Study Guide

The Shining Axe

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Killing your family is one thing (one very bad thing), but killing them with an axe and chopping them into little bits is a whole different level of brutality.

As Stuart Ullman tells Jack in the opening scene of this movie, this is exactly what one of the Overlook Hotel's former caretakers did to his family after living in the Overlook in isolation for several months. Or as Ullman puts it,

"He ran amok and eh... killed his family with an axe." 

The concept of the axe murderer has had a special place in horror stories for as long as there have been axes, and it probably has a lot to do with the fact that an axe shows the murderer's brutality more than something like a gun or knife. Axes are designed to hack things up. The idea of applying that same force to a human body is just… awful.

The significance of the axe as a symbol of murder isn't lost on Jack Torrance either. When he first runs into the ghost of Delbert Grady, the axe is one of the first details he remembers about the Grady murders. As he tells the ghost,

"You chopped your wife and daughters up into little bits." 

Little does Jack know that he's going to try to do the same thing in the very, very near future. As we watch Jack's spiraling mental state, all we can think about is how brutal it would be to be killed with an axe. Oh yeah, and we get to witness how awful it would be when we see Jack kill poor old Mr. Hallorann with one.

Lumbersexuals never sounded less sexual.

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