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Jack Torrance is one of the most unsettling and terrifying characters that has ever been portrayed on film. This is because, at first, he seems like a normal working man and father, but he slowly turns more sinister during the Shining as he pushes normal roles to the extreme and the hotel has an impact on his sanity. Possibly the creepiest part about Jack is that he was this way the whole time and he didn’t just go crazy when he got to the hotel.
In the beginning, Jack shows signs of his insanity in his control and anger issues. The first we notice Jack’s issues are when his wife is on the phone with the doctor explaining Danny’s “accident.” We find out that when Jack came home he found Danny had messed up his work papers all over the floor so he yanks him up by the arm and injures danny. The second time we notice there’s an issue is when Jack is “working” in the hotel study and his wife comes to check on him and he yells at her, telling her to never bother him when he is working. Both of these incidents show that maybe Jack is not as stable as we thought before.
Once they move into the hotel, we see a drastic escalation of Jack’s erratic behavior. He isolates himself, rarely talking to his wife when they get to the hotel. He treats her like a nuisance and alienates her further. His crazy behavior turns to paranoia when he starts suspecting that his wife is telling danny that he would hurt her and Danny. The situation continues to escalate rapidly when Danny is hurt again and Wendy blames it on Jack, which causes Jack to go look for alcohol. The alcohol drives him deeper into madness, and when Wendy comes to Jack and tells him that Danny was attacked by an old woman, he questions her sanity. He then goes to investigate the room where the woman was sighted and he sees a naked woman there. He is seduced and kisses the woman, only to find out he was kissing an old decaying corpse. He never questions his own sanity, and he lies to his wife, telling her that nothing is in the room.
A few other instances that show Jack’s decline into insanity are when Jack is standing in front of a window staring menacingly at his wife and son who are playing in the snow outside; when Jack is talking to his son and telling him he can’t sleep because he has too much work to do; and when he tells his son that he loves it at the hotel and he wishes they could stay there forever and ever; and Jack dreams a violent nightmare during the day about killing his son and his wife. Each of these incidents shows the viewer that Jack is becoming more and more entrenched in the madness of the hotel and his own insanity.
However, Jack’s true character is revealed to the audience when Jack’s wife comes to talk to him about their son and she makes the horrifying discovery that all Jack’s “work” was really just the typed words: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again. It is even more unsettling for the audience to see that there are pages and pages of nothing but those words repeating. So when Jack started to work as soon as they moved into the hotel, he’d begun typing these words only. Jack was disturbed even at the beginning of his stay at the hotel before the audience even suspected there was anything wrong.
Finally, the breaking point comes when Jack meets Mr. Grady who informs Jack that he (Jack) has been the caretaker of the hotel all this time. This episode convinces Jack, by some trick of the imagination, that he must “correct” his son for bringing help to the hotel. So Jack tries to kill his son and his wife. All of these occurrences added together with Jack’s disturbed mind show how he was “wired” this way going into the hotel scenario, which only made the whole situation worse. Therefore Jack was deranged before entering the hotel, only the audience wasn’t in on the information.
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