Literature Study GuidesThe ShiningPart 1 Chapter 4 Summary

The Shining | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Shining | Part 1, Chapter 4 : Prefatory Matters, Shadowland | Summary



Back in Boulder Danny briefly goes inside for milk and cookies before returning to the curb to wait for his father. He thinks about songs from his old nursery school and wishes his parents understood how he understands things without being told. Right now he knows Wendy is crying in her bedroom, worried about the family's security and "Daddy's self-image." He knows she is afraid he is off doing the Bad Thing. He thinks about his friend Scott in Vermont, whose parents got divorced because of the Bad Thing. He knows his parents have thought about divorce, and he knows "His daddy hurt almost all the time, mostly about the Bad Thing." Besides divorce, he knows his father has considered suicide, but Danny doesn't know what this word means. He doesn't want to know.

Danny wants to go tell Wendy she shouldn't worry because Jack is not doing the Bad Thing and is on his way home. All the thinking sends Danny into a vision of his friend Tony, standing down the street, calling to him. Tony shows Danny "a long building with a shingled roof" covered in snow. He sees a green skull-and-crossbones symbol superimposed over the building before he sees a disheveled room and hears a loud booming sound coming toward him. Through a doorway he sees the word REDRUM reflected in a bathroom mirror. He sees a hand with blood dripping from the fingers dangling over the edge of the bathtub. Then Danny is in a hallway with a shadowy figure coming toward him, swinging a mallet telling him, "Come on and take your medicine! Take it like a man!" Danny emerges from the vision as Jack pulls up in their battered Volkswagen Beetle. They walk toward the doorway where Wendy waits. While Danny is relieved to feel a wave of love coming from his parents, the fear of the vision stays with him.


Danny's thought process reveals how his powers have burdened him with information his five-year-old mind isn't prepared to process. He thinks of Jack's drinking as "the Bad Thing," because he doesn't fully understand what alcohol does to a person, although he does know it makes them violent. He fears his parents will divorce because he has seen what happened to his friend's family. If his mom and dad divorce, Danny believes he will seldom see one of them, and he fears they might remarry strangers whom Danny will have to then live with. Danny feels his father's pain intensely, another burden the child is not prepared to shoulder but must handle anyway. Even though Danny doesn't understand what suicide is, the reader knows the word, and it places Jack in a more sympathetic light than the previous chapters have allowed. The details of Jack's full life are not yet clear, but it is clear he is in a lot of pain and giving up alcohol has been unimaginably difficult for him. Despite Jack's efforts to rationalize his past mistakes, the thought of suicide also indicates he feels intense guilt over the things he has done.

Danny's visions are more intense than anything a five-year-old should be expected to handle. The visions are terrifying to Danny but also simplified. The large building, which the reader can guess is the Overlook, is marked with the universal symbol for poison. It's a simplified way for Tony to show Danny the danger of the place, since Danny can't yet read. If he could read, he still wouldn't understand the word REDRUM scrawled on the bathroom wall, but the word is secondary to the scene. The bloody hand dangling from the bathtub rim speaks for itself. Although Danny can't identify the shadowy figure in the vision, he feels nervous when his father first arrives home. On some level Danny recognizes the figure as his beloved dad, but he is not yet ready to consciously confront this reality.

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