The Shining Part 5: Monday, Wednesday
Monday morning, Wendy and Danny watch a movie on TV: Summer of ’42. Summer of ’42, for those unfamiliar with it, is a 1971 coming-of-age movie about a teenage kid who has an affair with an older woman whose husband is away at war. Some people read a lot of significance into the use of this movie in The Shining (some people read a lot of significance into absolutely everything in The Shining) — dwelling on things like Danny wearing a “42″ on his shirt, or the fact that 42 is multiple of 12, as is 24, and there are 24 frames per second of film (I wish I was kidding) — but I see it more simply, and more dramatically. Summer of ’42 is a movie about a woman falling in love with a younger man while her husband is away. Now why would Wendy find that movie interesting at this point in her life? Obviously, because her husband has left her, even though they’re living in the same building and sleeping in the same bed, and all she has left is Danny. This is not to say that Wendy has carnal designs on Danny, only that Wendy’s whole life has been built around the romance of marriage and motherhood, and now the marriage part of that seems to be dead now.
(On the the Kubrick-analysis front, honestly, some people get excited about the weirdest things in The Shining and in Kubrick in general . He seems to bring it out in people. I’ve read tons of analysis of Kubrick, analyzing everything from prop placement to frame-counting, everything possible to examine, except the actual drama that’s taking place in the story. Kubrick’s stance invites some of this: his camera always seems to be at a distant remove from his actors, as though looking at them through a telescope, or perhaps a microscope: “Huh, look at that. They find a monolith and then build a spaceship to go find another monolith. And then the computer murders everyone. Interesting.” When the director has a God-like stance toward his characters, and is interested in processes on top of that, people seem to want to find patterns whether or not they’re placed intentionally, and, even if they were placed intentionally, if their intent has any bearing on the meaning of the movie.)
So Wendy is watching the April/June romance Summer of ’42 with Danny, who suddenly, apropos of nothing, wants his fire engine. (I’ll just leave that there.) “Don’t bother daddy,” Wendy warns — she knows, for once in the movie, something Danny does not. She can’t say to him “Don’t bother Daddy, I think he’s this close to murdering us,” because, well, you wouldn’t say that to a child who’s stuck for another four months with the guy.
Danny goes to get his fire engine and finds Jack sitting on the bed, awake, with a serious case of the Mondays. They have what I like to characterize as “the least reassuring father-son talk in history.” What does Jack tell Danny? He says that he’s tired, but can’t sleep, because he’s got “too much to do.” Since we haven’t seen Jack do a lick of work in his role of Hotel Caretaker, the next assumption is that he’s talking about his writing. He reiterates that he loves it here at the Overlook, and then brings back the phrase “forever and ever and ever” that the creepy chopped-up dead girls used. Does that mean that Jack has spoken with the girls, or that they have perhaps invaded his dreams, if only his waking dreams? Danny, for his part, now seems to understand that Jack means him and Wendy harm, and asks Jack about it. Jack’s answer is interesting: he insists, in the most evil-looking way possible, that he loves Danny and would never hurt him.
So what about it? Does Jack want to kill Danny or not? Has he long-since made up his mind to kill Wendy and Danny, or is the Overlook (the invisible protagonist) not yet done convincing him to take on that task? The answer lies ahead.
Danny, two days later, seems to have taken Jack at his word. After his disconcerting conversation, he didn’t run screaming to Wendy and say “We’ve got to get out of here, Dad’s cracking up and there are chopped-up dead girls in the halls!” No, here he is, on the hallway rug, playing with cars, making a little world for himself, a little world where he is master and in control. Which makes perfect sense — a child lost in this gigantic maze with a couple of parents in a very bad marriage would naturally bend towards imaginary worlds.
His play is interrupted by the yellow tennis ball that, up ’til now, we’ve associated with Jack. This is the ball Jack’s been using to play catch with the Overlook. Its appearance here suggests one of two things, each important in their own ways: either the evil spirit who is the invisible protagonist of the movie controls the ball and uses it as a tool to lure people into communing with it, which is creepy, or else Jack has rolled the ball to Danny and has then run and hidden, which is also creepy. The significance of these possibilities lie at the root of what Kubrick is trying to articulate in The Shining: either there are ghosts, or there are not. Either the Overlook is an evil place with some sort of evil spirit at its core that steals souls, or else Jack is just making it all up out of his head. Or, possibly, a combination of the two.
In any case, Danny looks up from his imaginary play and sees the door to Official Forbidden Room 237 is open, and he goes to investigate.
Next thing we see is Wendy downstairs, checking on the boilers. This is the only moment in the movie where we see anyone, anyone at all, do any actual Hotel Caretaker work. Wendy is stirred from her work by someone screaming — not Danny, which we would expect, but Jack. Wendy runs to save Jack and finds that he’s having a dream at his desk in the Colorado Lounge. (Interestingly, Danny goes into Forbidden Room 237 at the same time that Wendy goes into Forbidden Room the Colorado Lounge — Jack had expressly told her never to interrupt him when he was in there.) In spite of the fact that Jack is a monster and has been even more monstrous quite recently, Wendy leaps at the chance to mother him, to calm him down. I’m guessing that there’s been a lot of this sort of thing in their message — Jack hates Wendy, Jack hates himself for hating Wendy, Jack is miserable, Wendy mothers him, Jack gets stronger, Jack hates Wendy again, and what’s more, he hates her for having the power of “mother” over him.
