The Shining, in 2014

It’s an interesting study, reading a book every year.

A great many will not stand up to that type of constant reading. In fact, most of them won’t. I don’t think that’s the fault of the author, in fact, I think that the ability to do so lies within the interaction of the reader and the book.

What I can read seven or eight or nine times over, another person is going to not be able to finish at all. I respect that; there is a fairly long list of books that I ‘should’ have read, that if I read them at all, it was a slow and painful slog.

One of the interactions that begins to appear when you read a book enough times is that the book changes. The older that you get, the more life experience that you have, the more the book changes to reflect that.

This year, The Shining is about the ghosts of demons past, about how people won’t forgive if it makes them feel superior.

I don’t want to hand wave or downplay the violence in the book, or attempt to frame Wendy as the actual villain of the piece or Jack the hero. I don’t want to shy away from the abuse narrative, or the way that Jack constantly places himself in a position to replay his own dangerous, self destructive cycle over, and over, and over again. Jack’s weaknesses are very, very weak indeed and he really doesn’t deserve that much sympathy.

However. It does raise the question this year, how would this book had played out if Wendy had moved on? A lot of the tension that the Overlook manages to play off of is the fact that Danny can’t so much as sneeze without Wendy assuming the absolute worst of Jack. And yet she stays with him-hoping against hope that he’s changed. The way that this plays out in the movie isn’t quite as it plays out in the book, but the book is heavily pulling from the darkness of human nature. And one of those dark places is the place in our beings where we want to play the saint at all costs.

Wendy frequently comments, though often to herself only, that she wants to be nothing like her mother-the woman who weaponizes every relationship she ever has. Perhaps Wendy has failed miserably at this task. While she winces and cries every time those aspects of her personality that she got from her mother slip out-the reality of it is that well before the Overlook shut down around them, Wendy could have taken that boy out of the hotel and left. She could have chosen not to go up the mountain at all.

What is the role of her self-induced martyrdom in this narrative? Because maybe my personality is just cynical and harsh enough to feel this way, but this year I feel that’s what’s going on here. Wendy really wants to be right. She really wants to keep this past pain alive so that she has something to pull from in the future. If she is already well aware that Jack has already failed, then whatever happens over the winter can’t be that bad-because of that past failure. Further, if Jack is the demon then Wendy has to come out the saint, thereby completely circumventing the legacy her mother-as-monster left her.

But she could have. She could have left, or she could have taken the final step into what she already thinks that she has done, and is obvious that she hasn’t-she could have forgiven Jack, or at the very least, found peace in the awareness of his demons and the efforts he did make to change. Coming to terms with the past is not necessarily the same thing as hand waving past mistakes away, and she could have done that.

Thereby stealing the teeth out of the Overlook by removing the ghost of pain past it pulls out of both herself and Jack, and by extension, Danny with his fears of DIVORCE and the Bad Thing.

But of course, being human, Wendy can’t. So she feeds directly into the same system that seeks to destroy her.

Redrum.

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