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The Shining | Plot Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Prefatory Matters

Jack Torrance, recently fired from his teaching job at a prep school in Vermont, interviews for a position as winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Stuart Ullman, the hotel manager, is reluctant to give Jack the job, given Jack's history of heavy drinking and violence. However, Jack's friend Al Shockley owns a controlling share of hotel stock and pressures Ullman to hire him.

At their apartment in Boulder, Wendy Torrance worries Jack will blow the interview or won't return home safely. She fears he might start drinking again, knowing how bad things can get when he does: when their son, Danny, was a toddler, Jack broke the boy's arm in a drunken rage. Danny waits for his father to return and has a vision of Tony, his imaginary friend, warning him about a large building and a shadowy figure chasing Danny through its halls.

Part 2, Closing Day

On the last day of the Overlook's opening season, Jack arrives at the hotel with Wendy and Danny. Danny immediately fears the Overlook; he recognizes it from the warning visions Tony sent him. Wendy hopes Jack's hotel job will help the family heal past hurts. Jack hopes to finish a play he's writing and salvage his career.

On Closing Day, the Torrance family meets the hotel's head cook, Dick Halloran, who shows them the kitchen and their food supply for the winter. Dick recognizes Danny's psychic powers because Dick has similar powers. He chats with Danny, remarking on the exceptional strength of Danny's abilities, which Dick calls "the shine." He tells Danny he will be safe at the Overlook but urges Danny to call him if he has any trouble.

The Torrances also get a full tour of the Overlook from Stuart Ullman, who brags about the hotel's long list of distinguished guests. Watson, the maintenance chief, stops by to remind Jack to release pressure from the old boiler in the basement several times a day, lest it explode. Then the last guests and staff leave, and the Torrances are alone in the Overlook until spring.

Part 3, The Wasps' Nest

While repairing shingles on the roof, a wasp stings Jack, who responds by gassing their nest with bug spray. He gives the dead nest to Danny, but it comes alive in the night, and Danny sustains eleven stings before his parents can kill the wasps and remove it from their quarters in the hotel. The next day they take Danny to a doctor to have the stings tended to and have the doctor check Danny's mental function, as Danny often slips into trance states in which he talks to his imaginary friend, Tony. The doctor runs tests and talks to Danny about his shine, concluding Danny's episodes are the product of an active imagination.

In the Overlook's basement, Jack finds a scrapbook detailing the hotel's shifting ownership and some of the unsavory aspects of the hotel's history, including a gangland-style killing in 1966. He does more research on the hotel at the Sidewinder Library and considers writing a book about the Overlook. First, he makes an angry phone call to Stuart Ullman to berate him for glossing over the hotel's ugly history and almost gets himself fired. Jack spends more and more hours in the basement with the scrapbook and the piles of receipts and papers stored down there.

Danny visits the hallway outside Room 217, even though Dick Hallorann has strongly cautioned him against going inside. Danny takes the passkey, or master key, from the hotel office but decides not to use it. Instead he imagines the hose from a nearby fire extinguisher is a snake trying to attack him. Danny runs away from Room 217.

Part 4, Snowbound

After a pleasant few weeks, snow covers the Overlook in early November. Confined indoors because of the weather, Danny explores the hotel and returns to room 217. There he finds the naked, bloated corpse of a woman in the bathtub. She rises from the water and tries to strangle Danny. He finds his parents downstairs, arguing and blaming each other for Danny's disappearance. The argument escalates when they see Danny's catatonic state and finger marks on his throat. Danny comes around after a few minutes and tells his parents about the woman in Room 217. Jack investigates and sees the shadow of the woman behind the shower curtain. He flees the room but tells Wendy and Danny he found nothing in 217.

Wendy wants Jack to help her get Danny out of the Overlook and take him back to the doctor in Sidewinder. Jack agrees to do this but has second thoughts about losing this job, his last chance to save his career, and sabotages the hotel's snowmobile. A few days later Danny is attacked by the hedge animals on the lawn between the hotel and the playground. Jack has seen the hedge animals move as well, but he discredits Danny's story. Danny knows Jack is lying and the hotel is trying to use Jack to get to him. Danny has another vision about being chased through the hotel and realizes his father is the one chasing him. He sends Dick a telepathic message begging him to come help them as a blizzard sets in.

Part 5, Matters of Life and Death

Dick receives Danny's message and flies from Miami to Denver on the first available flight. The blizzard rages over Colorado, making Dick's drive from Denver to Sidewinder long and treacherous.

At the Overlook, Jack's mental state has completely unraveled, and the Overlook is encouraging him to kill Wendy and Danny to secure his own future with the hotel's "manager." The hotel serves him alcohol in the bar, and Jack attacks Wendy when she finds him drunk there. He tries to strangle her, but she knocks him out with a candleholder. She and Danny lock Jack in the pantry, hoping he will stay there until help arrives for them all.

The hotel releases Jack from the pantry, giving him another drink and a roque (croquet) mallet. He finds Wendy in the lobby and beats her with the mallet, but she stabs him with a carving knife. He pursues her to their quarters, where Wendy left Danny, but Danny is no longer there. Wendy locks herself in the bathroom, but Jack uses the mallet to break a hole in the door. She is only spared because Jack hears Dick Hallorann's snowmobile arrive outside and goes to eliminate the new threat.

Jack breaks Dick's face with the mallet, leaving him unconscious in the hallway near the family's quarters. He pursues Danny to the third floor. Danny stands up to Jack, whom Danny declares is no longer really Jack. He's now a "false face" for the malevolent forces inhabiting the hotel. Jack comes to himself long enough to tell Danny to run away, then the Overlook causes him to beat himself to a pulp with his own mallet. Danny reminds the Jack-thing he hasn't checked the boiler all day. The creature rushes to the basement, arriving as the boiler explodes.

Wendy, Danny, and Dick escape the hotel as fire consumes the structure. They are met on the road to Sidewinder by townspeople coming to assist them. The next summer, Danny and Wendy recover from their injuries at a Maine resort where Dick Hallorann has a new job.

The Shining Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Jack breaks Danny's arm in a drunken rage.

Rising Action

2 After assaulting a student, Jack loses his teaching job.

3 Jack becomes caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado.

4 The Torrances live happily at the Overlook through the fall.

5 In winter the Overlook exerts increasing control over Jack.

6 During a blizzard Jack snaps and tries to kill his family.

Climax

7 The boiler explodes, killing Jack and burning the Overlook.

Falling Action

8 Wendy and Danny escape with Dick Hallorann.

Resolution

9 Wendy and Danny recover at a resort where Dick works.

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