The Shining (novel)
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Dave Christensen|
|January 28, 1977|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|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: 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 Townplace Suites in Williamsport, PA 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 Shining mainly takes place in the fictional Overlook Hotel, an isolated, haunted resort hotel 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 an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic with anger issues which, prior to the story, had caused him to accidentally break Danny's arm and lose his position as a teacher after assaulting a student. 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, unknown to his parents, possesses telepathic abilities referred to as "the shining" that enable him to read minds and experience premonitions. The Torrances arrive at the hotel on closing day and are given a tour by the manager. They meet Dick Hallorann, the chef, who also possesses similar abilities to Danny's and helps to explain them to him, giving Hallorann and Danny a special connection. The remaining staff and guests depart the hotel, leaving the Torrances alone in the hotel for the winter.
As the Torrances settle in at the Overlook, Danny sees ghosts and frightening 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 by himself; Danny refuses, thinking his father will be happier if they stayed. 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 solid form and the garden's topiary animals come to life. The winter snowfall leaves the Torrances cut off from the outside world in the isolated hotel.
The Overlook has difficulty possessing Danny, so it begins to possess Jack by frustrating his need and desire to work and by enticing him with the storied history of the hotel through a scrapbook and records in the basement. Jack starts to develop cabin fever and becomes increasingly unstable, destroying a CB radio and sabotaging a snowmobile, the only two links with the outside world the Torrances had. One day, after a fight with Wendy, Jack finds the hotel's bar fully stocked with liquor despite being previously empty, and witnesses a party at which he meets the ghost of a bartender named Lloyd. He also dances with a young woman ghost who tries to seduce Jack but leaves after her dress slips off and everyone sees her naked. As he gets drunk, the hotel uses the ghost of the former caretaker Grady to urge Jack to kill his wife and son. He initially resists, but the increasing influence of the hotel combined with Jack's own alcoholism and anger prove too great. He becomes a monster under the control of the hotel, succumbing to his dark side. Wendy and Danny get the better of Jack after he attacks Wendy, locking him inside 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, grievously injuring her, but she escapes to the caretaker's suite and locks herself in the bathroom. Jack attempts to break the door with the mallet, but Wendy slashes his hand with a razor blade to deter him.
Meanwhile, Hallorann has received 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 severely injured by Jack. As Jack pursues Danny through the Overlook and corners him on the hotel's top floor, he briefly gains control of himself and implores Danny to run away after Danny stands his ground and denounces Jack as a mask and false face worn by the hotel. The hotel takes control of Jack again, making him violently batter his own face and skull into ruin with the mallet, destroying the last vestiges of Jack and leaving a being controlled by the hotel's own malevolent "manager" personality. Remembering that Jack has neglected to relieve the pressure on the hotel's unstable boiler, Danny informs the hotel that it is about to explode. As Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann flee, the hotel-creature rushes to the basement in an attempt to vent the pressure, but it is too late and the boiler explodes, killing Jack and destroying 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 as Wendy recuperates from the injuries Jack inflicted on her.
After writing Carrie and 'Salem's Lot, which are both set in small towns in King's native 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." King opened an atlas of the US on the kitchen table and randomly pointed to a location, which turned out to be Boulder, Colorado.
On October 30, 1974, 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". They checked into room 217 which was said to be haunted. This is where room 217 comes from in the book.
Ten years earlier, 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.
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".
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.
"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."
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...
The Shining was also heavily influenced by Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death and The Fall of the House of Usher, and Robert Marasco's Burnt Offerings. The story has been often compared to Guy de Maupassant's story "The Inn".
Before 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. The title was inspired by the John Lennon song "Instant Karma!", which contained the line "We all shine on".
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.
Deleted prologue and epilogue
Originally, there was a prologue titled "Before the Play" that chronicled earlier events in the Overlook's history, as well as an epilogue titled "After the Play", though neither remained part of the published novel. The prologue was later published in Whispers magazine in August 1982, and an abridged version appeared in the April 26–May 2, 1997 issue of TV Guide to promote the then-upcoming miniseries of The Shining. The epilogue was thought to have been lost, but was re-discovered in 2016 as part of an early manuscript version of the novel. Both "Before the Play" and "After the Play" were published as part of the Deluxe Special Edition of The Shining by Cemetery Dance Publications in early 2017.
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?" 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. 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).
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.
Doctor Sleep was published on September 24, 2013.
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 regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made.
The novel was also adapted into the opera of the same name in 2016.
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