The Possibilities of Mental Illness in the Shining

Fictional characters are created to either reflect the authors’ personal experiences or address issues prevalent in or overlooked by society. Mental, physical, and emotional issues often plague characters created by Stephen King. Disturbing events often take place in his novels that contribute to supernatural and/or psychotic occurrences. Specifically, Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining makes his descent into mental insanity because of such events. Jack’s diagnosis relies heavily on these occurrences and will ultimately determine if it is a mental disorder or pure evil.

Background

The Shining revolves around the life of Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic seeking to find solace to focus on his writing. In order to fulfill this desire, he accepts a job as a caretaker for the Overlook Hotel (Godfrey, 2015). The resort closes down for five months due to harsh winters, and Jack is responsible for living in the hotel during this time. He moves in with his wife, Wendy, and five-year old son, Danny. Throughout the course of the story, Jack discovers that he has an unexplainable connection with the hotel– almost as if he has visited the place before. He is also unaware that his son has supernatural powers and shares a psychological bond with the hotel’s cook, Dick Hallorann. Hallorann refers to this bond as ‘the shining.’ Jack eventually reaches his psychological breaking point and begins to converse with the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel (Godfrey, 2015). One of these ghosts, Delbert Grady, was the previous caretaker for the hotel and also descended into mental insanity. Grady also sought the tranquil environment the hotel offered, but he eventually snapped and proceeded to murder his wife and two daughters with an axe. Grady shot himself afterward, but his spirit, along with many others, still live in the hotel. Jack’s son frequently has premonitions about the events that will take place but does not see ‘people’ nearly as much as his father. The story reaches a climax when Grady convinces Jack that his family is conspiring against him. This ‘revelation’ prompts him to take up the axe and torment his family by chasing them throughout the hotel (Godfrey, 2015). Jack’s mannerisms may suggest he succumbed to pure evil; however, it can be argued that his murderous rampage was triggered by paranoid schizophrenia additionally triggering vivid hallucinations.

The events in The Shining greatly differ in the novel and in the film. Interestingly, the film delves into Jack’s psyche more effectively than the novel. Freud’s essay, “The Uncanny,” contributed to the evolution of Jack’s character in the film (Christopher, 1984). King’s version of Jack was based more so on personal experiences he went through as a writer, whereas, Stanley Kubrick’s film focused on Jack’s mental [in]sanity. In his essay, Freud expounded on the perspective of an adult whose mental sanity may have surpassed his beliefs and manifests itself as a madman within (Christopher, 1984). Freud indicates there is an animistic universe in which “spirits, good and bad, inhabit all things and that thoughts and wishes are all-powerful over physical reality” (Christopher, 1984, p. 2). These events or feelings, deemed ‘uncanny,’ may have the power to manifest themselves and stimulate abnormal mental activity. The themes in Freud’s essay are relevant in Jack’s case and assert the concept of an “interchanging of the self” (Christopher, 1984, p. 3). Kubrick’s version of The Shining reveals the presence of an animistic world in the tensions between Jack, his wife, and his son. The entities Jack sees are natural to him but unnatural [uncanny] to everyone else (Christopher, 1984).

The oedipal tensions Freud characterized in his works became the basis of Kubrick’s plot in The Shining (Christopher, 1984). Before Jack abstained from alcohol, he exhibited a severe act of rage when he dislocated Danny’s arm after he scattered his papers on the floor. As a result, Jack vowed to remain sober forever, but there is a permanent strain on his relationship with Wendy and Danny. All three members of the Torrance family become distant with one another and deal with their struggles separately. The Overlook Hotel becomes the threshold of Freud’s theory of an animistic world, and the oedipal tensions increase rapidly (Christopher, 1984). Another key element depicted in Kubrick’s version of The Shining is the Overlook Hotel’s historical garden maze. The maze is first mentioned in the beginning of the film when Jack and his wife are given a tour of the hotel grounds. Towards the middle of the film, the maze is mentioned once again when Wendy and Danny decide to explore it. This part is crucial because it is when Jack’s mental instability becomes increasingly evident (Christopher, 1984). As Wendy and Danny explore the maze, Jack is in the hotel lobby looking at its model. At first, it merely seems as if he is staring blankly at the details of the maze; however, it becomes evident that two tiny figures–representing Danny and Wendy–are moving throughout. This not only represents the first of Jack’s many hallucinations, but also the very depths of the human mind (Christopher, 1984). Jack is slowly descending into mental madness and is experiencing “entrapment in his very own mind” (Christopher, 1984, p. 4). He tries to find solutions for all of the supernatural occurrences but reaches a dead end in the maze of his psyche. His only way out of this mental maze becomes the need to slaughter his family and join forces with his delusions. The final mention of the maze is at the very end when Jack freezes to death after attempting to murder Danny inside the maze. This is symbolic of the mind having the power to kill if mental issues are not treated properly.

