The Shining – a plethora of confusions, reincarnations, theories and assumptions!
written by Sebastian DK
In the year 1980, Stephen King‘s famous novel The Shining got adopted into a feature film (by the same name), directed by none other than Stanley Kubrick, casting Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers among others. A film that became a cinematic milestone and since then being celebrated around the globe as one of the top psychological horror movie ever made!
But then, how many of you have watched The Shining more than once just to comprehend the overall notion of the film – please raise your hands!
Well, to be honest I personally needed repeated viewings of this mystic feature in order to grasp the various complexities in the storyline and also to dismantle the various theories that circles around this Kubrick classic.
And here are a few such theories that I hope will clear out some of the doubts which invariably people have after watching The Shining for the first time!
/ The 1921 Jack Torrance Photograph Confusion
I think this confusion could be cleared up to some extent (though not completely) with the help of certain points/facts placed under two theories: a) The Reincarnation Theory, and b) The Absorption Theory.
Before reading, keep in mind the fact that the hotel only reveals its dark magic when people are alone there. By isolating its inhabitants, the hotel illustrates how people behave differently when they know there’s no one else around.
a) The Reincarnation Theory:
There are many (tiny, easy to miss) hints throughout the film that suggest that Jack had been at the hotel before, and the present Jack Torrance is actually a reincarnation of the old Jack. These four hints stated below are the ones I found out to be the most significant:
* The bedroom conversation scene between Jack and his wife Wendy, in which Jack says, “I feel as if I had been here before”. One of the very first hints, and it actually points straight at ‘reincarnation’.
* In the washroom, Delbert Grady, during a conversation with Jack, says, “You’ve always been the caretaker. I’ve always been here”. Delbert implies that it was actually Jack, and not him, who was the actual caretaker of the hotel.
* During a conversation with the ghostly bartender Lloyd, Jack exclaims, “I like you, Lloyd. I always liked you”. Now that’s a strong suggestion that Jack sure had visited this place before, no?
* Jack is always at ease while being around or with ghosts. Though negligible, this fact is also a tiny suggestion that Jack was very much a part of The Overlook Hotel, in a different life, at a different time, and since he is used to it, he therefore blends in pretty well with the ghosts at the party/ball. Its all a normal occurrence to Jack, and that’s what Kubrick wants to show us.
b) The Absorption Theory:
Okay, if you wish to dismiss the idea of Jack’s reincarnation, go ahead, I say! Yeah we could do that since there isn’t anything solid that confirms it, just mere dialogues that could very well be ignored. Now let’s look at it from a different angle.
It is possible to place a fact stating that “the photo might signify that Jack has been ‘absorbed’ from the present into the hotel’s past”. What if (a strong “if” here) Jack is a normal person who has been sucked into the hotel’s darkly violent spirit? My point is, its a horror movie adorned with a smooth touch of the supernatural, no? The message in that scenario might be that we can’t escape such powerful histories or forces of evil, and The Overlook Hotel was itself built on stolen native land and founded on cruelty.
Now we sure can give Jack the title of Mr. Protagonist, and the title of Mr. Antagonist to The Overlook Hotel. Funny, but actually makes (a little) sense!
In the reincarnation theory, Jack was always a part of the hotel. In the absorption one, Jack is merely sucked into it. Either way, Jack becomes a part of the hotel’s history and that’s all there is to it.
Many other things also come into play, like ‘environmental isolation leading to madness’, and (I’m repeating here) The Overlook Hotel itself being a supernatural evil spirit (“Delbert Grady opening the door to set Jack free” is a valid strong point as in this scene a supernatural force does a ‘real’ thing). But, to be honest, there is no specific clear explanation to anything at all, and I think the director intended to keep it that way.
/ The Charles And Delbert Grady Confusion
What about the two Gradys? Ever noticed Charles Grady being mentioned only once, while Delbert Grady is seen several times in the movie? Think it was a mistake on Kubrick’s part?
Confusing, no? I agree!
Ok here’s what…..
* The hotel manager tells Jack that his predecessor did hire a
‘Charles Grady who was totally normal to begin with, but lost his
head because of cabin fever (environmental isolation) and murdered his wife and two daughters and subsequently took his own life with a shotgun’. Nobody mentions Charles post that scene. (correct me if I’m mistaken, I don’t remember hearing ‘Charles Grady’ more than once)
* As for bald Delbert Grady, well, he is seen quite a few times in the movie. That dude is like a bad disease that won’t go away!
In the washroom, Jack encounters Delbert’s ghost (their first
meeting) and addresses him as the caretaker, also adding that he
recognized Delbert from the newspapers. But Delbert only replies
back saying that the caretaker is in fact Jack himself and not him (already stated above). Remember Delbert saying that one of his daughters attempted to burn the hotel down, so he had to ‘correct’ (kill) them, and also his wife when she interfered.
* Striking Common Fact: Charles and Delbert both ‘had a wife and two daughters each, and both committed familicide’.
So, about the confusion surrounding the two Gradys, I guess its possible to place three contrasting facts:
* Well, if ‘reincarnation’ is the trend here, then its possible that one
is the reincarnation of the other, and that both are from the past (Jack’s past).
* Filmmaker’s error with the names.
I’m not neck-deep into this as Stanley Kubrick is one of the finest guys in the business. But he is also human. What do y’all think?
* Fun fact: What was baldo’s full name again?
Could be “Delbert Charles Grady” or even “Charles Delbert Grady”.
I mean, it sure is yet another strong fact that sure as hell satisfies the condition!
Hope this post clears most of the confusions surrounding the movie The Shining. Undoubtedly one of the most confusing, multilayered film, but then I believe that’s exactly the reason why it is also one of the greatest, and of all time!
Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com