In any case, Wendy’s mothering instincts are dampened somewhat by Jack’s admission that he’s just dreamed of chopping her and Danny up into little pieces. But still, she takes that in and continues to comfort him.
Is Jack still redeemable at this point? The fact that he’s upset by his nightmare suggests that he is still salvageable, that the protagonist has not yet sunk its hooks into him. And for a few seconds, we think — yes, he’s not all the way gone, he still has a conscience, he can still turn back, it’s still possible, he’s not yet lost.
Then Danny walks in, his shirt torn and his neck covered in big ugly purple bruises. He’s in shock. Wendy goes to him and sees his condition and is, naturally, alarmed.
If there was a moment for Jack to act, this would be it. If Jack were concerned about the health of his son, this would be the moment to forget about his silly nightmare, leap up and take charge, comfort the child and seek help. But what does Jack do instead? He sits there, looking helpless and poleaxed, looking, for all the world, like he can’t quite remember if he actually recently tried to strangle Danny to death. I mean, obviously he doesn’t think he recently tried to strangle Danny to death, but the look on his face says “I just don’t know.” This, I would think, would be the perfect moment for Wendy to pick Danny up, head for the garage and high-tail it out of there in the Snow-cat, but for some reason she does not — she retreats to their “home.” Her mothering instinct takes precedence, I imagine, and tells her she can’t move Danny until he comes out of shock.
Jack, now uncomfortable in his man-cave, goes to his own Forbidden Room: The Gold Room. The Gold Room is forbidden to Jack because that’s where they serve the alcohol — when there is alcohol to serve, and people to serve it. “I’d give my goddamned soul for just a bottle of beer,” moans Jack as he sits down at the bar, and poof! as bidden, the Devil, in the shape of a bartender named Lloyd, appears.
But only to Jack, which is an important distinction. Lloyd is not “really there,” and he’s not serving real alcohol in a real glass to Jack. Nevertheless, Jack receives bourbon (“Jack,” for those keeping score) and has a lengthy conversation with Lloyd. From the way Jack talks, he knows Lloyd and has for a long, long time. Later on, we’re given the hint that Jack “has always been there” at the Overlook, and this exchange might be a reference to that, or maybe it’s not.
The point is, there is no alcohol, and there is no Lloyd. So how, then, is Jack becoming drunk? Because he definitely becomes drunk. I am reminded of all the fairy-tale references in the movie (“a trail of breadcrumbs,” “Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in,” etc) and connect Lloyd to the tradition of fairy lore: when one is kidnapped by fairies, one is generally all right until one eats the fairy food. Because that’s how they get you. Jack, drinking Jack (not really, see below), from a bartender only he can see, is, essentially, giving himself permission to be drunk.
Lloyd, with his incredible stillness, draws Jack out and gets him to talk about Wendy and Danny. Wendy, we gather, Jack has hated forever, but Danny, well, Jack seems to be okay with Danny. So, we learn, Danny is the thing that has kept Jack from killing Wendy all this time. The Overlook wouldn’t have to do much work to get Jack to kill Wendy, but killing Wendy would hurt Danny, and Jack doesn’t seem to be ready to do that yet. So we see there are gradations to Jack’s rage and madness.
Wendy comes in with a baseball bat, Lloyd and the alcohol disappear, Wendy tells Jack there’s a crazy woman who tried to strangle Danny, and suddenly the movie changes channels and becomes, yes, a local news weather report.
This local news weather report, however, is in Miami, and is being watched by Dick Halloran, who has, it seems, rather youthful tastes for an older man, considering the ’70s pimp-chic decor he’s used in his pad. I would hope that anyone with lurid paintings of naked women hanging in his bedroom would have better things to do at night than watch local news, but there you have it.
The Miami local news, oddly, is covering the exact same news that the Denver local news is covering: The Big Storm. And so, in the middle of one report on The Big Storm, Dick receives another report as well, this one from Danny, and the Big Storm is the emotional one happening inside the Overlook.
Some people are confused about the next scene, which shows three things: Danny’s POV shots of Room 237, Jack inside Room 237, and Danny communicating some of these images to Dick. Some people think this indicates that Jack is also communicating images to Dick, which would mean that Dick is receiving two messages at the same time, but it seems pretty clear to me: Danny’s POV shots are shot from four feet off the ground, Jack’s POV shots are shot from five or six feet off the ground, and the more objective “Jack” shots chronicle what happens to Jack inside the room.
What does happen to Jack inside the room? Well, he goes in, terrified of what he’s been told is a crazy woman. Instead of a crazy woman, he finds a long, lithe naked woman in the bathtub. In spite of the fact that there shouldn’t be anyone in the room, much less a long, lithe naked woman, Jack’s fear immediately turns to arousal. The woman gets out of the bath and approaches Jack, which doesn’t freak him out, because her approach is the equivalent of Lloyd’s alcohol — it’s a seduction, intended to ensnare Jack in a trap. Lloyd fed Jack the alcohol, now the woman in the bathtub will betray him with a kiss.
