The Shining (novel)

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The Shining
First edition cover
Author Stephen King
Cover artist Dave Christensen
Country United States
Language English
Genre Gothic novel
Psychological Horror
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
January 28, 1977
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 447
ISBN 978-0-385-12167-5
Followed by Doctor Sleep

The Shining is a horror novel by American author Stephen King. Published in 1977, it is King's third published novel and first hardback bestseller, and the success of the book firmly established King as a preeminent author in the horror genre. The setting and characters are influenced by King's personal experiences, including both his visit to The Stanley Hotel in 1974 and his recovery from alcoholism. The novel was followed by a sequel, Doctor Sleep, published in 2013.

The Shining centers on the life of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. His family accompanies him on this job, including his young son Danny Torrance, who possesses "the shining," an array of psychic abilities that allow Danny to see the hotel's horrific past. Soon, after a winter storm leaves them snowbound, the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel influence Jack's sanity, leaving his wife and son in incredible danger.

The novel was adapted into a 1980 feature film of the same name directed by Stanley Kubrick and co-written with Diane Johnson. Although King himself remains disappointed with the adaptation, having criticized its handling of the book's themes and of Wendy's character, it is nonetheless regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made.[1][2] A television mini-series later premiered in 1997, with the making closely monitored by King to ensure it had followed the novel's narrative.[3] King wrote the series himself and was reportedly unable to criticize the Kubrick version due to his contract.[4]

Plot summary[edit]

The Shining mainly takes place in the fictional Overlook Hotel, an isolated, haunted resort located in the Colorado Rockies. The history of the hotel, which is described in backstory by several characters, includes the deaths of some of its guests and of former winter caretaker Delbert Grady, who succumbed to cabin fever and killed his family and himself.

The plot centers on Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their five-year-old son Danny, who move into the hotel after Jack accepts the position as winter caretaker. Jack is characterized as an aspiring writer[5] and recovering alcoholic with anger issues troubled by past binges that, prior to the story, had caused him to accidentally break Danny's arm and lose his position as a teacher. Jack hopes that the hotel's seclusion will help him reconnect with his family and give him the motivation needed to work on a play. Danny, unbeknownst to his parents, possesses telepathic abilities referred to as "the shining" that enable him to read minds and experience premonitions. Dick Hallorann, the chef of the Overlook, senses Danny's abilities and helps to explain them to him, giving Hallorann and Danny a special connection.[6]

As the Torrances settle in at the Overlook, Danny sees frightening ghosts and visions. Although Danny is close to his parents, he does not tell either of them about his visions because he senses that the care-taking job is important to his father and the family's future. Wendy considers leaving Jack at the Overlook to finish the job on his own; Danny refuses, thinking his father will be happier if they stay. However, Danny soon realizes that his presence in the hotel makes the supernatural activity more powerful, turning echoes of past tragedies into dangerous threats. Apparitions take form, and in the garden's topiary animals come to life.

The Overlook has difficulty possessing Danny, so it begins to possess Jack, frustrating his need and desire to work. Jack starts to develop cabin fever, and the sinister ghosts of the hotel gradually begin to overtake him, making him increasingly unstable. One day, after a fight with Wendy, Jack finds the hotel's bar fully stocked with alcohol despite being previously empty, and witnesses a party at which he meets the ghost of a bartender named Lloyd. As he gets drunk, the hotel urges Jack to kill his wife and son. He initially resists, but the increasing influence of the hotel proves too great. He becomes a monster under the control of the hotel, truly unable to control his dark side.[7][8] Wendy and Danny get the better of Jack, locking him into the walk-in pantry, but the ghost of Delbert Grady releases him after he makes Jack promise to bring him Danny and to kill Wendy. Jack attacks Wendy with one of the hotel's roque mallets, but she escapes to the caretaker's suite and locks herself in the bathroom. Jack tries to break the door with the mallet, but she slashes his hand with a razor blade to slow him down.

