The Shining: Jack Torrance Didn’t Go Mad – A Theory

I love Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 seminal horror flick – The Shining. You love The Shining… that is why you clicked on this article right? Yeah, we all love Kubrick’s take on The Shining even if original author, Stephen King didn’t – but what does he know about horror?

The 1969 Moon landing

There have been numerous fan theories and suggestions about this picture. Most famously is that some people believe that Kubrick hid dozens and dozens of hints that he helped to fake the Apollo 11 moon landing from 1969 and how he used The Shining as an apology for his involvement. Personally, I think that is all crap but some people really do believe it.

We all know the plot. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a struggling writer who takes a job as a caretaker in the Overlook Hotel which is closed for the season. He takes his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) along with him and hopes to use the solidarity of the closed hotel to get some writing done and hopefully finish his book. However, things don’t work out quite as Jack wanted. He starts to suffer from cabin fever and attempts to murder his wife and son as he slowly goes insane while being hunted by numerous visions of ghosts and spirits.

All work and no play

Jack was perfectly sane

But here is the theory… what if Jack Torrance didn’t go mad at all? I guess you’ll need a line of reasoning for this theory right?

I’ll need visual aids to explain what I mean here as most of this involves small, background details in the film itself. So get ready for plenty of pictures…

The big wheel trike

Remember Danny’s big wheel trike from the movie – it had a red frame, blue seat and a single bell on the right handlebar.

You can see the red frame under the blue seat and that single bell on the right in that image.

But that is not what it looked like when we were introduced to it. Earlier in the film when the Torrance family first arrive at the Overlook Hotel, we get a shot of their belongings near the entrance as Jack waits in the lobby.

Here is a zoomed in view of that very same scene.

That’s not a red frame – its white and there is a bell on each of the handlebars too. Its a different trike… but why?

Jack’s typewriter and the sculpture

Jack uses a beige Adler typewriter in the movie – if you need proof…

There it is right there sitting on the desk Jack set up in the hotel. Also in his makeshift writing office, there is a prominent wooden sculpture sitting on a table.

There it is on the left hand side of the screen as Jack throws a ball against the wall while suffering from writer’s block. But later on in the film…

The typewriter has not only changed colour – its a completely different typewriter. Different make/model. As for that wooden sculpture?

As you can see form this shot of the entire room, that table that once adorned the wooden sculpture in front of the fireplace is empty – the sculpture has gone!

Jack’s infamous coat

Its an iconic image. That of Jack wearing that burgundy coloured jacket in the movie.

He wears this jacket for all of the latter part of the flick and have you noticed that is while wearing this item of clothing is when he starts to go mad… or should that read ‘supposedly’ mad? The very first time we are introduced to Jack wearing it is right here, also note the blue jeans…

Jack is asleep and is having what seems to be a nightmare. As I say, this is the first time we see Jack wearing it – but it is not the first time that outfit is seen in the film. We need to go back to near the start once more.

This scene is from earlier in the film from when Jack and Wendy are being given a tour of the Overlook. Who/what is Jack looking at in the centre of the frame there? Lets zoom in slightly…

Jack is looking at somebody cleaning in the background… a caretaker? And what is this caretaker wearing? They are wearing blue jeans and a burgundy jacket – the same blue jeans and burgundy jacket that Jack himself is wearing later in the movie when he goes full on crazy. Hmmmmmm?

So what does all of this actually mean – simple continuity errors?

The theory

If you know anything about Stanley Kubrick and his film-making, then you know the man was a perfectionist. Sometimes shooting and re-shooting, getting hundreds of takes of the same scene to ensure it was just right.

The man’s attention to detail was/is legendary. I’m not saying his films do not have continuity errors, of course they do. But what if these points I have brought up here are not continuity errors but are – in fact subtle/subliminal hints as to what is actually going on within the film?

What if the changing colour of the trike, the different typewriter, disappearing wooden sculpture are purposely there to show that there are two different realities going on in The Shining? What if the white trike with the two bells, the beige typewriter and that sculpture on the table are from the ‘real reality’. Then the changes with the red trike with one bell, the darker coloured typewriter and missing wooden sculpture represent the novel that Jack Torrance is writing?

That is what writers do right (I know I do it). We get influenced by our surroundings and take inspiration from what we see. So what if – when Jack does snap and go mad… that is just the fictional Jack from the novel that Jack Torrance the writer has created, what if what we see when Jack losses it is just a visual representation of the novel Jack Torrance is writing? Maybe that is why the colour of the trike changes as does the typewriter and it could also explain why that wooden sculpture disappears too, because these are details that Jack has written within his book.

Plus would it not make sense that Jack Torrance the writer got the idea of how Jack the psycho caretaker should dress from that caretaker he spotted earlier when being given the tour of the Overlook Hotel?

Maybe Jack never did go mad and try to kill his family as he was 100% fictional. Jack Torrance had been sitting in that makeshift writing office all along just tap-tap-taping away on his typewriter and blended the story that he had been told about Charles Grady with his own life and created a fictional world inspired by the Overlook Hotel that we see later in the movie… maybe?

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