Study Guide

The Shining Wendy (Shelley Duvall)

Wendy (Shelley Duvall)

Excuse Maker

Wendy Torrance: the terrified face that launched a thousand memes, dorm room posters and nightmares. With her lank dark hair and her weird 1970's turtleneck, Wendy is the icon of terrified woman-on-the-run.

When we first meet Wendy, she seems like kind of a doormat. It seems like Wendy is a meek wife who will do everything her husband Jack says. Even when Jack's not around, Wendy defends some of his more questionable behavior. When she recounts the story of how Jack dislocated their son's shoulder by yanking on him too hard, she says,

"It's... it's just the sort of thing you do a hundred times with a child—you know, in a park or on the streets—but on this particular occasion my husband just... used too much strength and he injured Danny's arm." 

You can tell from Wendy's body language and the way she keeps dropping her eyes that some part of her knows that what she's saying isn't right.

Even when she sort of admits that her husband Jack has done bad things in the past, Wendy tends to downplay them by saying things like,

"Anyway, something good did come out of it all."

And in a way this is true. It's good that Jack hasn't had anything to drink in five months.

But at the same time, Wendy never does anything to directly judge Jack's actions, which suggests that she's a little bit afraid of him even as she feels totally loyal to him.

Frightened Partner, Fearsome Mama Bear

As the movie unfolds, we can tell that Jack isn't the best husband to Wendy. Actually, that might be the understatement of the 1970's—Jack has a really short fuse when it comes to anything she says, especially when he's feeling self-conscious about his failure as a writer.

But Wendy will only take so much, and she has no trouble blaming Jack when she finds bruises around their son Danny's neck. Fearing that Jack has become abusive again, she shouts,

"You did this to him, didn't you? […] How could you?" 

She still wishes that her family could live happily together, but it's becoming pretty clear that this just might not be in the cards.

By the time Jack starts menacing her, Wendy knows that she'll have to do something to protect herself. It's clear that she's out of her element by the way she keeps crying, but that doesn't mean she's a helpless victim.

Even as she yells,

"Don't hurt me! Don't hurt me!"

She's able to whomp Jack over the head with a bat and lock him in the food storage closet. Even in these moments, though, she's still concerned about whether Jack is hurt. When she says,

"I'll bring back a doctor,"

we can see that her concern for Jack will probably never go away… even after he tries to kill her.

Fight And Flight

As we've seen, Wendy is ready to stand up and fight when she has to. But she also knows when to turn tail and run away from danger. And the first chance she gets, she locks her husband Jack in a room and says,

"I'm going to try and get Danny down to the Sidewinder in the Snowcat today." 

There's zero point in staying at the Overlook Hotel and taking on Jack after she's locked him up. Now it's time to get out of Dodge.

When Jack escapes from the food closet, he comes after Wendy with an axe and Wendy does her best to sneak her son Danny through a window. Even in these moments, Wendy thinks of her son before herself, saying,

"Danny, I can't get out. Run, run and hide. Run quick!" 

Eventually, Wendy is also able to escape. But we know by now that she was willing to die to help her son get away. In the end, Wendy still thinks of herself last, and it's likely that Jack's death will continue to fill her with sadness long after the tragedy at the Overlook Hotel.

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