John Daniel "Jack" Torrance is a fictional character in the 1977 novel The Shining by Stephen King. He was portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the 1980 movie adaptation of the novel, and by Steven Weber in the 1997 miniseries. The American Film Institute rated the character (as played by Nicholson) the 25th greatest film villain of all time. In 2008, Jack Torrance was selected by Empire Magazine as one of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters. Premiere Magazine also ranked Torrance on their list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Jack Torrance grew up in Berlin, New Hampshire, where his father worked in the Berlin Community Hospital. He is a writer and former teacher whose alcoholism and volatile temper cost him his teaching position at a small preparatory school, and nearly ends his marriage to his wife, Wendy. He gives up drinking after he breaks his son Danny's arm in a drunken rage, and promises Wendy that she can leave him if he ever drinks again. He accepts a position maintaining the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado for the winter, in the hope this will salvage his family, re-establish his career, and give him the time and privacy to finish a promising play. He moves to the hotel with Wendy and Danny, who is telepathic and sensitive to supernatural forces. Danny receives guidance from an imaginary friend he calls "Tony."
It is later revealed that Jack's father, also an alcoholic, was abusive towards his family. A flashback scene in the novel shows his drunk father brutally bashing Jack's mother with a cane.
The Hotel is haunted by the ghosts of those who died violently within it, and is itself host to a being of unknown origin, who wishes to coerce Jack into killing Danny. Apparently, the Hotel believes that if it can harness the boy's "shining", then it can gather enough power to "break free" of the building in which it has somehow become trapped. Jack has encounters with ghosts of previous staff of the hotel, who insist he had always been working there, and must kill his family so he can be promoted to a managerial position. He eventually succumbs to these supernatural forces, as well as his drinking problem, and grows to hate his own wife and child.
Jack cuts off all radio communications and sabotages the hotel snowmobile, their only means of transport. He then tries to kill Wendy, who knocks him out and locks him up in a storage room. Jack is later helped out of the food storage room by the ghost of the previous caretaker, who murdered his own family before committing suicide.
Jack then brutally attacks Wendy with a roque mallet he found, although she escapes. He is interrupted with the arrival of Hallorann, whom he almost beats to death.
Jack finds and confronts Danny and is about to kill him when his son reaches through the hotel's power and redeems his father. Remembering how much he loves his son, Jack allows Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann to escape, moments before the hotel's boiler explodes, killing him.
In the 2013 sequel novel Doctor Sleep, Danny (now going by Dan) learns that Jack is also the biological father of Lucy Stone, a woman whose daughter Abra has manifested shining abilities even stronger than Dan's. Shortly before he was fired from his teaching position, and unbeknownst to Wendy, Jack had a brief sexual encounter with a student teacher at a party that led to Lucy's conception. Dan is thus Lucy's half-brother and Abra's half-uncle. This book gives Jack's middle name as Edward rather than Daniel.
In the climax of the novel, Jack's ghost (which has apparently been earthbound since his death at the end of The Shining) intervenes to help Dan and Abra defeat the main villain (which takes place at the site where the Overlook once stood). After the battle, Jack says goodbye to his now grown son. It is presumed that, after this, Jack finally moved on.
Jack Torrance is portrayed in a less sympathetic manner in the 1980 film. In the novel, Jack is a tragic hero whose shortcomings lead to his defeat, while the film implies that he is insane from the start. It also leaves out his traumatic childhood.
The film's first major deviation from the source material occurs when Jack attacks Hallorann. Instead of merely injuring him with the mallet, Jack kills him by stabbing him in the heart with an axe.
In the film, Jack hears Danny scream, and chases his son to a hedge maze outside the hotel (while in the novel, topiary animals come to life and threaten Danny). Danny walks backwards in his own footprints to mislead Jack, then jumps to a side path and slips out of the maze. While Wendy and Danny escape the hotel in Hallorann's Snowcat, Jack gets lost trying to pick up Danny's tracks, sits down to rest, and freezes to death.
The film ends featuring an old photograph of a dance at the hotel from the 1920s that shows Jack at the event.
In the miniseries
Author Stephen King was unhappy with some liberties that the 1980 film director Stanley Kubrick took with the novel, and decided to produce a three-part miniseries of his vision of the story. While well received by King fans, it received mixed reviews from critics.
In King's film version, Jack Torrance is presented more sympathetically than in Kubrick's film. Torrance in the King miniseries is similar to the character in the novel, but the ending is changed. In the book, Jack redeems himself, and the boiler explodes due to the hotel's negligence. In the miniseries, Jack sacrifices himself by causing the boiler to explode in order to destroy the hotel.
The miniseries ends with a scene not in the book: Danny graduates from high school, while his spectral father looks on. It is revealed that Danny's imaginary friend "Tony" is, in fact, Danny from the future communicating with his past self, a point briefly touched upon in the book but omitted from the Kubrick film.
- "AFI'S 100 YEARS…100 HEROES AND VILLAINS". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
- "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters| 73. Jack Torrance | Empire". www.empireonline.com. 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
- "100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 2011-09-20.