Meanwhile, Dick Hallorann receives a psychic distress call from Danny while working at a winter resort in Florida. Hallorann rushes back to the Overlook, only to be attacked by the topiary animals and badly injured by Jack. As Jack pursues Danny through the Overlook, he briefly gains control of himself just long enough to tell Danny to run away, and that he loves him. The hotel takes control of Jack again, causing him to violently batter his own face and skull with the mallet so Danny can no longer recognize him, and Danny tells him that the unstable boiler in the basement is about to explode. Jack hurries down to relieve the pressure as Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann flee. Jack is too late; the boiler explodes and destroys the Overlook. Fighting off a last attempt by the hotel to possess him, Hallorann guides Danny and Wendy to safety.

The book's epilogue is set during the next summer. Hallorann, who has taken a chef's job at a resort in Maine, comforts Danny over the loss of his father.


After writing Carrie and Salem's Lot, both of which are set in small towns in King's home state of Maine, King was looking for a change of pace for the next book. "I wanted to spend a year away from Maine so that my next novel would have a different sort of background."[9] King opened an atlas of the US on the kitchen table and randomly pointed to a location, which turned out to be Boulder, Colorado.[10]

On October 30, 1974,[11] King and his wife Tabitha checked into The Stanley Hotel in nearby Estes Park, Colorado. They were the only two guests in the hotel that night. "When we arrived, they were just getting ready to close for the season, and we found ourselves the only guests in the place — with all those long, empty corridors".[9] They checked into room 217 which was said to be haunted. This is where room 217 comes from in the book.[12]

Ten years prior, King had read Ray Bradbury's The Veldt and was inspired to someday write a story about a person whose dreams would become real. In 1972, King started a novel entitled Darkshine, which was to be about a psychic boy in a psychic amusement park, but the idea never came to fruition and he abandoned the book. During the night at the Stanley, this story came back to him.[13]

King and his wife had dinner that evening in the grand dining room, totally alone. They were offered one choice for dinner, the only meal still available. Taped orchestral music played in the room and theirs was the only table set for dining. "Except for our table all the chairs were up on the tables. So the music is echoing down the hall, and, I mean, it was like God had put me there to hear that and see those things. And by the time I went to bed that night, I had the whole book in my mind".[14]

After dinner, his wife decided to turn in, but King took a walk around the empty hotel. He ended up in the bar and was served drinks by a bartender named Grady.[11]

"That night I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming. He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in a chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind."[10]

Sometimes you confess. You always hide what you're confessing to. That's one of the reasons why you make up the story. When I wrote The Shining, for instance, the protagonist of The Shining is a man who has broken his son's arm, who has a history of child beating, who is beaten himself. And as a young father with two children, I was horrified by my occasional feelings of real antagonism toward my children. Won't you ever stop? Won't you ever go to bed? And time has given me the idea that probably there are a lot of young fathers and young mothers both who feel very angry, who have angry feelings toward their children. But as somebody who has been raised with the idea that father knows best and Ward Cleaver on 'Leave It To Beaver,' and all this stuff, I would think to myself, Oh, if he doesn't shut up, if he doesn't shut up. . . . So when I wrote this book I wrote a lot of that down and tried to get it out of my system, but it was also a confession. Yes, there are times when I felt very angry toward my children and have even felt as though I could hurt them. Well, my kids are older now. Naomi is fifteen and Joey is thirteen and Owen is eight, and they're all super kids, and I don't think I've laid a hand on one of my kids in probably seven years, but there was a time ...[9]

The Shining was also heavily influenced by Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House,[15] Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death and The Fall of the House of Usher,[13] and Robert Marasco's Burnt Offerings.[10] The story has been often compared to Guy de Maupassant's story "The Inn".[16]

Prior to writing The Shining, King had written Roadwork and The Body which were both published later. The first draft of The Shining took less than four months to complete and he was able to publish it before the others.[10] The title was inspired by the John Lennon song "Instant Karma!", which contained the line "We all shine on".[17]

Bill Thompson, King's editor at Doubleday, tried to talk him out of The Shining because he thought that after writing Carrie and 'Salem's Lot, he would get "typed" as a horror writer. King considered that a compliment.[10]

Before the Play[edit]

Originally, there was a prologue titled "Before the Play" that chronicled earlier events in the Overlook's nightmarish history.[18][19]


