Study Guide

The Shining Drugs and Alcohol

By Stephen King

Drugs and Alcohol

Chapter 3
Jack Torrance

Dear God, he could use a drink. Or a thousand of them. (3.65)

Jack has thoughts like this quite often. He has this particular thought after his first meeting with Watson, in the cellar, where he gets his big warnings about the boiler. The novel's explosive ending is foreshadowed heavily here, and throughout.

Chapter 4
Danny Torrance

[…] the Bad Thing. (4.6)

The Bad Thing is what Danny calls his father's drinking. Do you think Wendy gave it that name? In any case, we can tell that Danny is less terrified by the Bad Thing, than DIVORCE, because DIVORCE is in all caps. Danny's isn't afraid of the bad thing; he's more concerned with the pain the desire to drink causes in Jack.

Chapter 5
Jack Torrance

"Jesus, Al. We ran him down. I felt it." (5.29)

We think this passage informs Jack's character. He's totally smashed, but it's Al whose driving the car that hits the mysterious, child-sized bicycle. Yet, Jack shares the entire responsibility for the incident, even when he's sure they hit a child. His guilt and fear over the event causes him to immediately stop drinking.

Chapter 6
Wendy Torrance

He had tried to sooth the baby and dropped him on the floor. (6.32)

This memory is Wendy's. As far as we can tell, Jack and Danny don't remember it. If so, they don't think about it in the book. Why was Jack so drunk that he woke baby Danny and then dropped him? Because he was celebrating the acceptance of one of his short stories by Esquire. In The Shining, alcohol spoils everything in some way.

Chapter 14
Jack Torrance

It had nothing to do with willpower, or the morality of drinking, or the weakness or strength of his own character. There was a broken switch inside, or a circuit breaker that didn't work. (14.54)

What do you think of Jack's analysis of his alcoholism? Is this a healthy way to look at alcoholism? Does it relate to current scientific thinking thought on the subject? If it's true, is Jack doomed? Or are there ways to control the broken switches inside ourselves?

Chapter 28
Jack Torrance

He had been a lush; he had done terrible things. […] But if a man reforms, doesn't he deserve to have his reformation credited sooner or later? And if he doesn't get it, doesn't he deserve the game to go with the name." (28.4)

This strikes us as a rather dangerous train of thought. It places the blame for all sorts of bad behaviors on other people. But, we totally understand Jack's anguish. Wendy seems to expect him to fall off the wagon at any moment. Unfortunately, her trust in him is already broken, and getting that back will take lots of work from both of them.

Chapter 29
Wendy Torrance

"All your old drinking habits, too. Chewing Excedrin. Wiping your mouth all the time. Cranky in the morning. And you haven't been able to finish the play, yet, have you?" (29.37)

We think this is a pretty brilliant touch. The alcohol the Overlook gives Jack is preceded by the habits Jack stopped when he gave up his drinking life. As we see in the next quote, Wendy still treats him like he's drinking – she's never given up the habit she developed when Jack was drinking. Not that we blame her. She's simply concerned about the safety and welfare of her family.

Chapter 48

Standing on top [the table] was a martini glass, a fifth of gin, and a plastic dish filled with olives. (48.50)

As we discuss in Jack's "Character Analysis," this supports ideas that the Overlook is controlled by the devil, who, as we see in Faust stories, will give a person his or her favorite alcohol as inducement to sell his or her soul. Since even Wendy and Danny can smell the alcohol on Jack, we can assume that this goes beyond hallucinations.

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