(Old-Timey) Pop Culture: Stephen King’s The Shining April 9, 2009Posted by Onely in book review, film review, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys, Reviews, We like. . ..
Tags: isolation, nuclear family, single writer, stanley hotel, stephen king, the shining
My sister and I recently ghost-toured The Stanley Hotel. The building inspired Stephen King‘s The Shining, his classic novel about a classic nuclear family–father, mother, and psychic son–who move to an isolated hotel in the mountains of Colorado to care for it during the snowed-in winter. After our tour, Caroline and I watched the The Shining miniseries, for the thrill of seeing good-looking actor types walk around the same places we commoners had just tread.
While watching, I got to thinking about whether the story is King’s commentary (conscious or not) on the Western world’s view of couplehood (and, by extension, the nuclear family) as the core unit of society, around which our lives should preferably be built. I’m interested to know what our Copious Readership thinks the plot “means”. Here’s what happens when our three fresh-faced heroes (Jack, Wendy, and little Danny) arrive at the hotel in October:
1) The cook and summer maintenance man give them a startlingly brief tour of the giant hotel. The cook, who is psychic like Danny, warns Danny that the hotel is haunted. The staff leave and the family is alone.
2) Jack, a writer and recovering alchoholic, is excited to spend the winter snowed in with no distractions from his writing, except for his caretaker maintenance duties. And his family.
3) As time passes, Jack becomes more and more irritable with Wendy and Danny, easily upset when they interrupt his work. A bad energy in the hotel is gradually taking over his mind, trying to make him kill Wendy and Danny–just as a previous caretaker killed his own family during one long, isolated winter.
4) After weeks of being snowed in with Wendy and Danny, Jack finally succumbs to the evil that has colonized his mind.
5) However, although he chases his wife and son around the hotel with murderous intent, they (if you need a spoiler alert on a thirty-year-old story, that’s a problem) both escape, and Jack dies.
So I kept wondering, is this a pro-Onely plot or an anti-Onely plot, or even better, a plot that can go either way?
Is the story about the dangers of relying too much on the (evolutionarily, culturally, and historically) contrived construct of the couple-plus-kids normative? That it’s too restrictive and smothering and inherently needs outside influences to sustain it?
Or is the story vilifying Jack for wanting the (impossible) freedom to work on his writing and not be disturbed by his son’s toy soldiers and his wife’s comments about lunch or the weather?