Main article: Doctor Sleep (novel)

On November 19, 2009, during a reading at the Canon Theatre in Toronto, King described to the audience an idea for a sequel to The Shining. The idea was prompted by the occasional person asking, "What ever happened to Danny?"[20] The story would follow Danny Torrance, now in his 40s, living in New Hampshire, where he works as an orderly at a hospice and helps terminally ill patients pass away with the aid of some extraordinary powers.[21] Later, on December 1, 2009, King posted a poll on his official website, asking visitors to vote for which book he should write next, Doctor Sleep or the next Dark Tower novel:

I mentioned two potential projects while I was on the road, one a new Mid-World book (not directly about Roland Deschain, but yes, he and his friend Cuthbert are in it, hunting a skin-man, which are what werewolves are called in that lost kingdom) and a sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep. Are you interested in reading either of these? If so, which one turns your dials more? [We] will be counting your votes (and of course it all means nothing if the muse doesn't speak).[22]

Voting ended on December 31, 2009, and it was revealed that Doctor Sleep received 5,861 votes, while The Wind Through the Keyhole received 5,812.[23]

In 2011, King posted an update confirming that Doctor Sleep was in the works and that the plot included a traveling group of psychic vampires called The True Knot.[24][25]

Doctor Sleep was published on September 24, 2013.


  1. ^ Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition. September 2013. p. 1. ISBN 9780787650155. 
  2. ^ Thomson, David (2013-03-25). "The Days and Nights at the Overlook". New Republic 244 (4): 56–58. 
  3. ^ Smith, Greg (Summer 2002). "The Literary Equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries?: Academics, Moralists, and the Stephen King Phenomenon". Midwest Quarterly 43 (4): 329–345. 
  4. ^ Walls, Jeannette (August 1996). "Redrum, he wrote". Esquire 126 (2): 22. 
  5. ^ Bruhm, Steven (January 1996). "On Stephen King's Phallus; Or the Postmodern Gothic". Narrative 4 (1): 55–73. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  6. ^ Hohne, Karen A. (Fall 1994). "The Power of Spoken Word in the Works of Stephen King". Journal of Popular Culture 28 (2): 93–103. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.1994.2802_93.x. 
  7. ^ Martin Alegre, Sara (June 2001). "Nightmares of Childhood: The Child and the Monster in Four Novels by Stephen King". Atlantis 23 (1): 105–114. 
  8. ^ Holland-Toll, Linda J. (Fall 1999). "Bakhtin's Carnival Reversed:King's The Shining as Dark Carnival". Journal of Popular Culture 33 (2): 131–146. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.1999.3302_131.x. 
  9. ^ a b c "The Stephen King Companion" Beahm, George Andrews McMeel press 1989
  10. ^ a b c d e "Stephen King: America's Best-Loved Boogeyman" Beahm, George Andrews McMeel Press 1998
  11. ^ a b "Stephen King Country" Beahm, George Running Press 1999
  12. ^ This is asserted by the management of the Stanley Hotel on their tours and on their website.
  13. ^ a b "Stephen King: The Art of Darkness" Winter, Douglas E. Plume 1984
  14. ^ Archived October 18, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "The Annotated Guide to Stephen King" Collings, Michael R. Starmount House 1986
  16. ^ "Guy de Maupassant Biography". 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  17. ^ King discusses this in Underwood, Tim; Chuck Miller (1988). Bare Bones: Conversations in Terror with Stephen King'. McGraw-Hill. p. 125. ISBN 9780446390576. 
  18. ^ "Before the Play". Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  19. ^ "Stephen King Rare Works". Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  20. ^ Breznican, Anthony (2013-01-18). "Stephen King on His Shining Sequel". Entertainment Weekly (1242): 56–57. 
  21. ^ "Stephen King planning possible sequel to The Shining". 
  22. ^ "Steve needs your input". 2009-11-30. Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  23. ^ "Doctor Sleep wins?". Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  24. ^ "Dr. Sleep Sequel Confirmed". 
  25. ^ "Stephen King Officially Announces 'The Shining' Sequel, 'Dr. Sleep'". 2011-09-26. 

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