Diagnosis

Isolation has the potential to become a trigger to some sort of mental illness. Creativity itself has even been linked to the development of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (Walia, 2015). Jack was in a setting of severe isolation, apart from society completely, and also happened to be very creative. These two factors alone are not sufficient reasons to diagnose Jack with paranoid schizophrenia; his case must be reviewed much deeper. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V requires delusions and hallucinations to be present in order to diagnose an individual with paranoid schizophrenia (Kreinin, Krishtul, & Menuchin, 2015). Clinically, Jack fits these requirements, but a proper diagnosis requires more concrete evidence. His downward spiral begins when he starts to lose his creative potency as a writer. This prompts Jack to feel almost powerless to his writer’s block and eventually to his family. One of Jack’s earliest delusions is triggered by the frustration with his wife for always doting on Danny. Jack begins to feel as if Danny has replaced him, and this transitions into the eventual belief that his family is conspiring against him. Delusions are the prelude to hallucinations and in cases of paranoid schizophrenia, believing is seeing.

Additionally, recent epidemiological studies found that “changes in the incidence and expression of classic schizophrenia symptoms…an increase in paranoia or delusions…are in accord with social, cultural, geographic, and ethnic changes” (Kreinin et. al, 2015, p. 118). It can be argued that Jack experienced all of these changes, because he moved into a spacious hotel in a different setting and environment he never experienced before. He believed the seclusion would help with his writing, but it actually triggered an unforeseen mental illness. Paranoid schizophrenia is unique, because it tends to develop closer to the age of thirty. Other types of schizophrenia typically develop in adolescence or early adult years–another key element that proves Jack is most likely a paranoid schizophrenic (Kreinin et. al, 2015). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V classifies paranoid schizophrenia as a subgroup of the schizophrenia disorders. Based on empirical data, clinical observations, and neurobiological imaging studies, Kreinin et. al (2015)developed two additional subgroups under paranoid schizophrenia: those who mainly have hallucinations and those who mainly have delusions. Unfortunately for Jack, he equally experienced both hallucinations and delusions. His delusions do not exclusively fall under the second subgroup, because they were not present for short periods of time. Jack’s delusions were powerful to a point in which he truly believed he needed to kill his family before they abandoned or harmed him. Hallucinations came later, and he experienced them with all five senses.

Silvano Arieti, a psychiatrist and the author of Interpretation of Schizophrenia, believed that patients hear voices partly because they expect to hear them (Piers, 2017). Arieti did not discredit auditory hallucinations in any way; rather, he believed if a person were struggling in a certain area of his/her life, they might be prone to hear voices either encouraging or discouraging them in this area (Piers, 2017). Piers acknowledges the relevance of Arieti’s findings to a certain extent; he believes the world of psychiatry should not completely dismiss a patient’s voices as “random or meaningless” (2017, p. 31). Psychiatrists Stephen M. Soreff and George N. McNeil mention Freud’s theory about wish fulfillment (Piers, 2017). Sometimes, wish fulfillment has the power to accentuate hallucinatory experiences. Hearing voices can also be attributed to religious affiliations in certain cases. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V states, “in some cultures, visual or auditory hallucinations with a religious content are a normal part of religious experience” (Piers, 2017, 31). A person’s religious or cultural influences have the potential to prompt auditory hallucinations as well. If someone experiences any or all of these hallucinations, he/she is not necessarily a paranoid schizophrenic. Going back to specifically Jack’s case, his hallucinations were not triggered by wish fulfillment or religious and cultural influences. His hallucinations started suddenly–without warning–and this is why his case is more serious.

One of Jack’s first hallucinations was seeing a bartender named ‘Lloyd’ after saying “I’d give my soul for a drink” (Kubrick). Jack chose to abstain from alcohol after physically hurting Danny, but after he is accused of doing so again, he resorts to ‘drinking.’ Lloyd is only one of many hallucinations as Jack later enters a ballroom full of people with music blaring and an endless supply of alcohol. It is at this party that Jack meets Delbert Grady and he informs Jack about his son’s gift of ‘shining.’ Jack becomes increasingly paranoid after learning this information and becomes determined to exert complete control over his family. When Wendy expresses concern in regard to Danny’s health, Jack reverts the issue back to him by stating, “Have you ever had a single moment’s thought about my responsibilities? Have you ever thought, for a single solitary moment about my responsibilities to my employers?” (Kubrick). Jack’s delusions persistently torment him and make him believe every decision his wife makes is against him. Before meeting Grady, Jack told Lloyd about his marital problems and the lack of intimacy with his wife. The injuries Jack was accused of inflicting upon Danny were discovered to have been from a woman in Room 237. Jack experiences yet another hallucination when he goes to the room and sees a naked woman in the bathtub. She emerges from the bathtub, and Jack proceeds to embrace and kiss her. The tiny remnants of Jack’s sanity become overpowered by his hallucinations and delusions.

