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Themes

Jack Torrance is a recovering alcoholic, and he thinks about drinking all the time. Alcoholism is strongly linked to dysfunctional families, domestic abuse, and cycles of family violence in the novel. Jack's father was an abusive alcoholic and Jack breaks his own son's arm in a drunken rage.

Jack's desire for the strong stuff (his drink of choice is the gin martini) leaves him vulnerable to the Overlook, which feeds on any human weakness and magnifies it. Even though the Overlook's cache of liquor is depleted before Jack comes on the scene, the Overlook creates gin from thin air and gets Jack really drunk before it sends him on his murderous rampage with the roque mallet. With these supernatural twists, The Shining looks at the pain of alcoholism and at the way alcohol, when abused, often goes hand in hand with violence. It also looks at alcoholism from the innocent perspective of five-year-old Danny Torrance. Stephen King, also a recovering alcoholic, had not quit drinking when he wrote The Shining (though he has now). If the book is any evidence, he had lots of anxiety over his drinking!

Questions About Drugs and Alcohol

  1. Is The Shining a temperance narrative, an argument against drinking alcohol?
  2. If Jack hadn't been an alcoholic, would he have been able to fight the Overlook more effectively?
  3. If you have experience with alcoholism, either personal or through a friend or family member, is Jack a convincing character in that regard?

Chew on This

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