Literature Study GuidesThe ShiningPart 1 Chapter 6 Summary

The Shining | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Shining | Part 1, Chapter 6 : Prefatory Matters, Night Thoughts | Summary

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Summary

As she lies in bed next to a sleeping Jack, Wendy remembers their courtship and how Jack helped her break free of her controlling mother who blames Wendy for her divorce from Wendy's father. They take some time apart before deciding to get married, and Wendy remembers the happiness of their early years of marriage and Danny's arrival in their family. She remembers his birth vividly; she is terrified Danny has no face when he emerges with a caul or amniotic membrane over his head. Wendy keeps house and cares for Danny while Jack writes and attends graduate school at the University of New Hampshire. Danny's birth allows Wendy and her mother to reconcile, but it's a tense reconciliation. Wendy's mother criticizes every aspect of Wendy's parenting and remakes Danny's diapers.

Stovington hires Jack "mostly on the strength of his stories," four of which have been published. He celebrates with seven friends and a keg of beer. After Jack starts teaching, Wendy remembers a series of late nights waiting for him to come home and fights when he does. She remembers the night Jack breaks Danny's arm and the soul-searching that follows. A few weeks after the "accident—if you could call it an accident," she decides to talk to Jack about a divorce. He asks her to postpone the talk for a week, and as she sees he has given up drinking, and she places the idea of divorce aside as peace descends again on her family. She stays with Jack more for Danny's sake because the two are incredibly close: "He loved his mother, but he was his father's boy." Sometimes she wonders if Danny's will has kept her with Jack, but she also loves Jack. She has come to believe if the family dissolves it will "not be destroyed by any of them but from the outside."

Analysis

One reason Wendy has tolerated Jack and stayed with him through all the bad times is the fact she has no better options. Her relationship with her mother, her only living family, is tense at best. Jack and Danny are the only real family Wendy has, which motivates her to go to great lengths to preserve their family unit. This chapter provides a counterpoint to Part 1, Chapter 5, presenting the events of the broken arm, the drinking days, and the week following the near-miss with the bicycle from Wendy's perspective. Wendy doesn't know about the bicycle. She only knows Jack has stopped drinking for real this time. Life slowly returns to something close to normal, but they are unable to recapture the bliss of their early marriage. Jack will later accuse Wendy of never really forgiving him for breaking Danny's arm, and her thoughts reveal there is some truth to this. She hesitates to characterize the incident as accidental. Jack may not have intended to hurt Danny, but he was responsible for drinking too much and for his uncontrolled rage. Wendy thinks of Danny as "his father's boy," which also hints at some jealousy of Danny's closeness with his father, even though Wendy has been the more careful and attentive parent.

Wendy's reflections also offer some insight into Danny's abilities. He was born with a caul over his head. A caul is part of the amniotic sac that encloses a fetus in the womb, usually discarded separately from the infant during the birthing process, but on rare occasions the membrane clings to a baby's head and face. According to legend babies born with a caul have "second sight," the kind of psychic powers Danny has. Wendy doesn't fully believe Danny has such powers, but she doesn't disbelieve it either. She even suspects Danny has unwittingly used those powers to will his parents to stay together.

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