Treatment Plan

Jack evidently has a different brain chemistry and displays abnormal symptoms supporting this.His genes may have contributed to the development of his mental disorder; however, there is no family history proving this is the main cause.This proves that Jack is most likely suffering from a chemical imbalance.An excessive amount of dopamine or glutamate may be causing his psychotic episodes.Jack’s history with alcoholism could have also increased his dopamine levels and made him more susceptible to developing schizophrenia.Many people indulge in drinking alcohol and only develop physiological problems.In Jack’s case, there is reason to believe his alcoholism correlates to his disorder.Even though it is a myth that alcohol always turns into sugar, it has the ability to rapidly absorb and move to all parts of the body through the bloodstream (“Blood Alcohol Levels”).Alcohol has the ability to either increase or decrease blood sugar levels; Jack’s dopamine levels are evidently imbalanced. He succumbed to the overly aggressive, addictive, and sexually obsessive effects that increased levels of dopamine induce.Jack would need to be prescribed an antipsychotic drug to treat his paranoid schizophrenia.He may be resistant to taking an antipsychotic drug because of the many stigmas surrounding mental illness.After gaining Jack’s trust and helping him realize he can learn to live normally with this disorder, he may be more receptive to taking an antipsychotic drug.Since taking multiple antipsychotic drugs can produce devastating results, Jack should be prescribed Aripiprazole (“Abilify”).This drug specifically restores balance to chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain.Aripiprazole also decreases hallucinations and has the ability to improve concentration and positivity (“Abilify”).Quetiapine could also be an option in treating Jack’s disorder.Quetiapine produces similar effects as Aripiprazole and additionally improves one’s mood, sleep, appetite, and overall energy level (“Seroquel”).

Treating a case as severe as Jack’s is very difficult and could potentially worsen his state of mind if proper methods are not utilized. Prior to his psychotic breakdown, Jack did not display symptoms suggesting he was mentally ill. He abused his son once in a drunken rage but made a conscious decision to quit drinking for his family. This outburst was frightening but certainly not a reason for his wife to believe he had an underlying mental illness. As Jack’s state worsened, he became overly controlling of his family and refused to let them leave the hotel. Rather than being in denial, Wendy should have left the hotel and sought medical help for Jack. This would allow him to be placed on the proper medications sooner rather than later. Because he posed a threat to the family, Wendy may have prevented his mental breakdown by seeking help immediately. She and Danny would undoubtedly need to receive counseling as well after such a traumatic experience. Jack and his family should receive counseling separately for an extended amount of time in order to overcome the fearful and/or negative feelings towards each other. After Jack has been actively taking his medication and going to therapy, the family could come together and attend counseling sessions. At this point, family therapy would help them reunite after gaining a general understanding about Jack’s breakdown. This will give Wendy and Danny insight into Jack’s cognitive process and what they can do to support him.

Markus Gole (2015), a psychologist and philosopher, developed an ingenious treatment plan for individuals with paranoid schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia is a very abstract illness that may be treated differently for each patient. Gole (2015) combines his psychological and philosophical expertise in order to develop alternative treatment plans. The individuals in his study have paranoid schizophrenia, and some also suffer from substance abuse; both apply to Jack. In Gole’s (2015) treatment plan, patients were required to participate in philosophical discussions and read excerpts from literature relevant to these discussions. This alternative treatment plan would be ideal for Jack. He accepted the position at the Overlook Hotel for the secluded environment that would encourage his writing. It quickly became evident that seclusion is actually a trigger for Jack, because it allows him to ruminate to a point of insanity. Rather than remaining in this psychologically damaging environment, he would most likely thrive with this treatment plan. He would be surrounded by people who struggle with substance abuse and have paranoid schizophrenia. This would allow Jack to feel more comfortable and receptive to receiving treatment, because he would not feel alone. He is also a writer and would benefit from discussions that would promote his philosophical thinking. Those who suffer with paranoid schizophrenia are not completely mentally incoherent; they would benefit from gaining knowledge and stimulating their intellectual thought processes (Gole, 2015). This is essentially the purpose of this treatment plan. Jack would not need to feel as if he were alone or abnormal. Instead of being confined to a mental institution, apart from his family, he could learn to cope with his condition and still keep his hobbies. This approach is a combination of clinical psychology and clinical philosophy. The purpose of this treatment plan would be to encourage Jack’s reading and writing interest, while simultaneously helping him understand his disorder and develop a positive self-image (Gole, 2015).

