convince Ullmann that Jack will not dredge up the hotel's history in any book, a condition that infuriates Jack. After Al reminds him that he'd saved Jack's career and reputation on several occasions, Jack grudgingly agrees to Al's terms and returns to writing his play and maintaining the hotel.
Danny begins to experience terrifying visions: a fire hose near Room 217 attacks him and the hedge animals of the hotel's topiary come alive and attack him while he plays out in the snow. The hotel has difficulty possessing Danny, so it begins to possess Jack, frustrating his need and desire to work on his play. Jack becomes increasingly unstable, and the sinister ghosts of the hotel gradually begin to possess him. Danny's curiosity gets the better of him and he steals the hotel's passkey and enters Room 217. There he finds the bloated body of a woman who was murdered in the bathtub. The woman, no more than a ghost but still a powerful entity of the hotel's design, tries to strangle Danny, leaving bruises on the boy's neck. Danny isn't killed but when his mother finds him and sees his injury, she immediately blames Jack.
Frustrated and furious at Wendy's accusations, Jack goes to the bar of the hotel, previously empty of alcohol, and finds it fully stocked. He quickly gets drunk, which allows the hotel to possess him more fully. The hotel attempts to use Jack to kill Wendy and Danny in order to absorb Danny's psychic abilities. During a violent struggle with the iniebriated Jack in the hotel bar, Wendy manages to hit Jack with a straw-wrapped bottle, knocking him cold. Wendy and Danny drag into the kitchen, locking him into the walk-in pantry, but the ghost of Delbert Grady, a former caretaker who murdered his family and then committed suicide, releases him. Wendy discovers that they are completely isolated at the Overlook, since Jack has sabotaged the hotel's snowmobile, smashed the CB radio in the office and a hard winter storm has arrived, burying the only road to the hotel under several feet of snow. She and Jack battle. Jack strikes Wendy with one of the hotel's croquet mallets, breaking three ribs, a leg, and one vertebra in her back. Wendy stabs Jack in the small of his back with a large butcher knife, then crawls away to the caretaker's suite and locks herself in the bathroom, with the injured and bleeding Jack shambling close behind in pursuit.
Hallorann, working at a winter resort in Florida, hears Danny's psychic call for help and rushes back to the Overlook. Hallorann's journey to Colorado is fraught with danger and obstacles, the chief being the intense snowstorm. Along the way, Hallorann nearly runs off the road. A friendly plow driver pulls Hallorann's car back onto the road. Hallorann discovers that the plow driver is also a person who "shines" and he loans the cook his pair of handmade mittens for the trip. After several more hours of treacherous car and snowmobile travel through the Colorado Rockies, Dick finally arrives at the hotel and enters the main lobby.
Jack leaves Wendy in the bathroom and ambushes Hallorann with the croquet mallet, shattering his jaw and giving him a concussion, before setting off after Danny. Danny distracts Jack by saying "You're not my daddy," having realized that the Overlook had completely taken over Jack by playing on his alcoholism. Jack temporarily regains control of himself and tells Danny, "Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you," before the hotel forces Jack to strike himself in the face with the croquet mallet, mutilating Jack's face. Danny suddenly remembers that they are in further grave danger: the unstable boiler is about to explode, and the monster Jack has become rushes to the basement as Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann flee. Despite the Jack-thing opening the valve to relieve the pressure, the boiler explodes, destroying the Overlook. The building's spirit makes one last desperate attempt to possess Hallorann and make him kill Danny and Wendy, but he shakes it off and brings them to safety.
The novel ends with Danny and Wendy summering at a resort in Maine where Hallorann is the head chef. Wendy is nearby recovering from her injuries but looks older and more haggard for the experience. Hallorann comforts Danny over the loss of his father while teaching him to fish in the ocean. Danny's line gets a bite, which makes him and Dick happy.
- Jack Torrance - The disturbed writer and winter caretaker of the Overlook hotel
- Wendy Torrance - Jack's wife
- Danny Torrance - Jack and Wendy's son, who has "the shining" on a very powerful level.
- Tony- Danny's imaginary friend who warns him not to go to the Overlook
- Dick Hallorann - The head chef at the Overlook who has "the shining"
- Delbert Grady - A previous caretaker who killed his family and himself, and whose ghost urges Jack to do the same
- Stuart Ullman - Present manager of the Overlook
- Horace M. Derwent - Past owner of the Overlook
- Stephen King disliked Stanley Kubrick's adaption of the Shining, which drove him to make his own adaptation, which aired as a miniseries in 1997.
- Danny's middle name is Anthony; his imaginary friend's name is Tony. This alludes to the idea that "Tony" is actually Danny as a grown up.
- Dick Hallorann appears in a flashback scene in Stephen King's novel It.
- Joe McClatchey mentioned reading The Shining on his blog in 2009.
- In The Stand, Mother Abagail says her grandmother referred to the gift of prophecy as "the shining lamp of God, sometimes just the shine."
- In Misery, the remains of the burnt out Overlook Hotel are referred to.
The audiobook version of The Shining was read by Campbell Scott, who also read the audiobook version of Cell.
- The Shining shares similarities with the Netflix series Stranger Things. It is confirmed in the book Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down that The Duffer Brothers took inspiration from The Shining for its second season, along with the books Firestarter, The Dead Zone, Carrie, The Body and It.