The Shining Movie Explained: Its Ending and Metaphors

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Jack Nihcolson in a still from The Shining Film

The Shining is one of the most impactful and defining horror movies to ever come on screen. Stanley Kubrick adapted Stephen King’s novel by the same name, yet his vision and his way around creating some prominent plot points in the movie were much more in contrast with the prior source. The Shining exuberated in nihilistic inhumanity, which was personified through the character of Jack Nicholson. Jack Torrance is a troubled person who has been struggling with evils like alcohol addiction and has a prior history of violence. 

The Differences in the Protagonist of the Movie and the Book

This we learn as the events of the movie progress, that the protagonist is far different than the person we read about in the book by Stephen King. His personality and aura is much different from what was present in the source material and in a way he is broken from the very beginning. While we aren’t directly subjected to this information all at once, his egoist attitude and his past behaviour are frequently brought up throughout the runtime. In the book, Jack is a likeable guy who has had a good, loving relationship with his family, but in the movie, Stanley Kubrick changed the entire dynamic of this character by a complete turnaround and already made Jack into a human with vile thoughts and actions buried deep inside him. This already eliminates our liking towards the protagonist and there is no certain sense of shock when we discover the intentions of Jack later on.

It’s more of a realized evil character than the progression into evil that makes The Shining so unique. The main character is shown disrespecting the paintings and the art of the Native American community who used to live in the isolated Hotel called the Outlook. There is a constant series of disregard towards community and respectable things which persistently creates the character of Jack in a subtle and nuanced manner. So when a man like this is exposed to isolation, his self loathing transcends into general loathing. The spirits that occupy the hotel come alive and attack at his Alcoholism to begin with. He wails that he would sell his soul for a pint of beer and then he is handed one by a mysterious waiter who emerges.

The Grueling Loneliness Makes Jack a Dull Boy

Here The Shining brings the supernatural theme of the plot into the picture. This Waiter has one moral code, to guide Jack into committing the same heinous crimes he himself committed years ago. Killed his daughters with an Axe he says, this waiter spirals an unfortunate domino which sends Jack into a loop of insanity and dementia. The horror of The Shining is built in the history of The Outlook. From the construction of the hotel on the burial ground of Native Americans to its troubled & violent prior incidents, The Outlook already has all the red flags. Its prior incidents are accompanied by a rich and haunting history which is so filled with detest and callousness. It then makes use of its dark, isolated setting to bring out the dread inside Jack.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, this elementary proverb is turned into a sinister unravelling of a character who very much relates with every word. He has no one to accompany him but his family. So to compensate, he starts seeing visions of people, from the past who have served this hotel in the long years before. The history of this hotel also transcends into one of its rooms, room number 237. Danny, Jack’s son, who mysteriously garners the ability to shine, wanders into this room and discovers a lady who tries to strangle him. The history behind this room was associated with a woman who would try to seduce the servants who came in her room. So when Jack enters the room to investigate, he discovers a naked woman who kisses him but soon turns into a horrendous mess, sending Jack in a fitz. 

Jack Nihcolson in a still from The Shining Film

The silent horror of The Twins

The infamous Twins sequence and the lift filled with blood, both of these scenes carried historic sequence which adds depth to the lore of The Shining. Let’s talk about the twins first. The two girls which are seen by Danny were the daughters of Delbert Grady. As it turns out, they were the ones who were killed with an Axe by Grady aka The Waiter. The spine chilling sequence with Danny on his scooter running away from the twins is one of the most iconic scenes to be ever created in a cinematic. Just the shot alone of the two twins staring at Danny with their empty, hollow and lifeless eyes will make your nights a little peculiar. What I loved about this scene in particular was the silent threat which can be possessed by two normal girls with no supernatural make up.

The history and the circumstances alone create such horror and menace that no jump scare or sudden movement was needed in order to make the scene even more terrifying. The visions Danny sees, with the twins lying on the ground, drenched in blood and accompanying a blooded axe beside them, makes it pretty evident that this is where Grady brutally killed his daughters for the blood sacrifice demanded by the hotel. Danny, at this point in the movie, is absolutely petrified while simultaneously communicating with the spirits of the Outlook. His shock collides with his communication and he ends up from being scared to scaring the audience in no time at all. 

Native American’s Blood Was Spilled

The lift filled with blood has numerous interpretations, but the most prominent one I have heard is that the blood belonged to the Native Americans who were killed for the construction of this humongous hotel. The series of artwork and antiquities present in the hotel is a gradual reminder of their presence in the history of The Outlook. This makes a lot of sense from two stand points, one being that it deliberately tries to invoke a discussion about the past of the hotel and also of America to some extent.

