Abdullah Miyazada, The Circle
All movie adaptations, regardless of how faithful it remains to the original text, tend to stray away from many of the events and themes which take place in its respective book. The Shining, a novel written by Stephen King, is no exception. The book presents a rather mysterious and supernatural take to the story, whereas the movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, takes a slightly modified approach on the narrative. It is almost strictly portrayed as a horror, with many of the paranormal elements downplayed or eliminated to enhance its sense of horror. The main themes explored also vary between the two mediums. The theme of facing one’s demons is very evident in the book, however, it is almost forgotten in the movie. This was done to intensify the theme of isolation. These distinctions in theme also lead to a slightly different ending.
The paranormal vibe of the book is introduced very early on, with the mention of “Tony [. . .] his “invisible playmate”” (King, 40), ‘his’ of course referring to Danny. Tony is also talked about in the movie, however, when the idea of Danny’s invisible playmate is initially established, it is quickly believed that this playmate is simply the making of the child’s imagination. In the movie, Danny speaks to his finger when communicating with Tony, which makes the paranormal aspect vanish entirely. In the novel however, when Tony is being introduced, the author mentions several instances in which Tony appears, sometimes conveying to Danny information that he would not know otherwise. Danny’s invisible playmate turns up numerous other times in the novel to show him visions, however, in movie this only occurs once towards the beginning. Tony is a hallmark in the book, whom makes it clear that some of the forces at work cannot be fully comprehended, whereas in the movie he truly lives up to the measly title of an invisible playmate.
Tony introduces the supernatural, however, it isn’t solidified until Hallorann speaks about Danny’s psychic gift; the shining. In both the book and the movie he readily recognizes Danny’s ability. In the book, he tells him that he’s “got a knack [. . .] I’ve always called [. . .] shining” (114), and further explains the shining a something which allows one to tell how others are feeling, read minds, as well as see a possible future. This explanation in the movie is watered down on purpose in order to make it seem less relevant to the development of the story, which is rightfully done as the shining doesn’t play as large of a role compared to the book. The hotel in the book comes to life, “wound up with a silver key [. . .] he was that key, Danny thought sadly” (448), however, in the movie, the hotel is a seemingly static location. It appears normal, aside from the fact that it’s miles away from any other human. In contrast, the book easily possesses more of a mysterious and paranormal feel.
The movie can easily be classified as a horror. The lack of mystical forces easily allows this transition to be made. In the book, elevators move up and down on their own, hedge animals come to life, and parties filled with dozens of people appear out of thin air, however, in the movie things are quiet. Silence is the only thing heard within these walls aside from the constant clicking of Jack’s typewriter. This lack of stimulus could easily make anyone go insane, which is exactly what happens to Jack. Compared to the Jack in the book whom uses a roque mallet to hunt down his family, Jack in the movie uses an axe, and attempts to maul absolutely everything in his path. The creepy and lonely tone of the hotel, paired with Jack’s madness is what truly makes this movie a horror
The Torrance family’s past is filled with a large amount of struggle and suffering, nearly all of it brought about by Jack’s history with alcohol. Based on the information provided from the book, it is evident that Jack has had many so-called accidents during his time as a drunk, and even immediately after him choosing to stay sober. His mishaps often lead to a larger conflict arising within either his family or within himself, however, despite this the powerful bond with his son remains intact. Jack could very easily be portrayed as being a more vile character, however, the knowledge about his past as well as his gentle and nurturing nature around Danny suppresses him being painted in this light.
