Maybe I haven’t been giving Stephen King enough credit; perhaps he has been realistically recreating for the reader the sensation of being stuck in a miserable hotel for months on end with horrible people.
Anyway, here’s the final installment of my journal through The Shining (with spoilers, of course):
Chapter 34: One paragraph’s worth of respite. The family has a nice Thanksgiving, and now we’re back to unrelenting gloom.
Chapter 36: Jack and Wendy’s complete ineptitude as parents or even adult human beings is starting to make me really cranky, even between reading sessions. However, since I’m a fully functioning adult, I’m able to recognize the source of my irritation and not take it out on my loved ones (ahem, JACK!).
I don’t want to keep harping on it because otherwise this review will get old really fast, but Jack has never learned the adult trait of putting other people’s wishes and wants above his own, and Wendy hasn’t learned to do anything, ever, for herself. Stop asking Jack to do things and then being sad when he doesn’t; just do them for yourself! By now, Jack is such a complete waste of space that I’m not as bothered with him as I am with Wendy (who still has some redeemable qualities in her concern for her son) putting up with him.
It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even take the hotel that seriously. It can’t be that hard to affect the mental states of people as weak as these.
Chapter 37: Danny has a premonition that the shit will hit that fan the very next day, and he’s always been right before. However, I still have over 100 pages left. I’m afraid this is going to be the longest dramatic build yet. Sigh.
Chapter 38: The character of Hallorann, the in-season chef who also has the Shining, hits pretty much every stereotype of a black man from the 70s, so much so that it makes me a little uncomfortable. I’m giving Stephen King a pass on him, though, since even with all the stereotyping, he’s still the character I like the best and am the most interested in.
Chapter 44: For the first and only time, Jack has a glimmer of understanding that he’s being manipulated by the hotel (this is because one of the ghosts basically says, “you were hired by the manager…the hotel” – not the sharpest tool in the shed, our Jack) and makes one very short, weak attempt to fight it. It is clear from the start that he is doomed to failure but the attempt itself was the first time I felt that Jack was in any way a sympathetic character.
The movie really does change the vast majority of the book; it kept the basic story structure, but pretty much every individual supernatural event was altered, and actually made a lot scarier in the movie. Now, I’m finding that the only scenes that even cause the smallest of shivers are the ones that align with the movie because I can remember the spooky movie scene.
Thinking about this, though, I was trying to remember a book that I’ve read that has really just scared the hell out of me, like to the point where I had trouble going to bed. It might just be that I currently feel like I’ve been reading The Shining and nothing else for my entire life, but I can’t think of one. I know I don’t necessarily like scary books so I don’t seek them out, but you’d think I’d have read at least one, honest-to-god scary book in my life.
Chapter 45: For just five pages, Hallorann sits next to a woman on the plane who isn’t given a name and only has about half a dozen lines, but nonetheless comes across as smart, tough and kind. Maybe Stephen King threw her in there to prove that he could write admirable female characters before we return to that mess, Wendy?
Chapter 46: And, here we are with Wendy. She finally has the realization that she is a weak person who has never handled any trouble in her life competently. All it took to come to that realization was being stuck in a malicious, haunted hotel with her murderously insane husband. Again, I’m thinking the hotel was damn lucky to get the caretaking family it did.
Chapter 49: Hallorann has another brief encounter with a man with a bit of the Shine to him (it turned out that the woman on the plane had some Shine, too). This book would have been so much more interesting to me if it had been about Hallorann’s life and him meeting people with the Shine now and again.
Chapter 52: I don’t know if I’ve been able to fully articulate how completely useless Wendy is, but here’s a rundown of some of her greatest moments in the dramatic climax: Jack is strangling her and she forgets that she has a kitchen knife in her pocket; Jack is hitting her with a mallet and she once again forgets that she has a kitchen knife, this time in her hand; Jack is breaking into the bathroom in which she’s locked herself and when looking for a weapon, she forgets until the very last minute about the medicine cabinet in which they keep the razor blades. (She never thinks about that ceramic slab on top of the toilet reservoir, which was used to good effect in the movie Zombieland.) Also, during this entire time, she has absolutely no idea where her son is.
Chapter 55: Wendy has stopped pretending even to herself that she is any sort of mother at all. When she realizes that Jack has finally found Danny and is getting ready to attack him on another floor of the hotel, she basically sits down and waits it out, saying that it’s all up to Danny now to save himself. Danny is five years old, remember.
God bless Danny, though, he actually does succeed in stopping both Jack and the Hotel, thereby cementing his standing as the only worth-while member of the family.
Truthfully, Wendy probably would have just messed everything up if she’d tried to help, but what kind of mother just gives up while her child is still alive?
One thing I was actually pretty impressed with in the writing for the climax of the book is that while lots of action was going on in different places with different characters, King does a remarkable job of tying it all together chronologically. So, while you are focused on one character, little references let you know how it relates to the other characters’ storylines. I know this is difficult because a lot of other authors don’t do it very well, so credit where credit is due, King does that particular writing skill very well.
I will also say that the end is pretty satisfying after the long, long build-up, though I’m not sure it was entirely worth it, all in all.