Stephen King’s, The Shining, is one of the most notable horror novels. The story details the Torrance family and their life at the Overlook Hotel during the off-season months. There are many aspects of the novel that can be discussed, but personally, the characterization of Jack Torrance and his struggle with alcohol is imperative to understanding his actions and motivations in the novel.
Jack is a recovering alcoholic who often struggles with trying to stay sober. Jack’s drinking has resulted in many problems for him and his family in the past, including breaking his son, Danny’s arm, and being fired from his job after getting into an altercation with a student. In order to save his relationship with his wife, he promised to quit drinking. However, when Jack arrives at the Overlook, his desire to drink becomes increasingly stronger as his thoughts begin to eat his alive. King creates the Overlook as a dangerous place that prays on any person’s weakness and amplifies it. Thus, when the supernatural spirits of the Overlook uncover Jack’s past history with alcohol abuse, the spirits cause Jack to imagine the sight and smell of gin. Through the Overlook’s manipulation, Jack’s desire to drink, and feeling of being drunk, cause him to go on his murderous rampage to kill his wife and son.
When alcoholism is present in novels, films, poems, short stories, and more, it typically is a recipe for a dysfunctional family full of abuse and violence. In The Shining, alcohol plays this exact role. However, what makes the plot of The Shining so unique is that supernatural activity takes advantage of Jack’s alcoholism to enhance the struggles he faces to ultimately transform Jack into a part of the Overlook.
The novel is frightening for several reasons, but one of them being that no one is safe at the Overlook. Regardless of how hard a person has tried, or continues to try, to forget about their past, the Overlook with seek it out and force you to re-experience your past. King does a fantastic job of building upon a traditional struggle in society, such as alcoholism, and taking it a step further into a creative, and horrific, concept.