If the Overlook’s goal is to seduce Jack, why does the woman in the bathtub reveal herself to be a rotting hag? A couple of reasons occur to me: first, once the kiss is planted the work is already done — Jack’s already admitted that he has no interest in maintaining his vows to love, honor and protect Wendy. Second, the lady/hag switcheroo is a taunt: the Overlook is telling Jack that it’s all an illusion, that beauty masks evil, that there is a rotting core to the place.
Having been given this message, loud and clear, Jack, again, has an opportunity to make things right. He’s just been seduced and grossed out by a rotting hag in a bathtub, now what is he going to do? He could go to his apartment and say “My God, you’re right, let’s get out of here, this place is nuts!” But he doesn’t. Instead, he goes to Wendy, denies seeing anything at all, and blames Danny, the victim, for his own injuries. He then lashes out at Wendy for even thinking of leaving the hotel. That’s right: given a hotel with a homicidal transmuting ghost-hag and a child in deep shock, Jack lashes out at his wife for interfering with his “work.”
While Jack makes this second inadvertent admission of compliance, Danny, understandably, freaks out in the next room. He sees the vision of the elevator full of blood and the word “REDRUM” written on a door. Obviously, a picture is forming in Danny’s mind of what is to come.
Jack, enraged, leaves the apartment and goes back to the Gold Room. He is surprised, but not upset, to find that a party is going on. The ghosts of the Overlook, it seems, are emerging tonight, to celebrate, in a way, Jack’s “coming out” — after five weeks of effort, their plan seems to be paying off.
Jack pays his respects to Lloyd the bartender, and also suddenly has money in his wallet that wasn’t there before to pay for his drink. Lloyd assures him that his drinks are free, and Jack gets suspicious. “I’m the kind of man likes to know who’s buying his drinks,” he says, but Lloyd gently elides the question and Jack lets it slide. Which is a shame, because the information Jack asks for is key to understanding the narrative: the unnamed guy “buying the drinks” for Jack is the invisible protagonist of the movie, the guy the whole movie is about. Is that “The Devil,” or some other evil deity? We aren’t told, but it wants to take control of Jack so he’ll finally do what it wants.
Immediately after leaving Lloyd, Jack runs into Delbert Grady. Jack, feeling pretty cocky and relaxed at this point, has no trouble identifying Grady as the caretaker who killed his family way back when (he read about it in that scrapbook, although why the hotel would keep a scrapbook about a horrible quadruple murder-suicide I have no idea). Grady initially is stunned and confused by Jack’s outburst.
As well he might be, since he’s Delbert Grady, and the Grady who chopped up his family was named Charles. I’ve tried to examine this conundrum from a number of different angles, why this Grady has a different name, but the dramatic answer seems to be that the Overlook, in pursuit of its goal, means to throw Jack off balance. “You’ve always been the caretaker” is what Grady says to Jack, and later we’ll see evidence that “Jack’s always been there,” but the Delbert-Charles riddle still doesn’t settle easily. He is the guy who chopped up his family, he admits it moments later, but he also insists that Jack is the caretaker, and always has been. Grady, it seems, like Lloyd, like the woman/hag in the bathtub, is just another mask, two masks, actually, for that unnamed, invisible protagonist. It’s probably meaningless, but Kubrick has mentioned that The Exorcist was a big influence on him wanting to do a horror movie, and for me, one of the key lines from The Exorcist is about how the Devil will mix lies with truth to confuse you, which is exactly what Grady does here. Ultimately, Grady is nothing more than what Jack needs to see to convince him to kill Danny, which is the one thing he’s been holding out on. Lloyd’s alcohol gave Jack an excuse to be drunk, the woman in the bathtub gave him an excuse to stray, now the false caretaker gives him an excuse to kill his son.
In dramatic terms, the “red bathroom” scene is a bookend to the Danny/Halloran scene in the kitchen: both feature confident interrogators who find themselves suddenly the interrogated. The first takes place in a big, open kitchen and the other takes place in a weird red bathroom — one space airy, the other place claustrophobic. One dedicated to food preparation, the other dedicated to, well, the opposite.
Upstairs, Wendy paces, coming up with a plan for moving forward. In spite of what’s happened, she still imagines Jack leaving the hotel with them — she can’t imagine life without him.
Her planning is interrupted by Danny, or rather, Tony, shouting “Redrum!” over and over. When she rushes in to wake Danny up, Tony answers — in his true voice, as opposed to the squeaky voice from before — “Danny’s not here, Mrs. Torrance.” Danny, in his own moment of crisis, has, in his terror, so disassociated himself from his situation that he’s “gone away” — he’s no longer here.
Downstairs, Jack sabotages the hotel radio. He’s set his plan in motion. What he doesn’t know is that his sabotage of the radio is the exact thing that will raise Dick Halloran’s suspicions down in Miami.