White Man’s Burden: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.


The Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterwork, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same title, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in two memorable performances. At one level, the story is about one man’s descent into madness, as his demons return to haunt him as he succumbs to the immense forces of loneliness and isolation induced by the towering and foreboding presence of the Overlook Hotel. At another level, the story is as iconic as 2001 in its portrayal of humankind, ie the Torrance family, against the backdrop of eternity, which is the snowy immensity of the Rocky Mountains. However, while it’s tempting to begin analyzing characters and scenes for their philosophical and spiritual content, the emotional impact of the Jack Torrance’s steady decline into homicidal insanity is driven by his irrepressible alcoholic personality and his penchant for violently expressing his anger, frustration, and shame. As Jack’s inner torment consumes him, he fills every room in the hotel with his paranoid rage, terrorizing and traumatizing his wife and son. Ultimately, in the empty spaces of the hotel, including the elaborate hedge maze outside, far from so-called civilization, the devil that Jack has once again become–for their is evidence that he has been at the brink of self-destruction before–rends asunder the fabric of reality, through the cracks of which the tragic history of this place, this hotel, has beheld over the decades. Behind this facade of the white man’s conquest of the American West, where presidents, movie stars, “all the best people” have stayed, lies a world completely out of balance, deteriorating from its own spiritual decay. All that remains is for nature, as it unleashes a snowstorm across the land, to reclaim this place by purging itself of the arrogance that built this monument to man’s ego.


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