Literature Study GuidesThe ShiningPart 3 Chapter 23 Summary

The Shining | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Shining | Part 3, Chapter 23 : The Wasps' Nest, In the Playground | Summary

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Summary

While Wendy and Danny go to Sidewinder, Jack stays at the Overlook to trim the topiary animals. He clips the rabbit and the dog but decides the buffalo and the lions look good as they are. While he works he says, "But if it was my hotel, I'd cut the whole damn bunch of you down."

When Jack finishes, he strolls down to the playground instead of returning to the hotel. He looks inside the playhouse, a miniature version of the Overlook, and takes an unsatisfying trip down the slide. As he returns to pick up his hedge clippers, he feels uneasy and sees the rabbit is on all fours now, whereas it had been on its hind legs when he trimmed it. The dog has changed position as well, and the lions are blocking the path back to the hotel. Jack thinks he is imagining things, losing his mind. The lions advance toward him. Jack covers his eyes "for a long time." When he looks again, the animals are back in their original positions. He decides he is just tired and stressed and returns to the hotel. He takes two Excedrin and returns to the basement to look at papers. He doesn't mention "his hallucination" when Wendy and Danny return.

Analysis

The topiary animals coming to life and menacing Jack seems less coincidental in the wake of Jack's threat to cut them all down if given the choice. This is the first clear indication of the Overlook's sentience and its ability to respond to perceived threats. Jack makes an offhand remark about his dislike for the hedge animals, and the hotel uses those animals to remind him who is in charge here. Although Jack sees the Overlook's propensity for menace, the spectacle is so outlandish he dismisses it as a hallucination brought on by sleep deprivation. The human capacity for denial is strong. Like Danny doesn't want to trust his catastrophic visions, Jack doesn't want to trust what his own eyes show him in waking daylight. To acknowledge the moving hedges are real would mean acknowledging reality is nothing like what Jack has believed for his entire life. Jack's unsatisfying trip through the playground demonstrates he no longer has the capacity for play and imagination typical of children. His thinking is not sufficiently flexible to allow him to make room for moving hedges in his mind. Moving hedges aren't real. Hallucinations are real.

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