Literature Study GuidesThe ShiningPart 5 Chapter 39 Summary

The Shining | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Shining | Part 5, Chapter 39 : Matters of Life and Death, On the Stairs | Summary



Wendy finds Danny sitting on the stairs between the lobby and the first floor, playing with a ball and singing to himself. He tells Wendy he fell off a chair during a vision of Tony, but he says, "Tony can't come anymore. They won't let him. He's licked." He tells Wendy about the people in the hotel, how the hotel wants him, and it's tricking Jack to get to him. Danny says Jack is in the basement.

Wendy tells Danny to wait on the stairs, and she goes to the kitchen. She takes the longest and sharpest knife. Danny waits on the stairs, hearing the voices of the hotel come alive around him. Wendy can hear them, too. They spend the night sleeping fitfully behind a locked door. Wendy decides she will take Danny further up the mountains if she must, thinking "If we have to die I'd rather do it in the mountains."


The image of Danny sitting on the stairs with his ball, singing tunelessly to himself, suggests aching loneliness. The ball, one of the most basic instruments of childhood play, brings Danny no joy. He isn't playing. He has no one to play with and no reason to feel like playing. The Overlook has sapped Danny's innocence and robbed him of joy. Now "the people in the hotel" who animate the Overlook won't let Danny's only friend come to him.

Danny's description of the people in the hotel pulling the strings in this situation clashes somewhat with earlier characterizations of the Overlook as a single entity, but they need not clash. The Overlook can be thought of like a hive—the text drops a clue about the nature of the Overlook with the wasps' nest in Part 2. The individual spirits in the Overlook can operate on their own, but they also form the single unit that is the Overlook.

Wendy's willingness to take Danny into the mountains to die rather than letting them die in the Overlook reflects a defiant stance. If they escape the hotel on foot, they probably will die in the blizzard outside, but Wendy reasons if she and Danny are going to die anyway, it's best to do so away from the Overlook. If they die away from the Overlook, the hotel can't absorb them. She and Danny can be free of the Overlook in death, but only if they die away from the premises.

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