Stephen King is a renowned novelist who has published a series of novels depicting various genres. His books are always interesting and appealing to his audience, which is why he has gained so much fame. He covers issues that are pertinent to the life situations experienced today. His books are, therefore, not only entertaining but also educative in nature. This essay will analyze the life and fiction of Stephen King. It will employ the following three literary analyses: male, theme, and symbolism to gain a more thorough understanding of one of his most celebrated novels, “The Shining.”
Stephen King is a novelist who has come to be known as the author of some of the “New York Times” bestselling books. He has managed to establish his name in genres of horror and fantasy by publishing books such as “The Shining”, “Carrie”, and “IT”. Majority of his works have been adapted for viewing in films and the Television.
Stephen King was born in the year 1947, on 21st of September, in Portland to his parents Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King (“Stephen King.” 6). Unfortunately, when they we3re still young children, the parents separated, leaving them with no choice but to split their time between two different regions; Indiana and Connecticut. Later on, King settled with his brother and mother in Maine where he was born. In 1966, he graduated from the Lisbon Falls High School where he had enrolled in. He attended the University of Maine, which was also so close to where they lived.
When he was still a student, he started showing an interest in writing by writing articles for the school magazine. He also held leadership posts such as being a part of the student government. His first publication was made when he was still a student. It featured a short story which was hosted in Startling Mystery Stories (“Stephen King.” 6). He started working as a teacher soon after graduation in 1970 where he garnered a degree in English. This was where he managed to establish himself as a renowned writer. Stephen King has published different works under pseudonym where he referred to himself as Richard Bachman. For instance, the horror novel known as Carrie, which turned out to be quite successful, was published under this name.
Gender roles have been used in this novel to critic the roles of male and female in the society. In the first chapter, Jack Torrance is showcases as a white male who is also aggressive and heterosexual (King 13). He is seen to be the epitome of hegemonic masculinity. However, as it progresses, his personal aspects lead to his masculinity being questioned. For instance, he is a writer and an alcoholic, and is perceived as being subordinate to his wife. The alcoholism has created a challenge for him such that he cannot keep a stable job. This is why he is now working as a hotel caretaker so he can end up handling all his manly duties by providing the basic needs for the family (Dymond 125).
At the beginning of this novel, the presence of gender stereotyping is noted (King 18). Wendy, jack’s wife, is viewed as a feminine individual who is also submissive to his husband. In the scene where Wendy is taken to the kitchen by the head chef who is of African American origin, the two are categorized in the same group as they are seen as having a lower status than others. This is because the black’s and the female gender are often viewed as subordinates when compared to whites and males (Dymond 127).
In later chapters, Wendy is seen possessing masculine qualities. This is expressed at the scene where Wendy is the one adjusting the heating when she hears Jack screaming. This duty that she was handling is often done by men, but she leaves this and runs towards her screaming husband (King 27). She holds him in her arms as Jack sobs just like a woman is expected to do. There are many other instances where Jack takes on the role of a female and Wendy the masculine role. For example, when at work, he is sent to check whether there is really a crazy woman who hurt Danny in room 237 (King 33). When the woman changes appearance, he flees and runs to report to his wife that nothing was there. He should have faced the situation head on like a man. Throughout the chapters, Wendy is seen threatening the masculinity of her husband. However, as the chapter progresses, Jack is triggered to re-establish his masculinity.
This novel features a story that covers the life of a family in desperation. The Overlook Hotel where Jack is employed is viewed as the answer to their problems. Unfortunately, it is viewed as a place which only destroys families and twists the love between the members of a family (Dymond 131). Jack is struggling with his past where he suffered from child abuse and an intense relationship between him and his father (King 42). This is a weakness which the hotel uses to try and turn him away from his family and into a hideous monster who has the intention of murdering his people. However, Danny never stops loving his father no matter how much he abuses him. He understands that this is the result of his experiences in the past, as well as of the hotel he works for. The main theme of this story, therefore, is that of family.
The nuclear family breakdown is described in this novel. When being introduced to this family at the initial chapters, one can easily assume that it is similar to the classic American family. However, with a deeper analysis, it becomes evident that it is a family that is challenged by fear and resentments, which are all relating to Jack’s insecurity about his future as a writer and the head of the household (Benevento 729). As much as Wendy tries to keep the family together, Jack’s resentment towards her and their son threatens them further every day.
The hotel’s hedge maze is the symbolic representation of this conflict between the family members. At one point, Wendy and Danny are seen exploring the hedge maze while Jack watches from above as his wife and child appear as tiny figures walking further into the maze (King 44). This is a foreshadowing of the separation. This is the maze which also entraps him, and keeps him separate from his family. The fractured nature of the geography in which the hotel is embedded is seen as a representation of how the nuclear family decays (Dymond 133). Danny and Jack are seen to have visions of various ghosts of the hotel. This is because the various members of the Grady family will only appear separately.
When things get out of hand, and Jack is almost completely forgetting his family, it becomes evident that he needs to change when his son criticizes him and not his wife. This shows that all the patience Danny has of his father has finally paid off in softening his heart and reminding him who he really truly is. Finally, he is able to change and once again takes over his role of being the head of the family.
In this novel, a significant symbol is color red. This color symbolizes the main agendas such as the anger issues present in the family. It also symbolizes the fear that Wendy and Danny have. When Jack recalls the time when he broke his son’s arm, he notices that he went back into his study to find his son wearing his training pants, a red cloud of rage clouded his judgment (King 30). This red cloud represents the anger he experiences every time he is about to react. The family also has a car that is a red bug. This color may be used to symbolize the feeling and the actual situation of the family members.
Colorlessness is also another symbol which showcases the emptiness that Danny has to deal with. Danny has a gift of sensing the emotions of others and seeing into the future, which is what impacts his own feelings. This is the gift that is referred to as “the shining” in this novel. Because of his age, he still cannot understand what the emotions mean and is also too scared to ask. When at the hotel, he is asked if he wants to play a game. His response is said to be “colorless”. He has knowledge of what is to come from the hotel, which is also the reason behind his emptiness.
The woman in the bath is also a representation of symbolism in the novel. When Jack first enters into the room 237, this woman is young and attractive. However, as Jack moves towards her, she becomes old and scary (Benevento 725). This represents his fear of old age, and of growing old with his wife Wendy. He still has ambitions of becoming successful as a writer, but time seems to be running out as he ages.
It is evident that this novel is a representation of family challenges experienced by most families today. In every family, the man is considered the head and the sole provider of basic needs. Unfortunately, in this film, Jack seems to be struggling with staying true to his role. This is the reason why he finally changes and is influenced to go against his family by the possessed Overlook hotel. The literary analyses conducted on masculinity, theme and symbolism all relate back to family and the problems it experiences. For instance, the symbols used are all relating to the issues experienced between Jack, Wendy and Danny. Therefore, this novel has helped the audience to better understand the issues that are experienced in a family, and how separation and resentment can only serve to make matters worse. It has also shown that at times, blood can be thicker than water, as Danny is the main reason why Jack finally got back to his senses and resorted to rebuild himself as a man and the head of the family.