Even after not having “so much as a glass of beer in the last fourteen months” (13), he is still being haunted by the pains of recovering from alcoholism. His sobriety hasn’t helped his relationship with Wendy all that much either, however, the hotel appeared as though it “might be exactly what the three of them needed: a season together away from the world” (93), however, once the job at the hotel truly starts is when Jack’s recovery becomes substantially more difficult. Wendy confronts Jack about this, stating that “All your old drinking habits [. . .] Chewing Excedrin. Wiping your mouth all the time” (362), they’re all coming back. Jack is having challenges facing his demons, and the hotel is making it worse. This shows us that Jack is weak willed. Although he may have been able to stop drinking for many months, which is no small feat, he still gives into the hotel’s possession and goes on a rampage, attacking his family; attempting murder. The hotel also attempts to make Hallorann commit murder. He was close to doing the deed but “Suddenly he stopped, looking wonderingly at the mallet in his hands, and asked himself with rising horror what it was he had been thinking of doing. Murder? Had he been thinking of murder?” (649). Unlike Jack, Hallorann was able to stop himself. Even after an additional push from the hotel, Hallorann was still able to follow his conscious.
The movie, however, doesn’t explore the theme of battling one’s demons. Hallorann dies in the movie to the hands of Jack. Also, the movie isn’t nearly as supernatural as the book, so the concept of the hotel possessing anybody goes unexplored. Thematically, the movie explores the topic of isolation above all else. One may assume that the reason Jack goes mad in the film is due to cabin fever, and all the people he sees are just hallucinations. Cabin fever also seems more plausible in the motion picture because of Jack’s personality. The way Jack is represented in the movie makes him appear slightly more on edge than in the book, where, when sober, he appears as a rather charming and intellectual individual. In contrast, the movie’s depiction of Jack is short tempered and vulgar, making the theme of facing one’s inner demons a less preferable and less interesting for the movie, but making it a good fit for the book.
The reality that very little of his history is explored does not help us see Jack in a better light, rather it makes him seem even more simple minded. This lack of backstory fits nicely with the theme of isolation as well as the horror genre. In the movie, Jack is a character which one may feel less empathy for. This allows his character to be more fit for falling victim to cabin fever, as explained by Jack in the book, “A stupid man is more prone to cabin fever” (13). If it was explained that Jack is a well-educated man with a couple academic achievements under his belt, the approach of insanity may not have been as well received. In addition, the famous line in the movie, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” (Kubrick) extends the idea that Jack may truly have lost his mind. In regards to how this fits well with the movie being more of a horror, the Jack from the book also explains that a stupid man is also “more prone to shoot someone over a card game” (13), implying that the stupid are more irrational and violent. Towards the end, where Jack attacks his family and Hallorann, in the movie, Jack manages to murders Hallorann, and seems far more violent in general, as he is absolutely more destructive, destroying more of the environment than the Jack in the book.
The differences in themes between the two forms of media alter a considerable amount of content, one of which being how the story ends. The book has a fiery ending, with the hotel literally going up in flames, and taking Jack along with it, whereas in the movie Jack freezes to death alone within a hedge labyrinth. The way Jack dies may not immediately appear to have too much of a connection to the rest of the story, however, the main themes may have something to do with why he dies the way he does. In the book, the main theme is the fighting one’s inner demons. The boiler is a symbol for Jack’s ability to cope with his alcoholism. He was able to remain sober for months on end, however, when provided alcohol by the hotel, he eventually gave way and failed at remaining sober, losing his fight against his inner demons. In the movie, Jack suffers from loneliness. Being isolated in the hotel with a woman he can’t stand and a boy that he believes is out to get him, he is practically on his own. He eventually falls to that very boy by being tricked within the maze. He dies with nothing but the cold walls of the labyrinth surrounding him. The way Jack dies is influenced by the respective theme of the medium.
In a nutshell, the book and the movie’s interpretation of The Shining are significantly different. Each have their own take on the story’s genre, one supernatural and mystery, whereas the other being horror, respectively. The themes between the two also varied. The book’s theme was facing one’s inner demons, whereas the movie’s theme was isolation. The theme’s selected for these media forms made sense for how each story was told. Difference in themes also led to a difference in how each story ends.
King, Stephen. The Shining. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977. Print.
The Shining. Dir. Stanley Kubricks. Warner Home Video, 1980.