Literature Study GuidesThe ShiningPart 5 Chapter 40 Summary

The Shining | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Shining | Part 5, Chapter 40 : Matters of Life and Death, In the Basement | Summary



Jack spends the night of December 1 poring over papers in the basement. He forgets to check the boiler for almost 12 hours. He goes to release the valve and feels a momentary urge to get Wendy and Danny, leave, and let the boiler blow "sky-high." Then he thinks he could stay put and let the boiler blow. Danny and Wendy would have time to escape the fire and could collect his life insurance. He remembers his father killing a wasps' nest when Jack was a child, saying "Fire will kill anything."

Jack snaps out of this reverie and remembers he is the caretaker. He opens the valve and watches the boiler pressure gauge drop from over 200 psi to 80. Confident he will be rewarded for saving the hotel, he heads upstairs to the Colorado Lounge.


Jack's internal conflict between his obligation to his family and his desire to serve the hotel comes to the fore as he stands in front of the boiler, which is moments away from exploding. In Part 1, Chapter 4, Danny remembers seeing Jack's thought about suicide. This is a tendency that hasn't gone away, if Jack's thought process in front of the boiler is any indication. Somewhere in Jack's mind he believes Danny and Wendy might be better off without him. If he were to die they could collect a substantial life insurance policy, just as Jack's family collected insurance money when Mark Torrance died—another parallel between Jack and his father.

The memory of Mark killing the wasps' nest also rekindles the characterization of the Overlook as a hive consciousness. The hotel acts as a single unit, and Jack thinks of the Overlook that way when he believes "it," not "they," will reward him for his loyalty in not allowing the boiler to blow. However, this unit also comprises the spirits who live in the Overlook.

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