Physical Isolation works on a very basic, practical level. It allows all the dominos to be set up. One tiny wobble and it all spirals around and around until no more are left standing. Mental Isolation works on an extreme and desperate level. People want to be around other people. That’s inherent. No one really wants to experience literal, eternal isolation.
It’s why we read stories. We want to relate. We want to feel understood. This can be said for fictional characters just as plainly as it can be said for us.
A theme that might not be one that everyone agrees with is a simple one: Love. Love can make you do crazy things and LOVE is ultimately what saves Wendy. Love for Danny, obviously, but it’s also her love for Jack. And Jack saves them both out of his own love, as does Danny. There was no lack of care in the Torrance family. There was a lack of trust. Jack not trusting Wendy, not trusting himself really. Danny not trusting his parents to stay together, not certain he could trust Tony. And Wendy, not able to trust Jack…with himself, with her or ever with Danny. The three were a unit, in it together, but never quite knowing what they were fighting for or against just simply coexisting.
Jack Torrance didn’t feel acceptance or belonging before the Overlook came into his life. He was constantly repressed, for good or for bad. Jack was never an evil man. Call it a classic Hobbs vs. Locke debate, but I don’t feel like Jack wanted to be evil. He merely wanted to be set free. Free from his restraint, from his vices. And the smarter the man the crazier the spiral J.
Wendy could have spiraled. She really should have. But the Overlook knew where the power was in that dynamic. Wendy wasn’t weak. Wendy was naïve. A naïve optimist in a sullen way. Jack had the power, but he was the weakest length. As with The Haunting of Hill House, my mind always wonders if certain people were born to die. Was Eleanor always meant to end up at Hill House, killing herself…desperate to belong (who else liked the reference by King, by the way?). Was Jack Torrance (and all 3 technically) fated to climax at the Overlook Hotel? Where Wendy found strength and bonded with her son, where Danny found understanding and courage to let go of his father and trust in Tony, aka himself, and where Jack found purpose…perhaps a lost soul from the start? The Shining begs the question: Do we always end up where we’re desired the most?
Of course if one was to try and find the cohesive element for the family it would have to be Danny. His shine keeps the unit together, maybe through guilt or fear. Perverse comfort even. Nevertheless, he binds Wendy and Jack to each other. The Overlook is like supernatural Goo-Gone. Still, in the end, Danny knows what he must do and he doesn’t fear the, “men in the white coats” anymore. He comes to peace with his ability thanks to his father and to Dick.
I have to note that in the movie version the delivery of dialogue is classic. It’s timed and almost scripted sounding. Not in a bad way, but for me it came off in a purposeful way. I always felt as if what was being said was never what was being thought. Now having read the book, I can see how brilliantly that worked in the film.
One last thing I must address is Jack’s likability. Okay, okay….the chap is CRAZY!!!! No doubt. So why is it that I want him to WIN??? When he wants to kill Wendy there’s a part of me that says, “YES! Kill the bitch!” I think that right there, that impression is something not ever easily done. I can’t relate with Jack Torrance, but I can sympathize with his plight. Perhaps it’s because sometimes certain people just give you a hankering to, “bash their brains in…”
Overall, it’s not hard to see why The Shining works. It’s real. King has a knack for taking vulnerable, empathetic personalities and molding supernatural elements around that. I still have no idea why one would want to stay in a massive hotel, by themselves or even with their family for months and months especially in the wintertime. But, what would the story be without a little isolation, snow, maniacal ghosties and bit of shine?