Jack has a tendency towards violence, whether drunk or sober. He thinks he knows better than everyone (“Father knows best”) and is constantly excusing himself, his judgments, his jealousies. The reader learns that his father was abusive, to the point of almost killing his mother, which helps fill in some of Jack’s blanks, but King never excuses any of his behavior. If the Overlook was holding a casting call, it couldn’t have picked anyone more suited for the job of caretaker-gone-mad than Jack. King writes about Jack’s ability to connect with both the hero and villain in his play. The reader can connect with all of the characters in The Shining. Jack, when he is in his craziest most dangerous moments, is to some degree sympathetic. He also has a wicked sense of humor, “The boiler’s okay and I haven’t even gotten around to murdering my wife yet. I’m saving that until after the holidays, when things get dull.”
It is well-known that King himself was an alcoholic (and was at the time of writingThe Shining). One can’t help but feel that his love/hate for the character of Jack Torrance is his own beating up of himself and his demons. Parenting is hard and there are times, no matter how much you love your child, that they drive you nuts and make you angry. This is taken to extremes in Jack’s story, but one of his defining moments is when he broke Danny’s arm. This violent act haunts Jack as much as any of the other creepy things that inhabit the Overlook. King keeps Jack’s feelings ambiguous. Was evil always inherent in Jack, and the Overlook able to hone it, bring it out? Or is alcohol mostly responsible for his violent tendencies? Is the Overlook King’s metaphor for alcoholism? Are the ghosts Jack’s alcoholic demons made real? The Shining can incorporate all of these elements and still just be a darn good ghost story.
- xoxoxoe, #38, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, by Stephen King, #CBR3 (cannonballread3.wordpress.com)
- xoxoxoe, #40, On Writing, by Stephen King, #CBR3 (cannonballread3.wordpress.com)