It’s time for another Shine Along check-in!
Before we get started, just another reminder that Tif (Tif Talks Books) and I are also hosting a read-along for Doctor Sleep. Our Sleep Along will run from Monday, September 30 through Monday, October 21. (Click here for more information.) Now, back to The Shining.
This week, we read Chapters 17-33. This is where the story really starts to pick up; we have our characters, we have the setting, and now the tension is escalating. Tif shared some of her thoughts on the middle third of the book…
(This discussion will contain spoilers through Chapter 33 of The Shining.)
The Overlook Hotel
Last week, we really talked about King’s brilliant character development. We covered our thoughts on Jack, Wendy, and Danny, but I feel like we missed a key player in the story: The Overlook Hotel. When I read Chrisbookarama’s check-in post earlier, I realized that she hit it right on the nose… “The Overlook is introduced as a character. Its malevolence is only hinted at.” Just as we learn about the Torrance past, we also learn about the daunting, and sometimes, horrific history and secrets of the hotel itself. I don’t think we can ignore the hotel as yet another character!
I mentioned last week, that I do not remember the intense amount of foreshadowing throughout the story during my first read. I also am realizing on this re-read that I missed out on a lot of the symbolism. The wasps’ nest that was introduced in last week’s section is a key example, but the one that was hinted at more in this section was the boiler. The boiler is really a symbol of Jack himself.
“The boiler had a pressure gauge: old, cracked, clotted with grease, but still workable, Jack had none. (page 282)”
Both Jack and the boiler really need to be put in check on a regular basis or it/he will explode! Jack has been trying to maintain his personal pressure gauge, but it is becoming more difficult to do. And, Wendy and Danny are beginning to notice.
I really cannot avoid mentioning Danny. This poor child, too mature for his young age, is feeling the pressure. The pressure from what haunts The Overlook. The pressure of constantly trying to please his father, hoping to avoid those previous dark days and the visions that Tony is sharing with him. The pressure of his parent’s troubled marriage. The poor child cannot even sleep peacefully without rustling in his sleep while his parents argue. BUT, he also is such a strong young man to face the horrors that he has been warned about. On this re-read, I am viewing Danny in a much more emotional way.
I feel like my comments are all over the place here, but there are just a couple things I want to be sure to mention.
First, I especially like Tif’s mentioning the symbolism in the book. The more I read, the more I see The Shining being as much of a literary novel as it is genre.
But what stands out the most to me in these chapters is the series of (unfortunate) events. There’s Room 217, the hedge creatures, the partiers in the lounge, and the way The Overlook continues to chip away at Jack’s defenses. First he destroys the radio, in a half-asleep state of terror… but it’s his deliberate sabotage of the snowmobile that’s the big one. He still has moments when he tries to fight back, but in that final act that leaves the family completely cut off from the world, we can see that The Overlook’s hold on Jack is stronger than ever.
One other thought… though it’s one of the earliest hints at the horror of The Overlook, I found Chapter 19 — Danny’s run-in with the fire extinguisher — to be the most terrifying, at least for me. Unlike many of the other things that happen at The Overlook, this one really could have been all in his imagination. I’d say that most of us probably haven’t been strangled by corpses or mauled by hedge creatures… but to be frightened by things happening entirely within our own mind is something that we all went through as children (or, I’ll admit it, even as an adult).
When Danny looks at the nozzle on the ground, wondering if it moved on its own or simply fell, trying to separate the real from the imagined — good luck in this place — “Eight steps away, the nozzle of the hose gleamed peacefully at him from the rug as if to say: Don’t worry. I’m just a hose, that’s all.” The almost mocking tone of it is so creepy! And then…
“Danny took another step, and another. His breath was dry and harsh in his throat. Panic was close now. He began to wish the hose would move, then at last he would know, he would be sure. He took another step and now he was within striking distance. But it’s not going to strike at you, he thought hysterically. How can it strike at you, bite at you, when it’s just a hose?”
But, Overlook or no Overlook, we can’t stop these irrational thoughts from running through our mind during moments like these. I think that’s why this scene was, to me, the most frightening in the book so far… even though, as far as Danny is concerned, it was probably the tamest.
If you’re reading along with us, don’t forget to head over to Tif’s blog to link up or to join the discussion in the comments. Also keep in mind that we’re only covering through Chapter 33 this week; if you’ve read farther, try to avoid revealing spoilers!
Our final discussion is a week from today! Until then, check the Twitter hashtag #shinealong to check in throughout the week.
What are your thoughts on Chapters 17-33? Can you feel the tension rising as we progress through the story? Any quotes or sections that stand out for you?