While I won’t call The Shining a political satire by any shape or form, this reference can also be seen as Jack plays ball on the walls housing the paintings and the rich heritage of the Indians. There’s a constant disrespect of the community by the protagonist, whether conscious or ignorant, as I mentioned earlier in the article. It also makes sense why the hotel and the overall theme was dominant with the colours of the American flag, and while it was very subtle, it did send a powerful message across about the oppression of the native Americans by the general population of America. Secondly, The Shining is a movie about generating terror from the past, and this plays right to that as it indicates the horrendous sacrifice of the community with spine-chilling imagery.  For a hotel that is based around blood sacrifice, the deaths of Indians was one of the most prominent and crucial incidents in the emergence of this hotel which made me think whether this was indeed the cause of the curse of the Outlook. 

Jack Nihcolson in a still from The Shining Film

The Hidden Depth of The Maze

The time intervals of this movie are conceived in an unconventional way as they begin with long changes of months and towards the end, the time intervals switch between the hours of the day. It signifies the gradual progress of this character into insanity by not giving us a complete, elaborate picture. What it gave us was the past incidents of Jack and his family and how he hasn’t always been the best father and husband. By this we know that whatever is going to happen in the movie, is certainly not good. So towards the end, when the film focuses on the ending day of Jack and his family’s stay at the hotel, the complete, maniacal personality of Jack is visible in full form. He has an axe in his hand, just like he is advised by Grady. The range of expressions on Jack Nicholson in the entire movie, especially during the climax, are unparalleled. He is such an insane actor to watch, and witnessing him go to the highest level of insanity was astounding. It sent shivers but at the same time I was left in admiration of an actor who was portraying a character who is just about to kill his own son with an axe. There’s so much technical perfection, use of wide-angles and moving shots in this movie that it truly gives the feeling that Kubrick made the entire hotel his playground. No location or no position was under utilized in bringing out the horror of Jack.

The final maze sequence utilizes an array of moving shots, all locked on the character with large depth of view. They steadily follow the limping protagonist and the terrified child of his through the maze. It plays out like a constant search for escape, for a magical breakthrough which will end one of these character’s misery. Each turn leads to 5 other turns. It signifies how lost both these characters are, one in his dementia and the other in his fear. The snow blows fiercely and covers the entire hotel in its grasp. This is another example of how vastly different Stanley Kubrick’s version was from Stephen King’s book. The book ends with the broilers of the hotel bursting and causing a massive fire of the hotel, whereas in the movie, the Outlook is taken by the grasp of the cold. It is a vital reminder of how cold this version of The Shining was as compared to the book where even the thematic changes work on a literal level. The warmth of the source is substituted by the cold terror of the movie, just like how a warm Jack was substituted by a cold-hearted Jack in The Shining by Stanley Kubrick.

What does the ending of The Shining truly mean?

The ending of The Shining has always been a thing for massive debates, whether it is on social media or in film schools. How his image appears in the historic photo hung on the walls of The Outlook. From the various interpretations of this, the one that really rang a bell with me was this. The Outlook has always been a place of spirits and haunting rituals. Whether it was the case of Jack or Grady, each fate ended in a bloodbath of humans and souls alike. Jack, who freezes to his death in the climax of The Shining, never really leaves the hotel for good.

What began with The Outlook ends in the Outlook. He has, both literally and figuratively, been caught in the maze of the history of The Hotel. With his death as a morally corrupt man, he has not only maintained the ritual but also abided by it with full faith even if he wasn’t able to achieve his sick goal by the end. So in a sense, he became a part of the larger group of people who in some way gave rise to the present, horrific image of The Outlook. With his present, he instilled himself in History. His soul is now stuck in a place where he has sacrificed everything including his soul. For the blood sacrifice was achieved, not by the death of his family, but by his own death. He dies in snow, just like the hotel itself, whose chain of murders has now been broken by the brave attempt of Jack’s family. His kid won’t turn into a bloodthirsty maniac. He broke the chain and hence forever changed the fate of this cursed hotel called The Outlook. 

The Movie Culture Synopsis

Let us know what you thought of this analysis of one of the most iconic movies to ever come out. Stanley Kubrick has created a lot of groundbreaking work and The Shining will truly be one of his best and one of the most profound horror movies to ever come out. We would love to hear your take on the ending of The Shining in the comments below!