Literature Study GuidesThe ShiningPart 1 Chapter 5 Summary

The Shining | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Shining | Part 1, Chapter 5 : Prefatory Matters, Phonebooth | Summary

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Summary

Because the Torrances can't afford a phone, Jack takes Danny with him to a local drugstore. Jack makes Danny wait in the car while he goes inside to call Al Shockley from the pay phone and thank him for the Overlook job. Jack remembers how he "lost his temper" with George Hatfield and the office at Stovington Academy where he is fired, surrounded by leather furniture and antique rugs, the trappings of old money, "Vanderbilt money." After being fired, Jack badly wants a drink, but he goes to see Al Shockley instead. Shockley is descended from a wealthy family that made its fortune in the steel industry, and he sits on Stovington's board of directors.

Shockley and Jack are old drinking buddies, drawn together in their addiction shortly after Jack comes to Stovington to teach creative writing. A month after Jack breaks Danny's arm, Jack and Shockley are driving on a highway near Barre, Vermont. They hit a bicycle and are sure they have hurt or killed its rider, but after a long search they can't find a body. The incident shocks them into giving up drinking. When Jack returns home that night, Wendy wants to talk to him "about what's best for me and Danny. For you too, maybe." Jack asks her to hold off on the conversation for a week. The week passes, and she sees he is not drinking. More weeks pass, and the marriage becomes more comfortable. Then there's the incident with George Hatfield.

When Shockley answers the phone, Jack thanks him for the job and the men assure each other they're "still dry" but miss drinking every day. When Jack returns to the car, Danny tries to tell him about the vision he had while he was waiting for Jack to return from the Overlook, but Danny drops the subject when he senses Jack is thinking about the Bad Thing.

Analysis

Al Shockley, the Vanderbilts, Stovington Academy, the Overlook are all parts of the same world. They originate from the industrial expansion of America's Gilded Age in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a time defined by industrial "barons," massive wealth, and conspicuous displays of wealth via such activities as building hotels and endowing prep schools. Part 3, Chapter 25 reveals Jack grew up in Berlin, New Hampshire. Berlin is a factory town far north in New Hampshire, home to the workers and the businesses catering to them, a far cry from the leather studies of Stovington and the ballroom of the Overlook Hotel. However, Jack seems drawn to this world. He wants to be part of it. He could take a teaching job anywhere, but he chooses the posh Vermont prep school. He becomes friends with Al because they both drink, but Jack is also drawn by Al's wealth and confidence. After the drinking stops, they remain friends, and Al draws Jack further into this gilded world with the job at the Overlook. The hotel will later use Jack's class aspirations as another tool to manipulate Jack to do its bidding, because Jack doesn't accept he will never truly belong in this world he wasn't born to.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the incident with the bicycle is its timing. Less than a month after breaking Danny's arm, Jack is out drinking with Al. Breaking his own son's arm does not represent rock bottom for Jack. He keeps drinking and carousing. The bicycle incident scares both men into giving up drinking because this is an event with external consequences. They could have killed someone—somehow Jack doesn't realize he could have done worse than break Danny's arm—which carries the guilt of having taken a life as well as a lengthy prison sentence. On some level, Jack knows his harm to Danny doesn't carry strong consequences. Danny still loves his father, and Wendy vaguely threatens to leave Jack but doesn't. It's a fortunate coincidence Jack decides to give up the bottle on the same night Wendy gets serious about divorce, but even so she gives him the grace period that allows them to repair their marriage.

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