Study Guide

The Shining Chapter 1

By Stephen King

Chapter 1

Job Interview

  • Welcome to the mind of Jack Torrance. The novel opens with him thinking, "officious little prick" (1.1) about a man named Ullman who's interviewing him for a job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel.
  • Ullman wants to be sure that Jack's wife, Wendy, knows what she's getting into, and what their son Danny is getting into by staying at the Overlook all winter.
  • Jack tells Ullman that Wendy and five-year-old Danny are special people.
  • Now Ullman's showing Jack the floor plans of the hotel.
  • The top floor of the Overlook, which has changed hands several times since World War II, is the attic.
  • Ullman wants Jack (if he's hired) to put some rat poison up there because maids have heard "rustling noises" (1.13). There are definitely not rats up there, but Ullman doesn't want to take any chances.
  • The Overlook has 110 rooms. On the third floor there are thirty suites "including the Presidential Suite" (1.18)
  • The lobby takes up another floor. In the middle, is the front desk; in the west wing, the Overlook Dining Room, and the Colorado Lounge; then, we've got "[t]he banquet area and ballroom in the east wing" (1.24).
  • Ullman asks if Jack has any questions, and Jack asks about the basement, where the most important part of his work will happen.
  • Somebody named Watson is going to brief Jack on the basement.
  • Now Ullman is telling Jack that he's only hiring him because a guy named Al Shockley wants Jack to have the job.
  • Shockley has lots of power where the Overlook is concerned, and is on the board of directors.
  • Ullman doesn't think Jack can handle it – he and his family will be in utter isolation.
  • The next town, Sidewinder, is forty miles away, and the roads are closed from October or November until about April.
  • Ullman gives Jack a brief history of the hotel, dropping names of all the rich and famous people who have stayed here, including lots of US presidents.
  • The Overlook, built by a man named Robert Townley Watson, was completed in 1909.
  • After about six years, Watson sold it. He couldn't handle the Overlook.
  • It's sold three more times by 1936. Those owners couldn't handle it either.
  • Throughout the rest of World War II, the Overlook stays closed and empty.
  • At the end of the war (1945), Horace (Harry) Derwent bought the Overlook and invested a million bucks in renovations.
  • Derwent had a roque court built on the property. ("Roque" is basically croquet on steroids, and involves a big mallet. You know where this is headed.)
  • On his way in, Jack also noticed a "topiary" (1.40), hedges trimmed in animal shapes.
  • Derwent couldn't make it at the Overlook either and neither could the next owners.
  • But, since Shockley bought the place in 1970, things seem to be working out much better.
  • Exhausted by the history lesson, Jack asks Ullman what it has to do with the caretaker job.
  • Derwent starts telling him about what happened to the first 1970s winter caretaker: "There was a tragedy. A horrible tragedy" (1.45).
  • Seems that caretaker was a drinker.
  • Jack gets what Ullman's worried about; he assures Ullman he's a "retired" (1.48) drinker.
  • Yes, Shockley told Ullman that.
  • Ullman also knows why Jack lost his last job. He was an English teacher in Vermont at a prep school. Ullman says Jack "lost [his] temper" (1.49) but doesn't go into the details.
  • Well, Delbert Grady, the 1970-1971 winter caretaker, lost his temper, too.
  • Grady moved into the Overlook with his wife and two daughters. Ullman was worried he wouldn't be able to take the isolation.
  • Jack suggests that the Overlook isn't that isolated.
  • Ullman says there is a two way radio for getting in touch with the park service, and a snowmobile. But, if there's a real emergency, like a fall down the stairs, resulting in a broken head, nothing will be fast enough to help the Torrances.
  • Without Ullman's knowledge, Grady brought a bunch of booze with him to the Overlook.
  • Ullman things Grady's tragedy was from a combination of the booze, and "cabin fever" (1.57).
  • Jack knows what cabin fever is. He says,

    "It's a slang term for the claustrophobic reaction that can occur when people are shut in together over long periods of time. The feeling of claustrophobia is externalized as dislike for the people you happen to be shut in with. In extreme cases it can result in hallucinations and violence—murder […]." (1.64)

  • Jack asks if Grady killed his wife and kids.
  • Ullman says, "He murdered the little girls with a hatchet, his wife with a shotgun, and himself the same way" (1.60).
  • Jack assures Ullman that he's not a good candidate for cabin fever. He's going to be busy writing a play. Plus, he and Wendy are big readers. Danny has lots of things to amuse him, and he's going to be learning to read.
  • He tells Ullman that he truly has stopped drinking and won't be bringing any booze along. Since the roads will be closed, he won't have any way to get any, even if he decides he wants it.
  • Ullman isn't reassured; but he tells Jack it's "nothing personal" (1.71).
  • Jack isn't so sure about this, and really resents the way Ullman has treated him during the interview.

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