The hallucinations Jack experienced prove his case is very serious: he did not merely hear voices a few times or experience a supernatural occurrence; he undoubtedly has paranoid schizophrenia. A trigger may be attributed to the sudden change of setting and the emotional strains between his family. Jack felt as if he were losing his family and his touch with writing; therefore, he felt as if he were losing everything. Assessing only Jack’s case, apart from his family’s conditions, can properly lead to a diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia. Once he started experiencing hallucinations and delusions, they continued to persist. Jack’s experiences were not mild, and he allowed them to control his beliefs, personality, and views towards his family. Supernatural elements are evident in Jack’s case, but he did not succumb to evil. Jack Torrance developed paranoid schizophrenia, and if this treatment plan were implemented, he would live a relatively normal life.

References

Christopher, H. (1984). The uncanny and the fairytale in kubrick’s ‘the shining.’ Literature/Film Quarterly, (1), 5.

Godfrey, N. (2015). Into the maze: Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The shining.’ Screen Education, (78), 124.

Gole, M. (2015). Clinical philosophy in the treatment of paranoid schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Archives of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 17(4), 53-60. doi:10.12740/APP/60949

Kreinin, A., Krishtul, V., Zvi, K., & Menuchin, M. (2015). Clinico-Epidemiological comparison of celusion-prominent and hallucination-prominent clinical subgroups of paranoid schizophrenia. Clinical Schizophrenia & Related Psychoses, 9(3), 117-124.

Kubrick, S. (1980). The Shining. England: Elstree Studios.

Walia, A. (2015). Genetic link found between mental illness and creativity. Retrieved from

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/06/14/genetic-link-found-between- mental-illness-creativity-here-are-the-details/.

Piers, R. W. (2017). Hearing voices and psychiatry’s (real) medical model. Psychiatric Times,

34(9), 30-32).

(2018, June 24). Blood Alcohol Levels. Retrieved from https://www.alcohol.org.nz/alcohol-its-effects.

(2018, June 26). Abilify; Seroquel. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/drugs.

Jack’s Crisis: What Role Did Narcissistic Injury and Cultural Circumstance Play in Jack’s Breakdown?

Arguably the most iconic scene in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is the reveal of what exactly he has been writing during his time at The Overlook. As a terrified Wendy flips through pages and pages filled with only the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” the audience gets confirmation of something they are already fairly certain of: Jack is losing his mind (Kubrick 1:41). Exactly what has caused this to happen to him however, is unclear. What role did narcissistic injury and cultural circumstance play in Jack’s breakdown? Various scholars have proposed their own answers to this question, but the answer is completely different depending on who you ask. On one side of the spectrum there are views like that of Matthew Merced, who wrote for the International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies about the psychological side of Jack’s issues, and then are people like Christopher Hoile, who wrote arguing that the supernatural aspects of the film are what had the most effect. The Overlook is haunted, but Jack is also haunted by personal issues before he steps foot in the hotel. This is one of the most horrifying parts of the film; upon further analysis, Jack’s breakdown may be caused by things that could happen to anyone. His failures haunt him, and with the film releasing after a time period where the entire country failed in a similar fashion, this was bound to have an impact on American audiences. Jack suffered a narcissistic injury, stemming from his personal failures, and it is demonstrated through his family and career problems that result in a serious insecurity. This reflects the American “crisis of confidence” that preceded the film’s release.

The decade before the release of The Shining was one that rocked the confidence of the United States, and by looking at this, we can understand how Jack may have been previously set up for narcissistic injury. As stated by the US History Organization, “Something was terribly wrong in America in the 1970’s” (US History). The country itself was no longer sure of itself. The supposed military superpower of the United States was failing to beat guerilla forces in Vietnam, there were gas lines due to an oil embargo, American citizens were held hostage in Iran, and the people no longer had faith in the office of the President after Watergate. Couple all of this with an economy experiencing stagflation, a combination of high inflation and unemployment previously thought to be impossible, and it is understandable why the American people no longer held the same confidence; Jimmy Carter’s memorable malaise speech, in which he described the nation’s problems as “a crisis of confidence… we can this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives”, summarizes how the people felt. This also correlated with a rise in serial killers, as the likes of Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jim Jones, David Berkowitz, Dennis Rader, and John Wayne Gacy terrorized the nation and captivated its attention (Bergeron). This long list of famous serial killers is not something that would happen today, and this can be at least be partially attributed to the state of the country at the time. The unpredictability and uncertainty of national affairs was part of the push for these men to do terrible things, and the same can be said of Jack himself. Jack is not only a reflection of the American mindset during the 1970’s, but he would have been affected by it himself, further decreasing his confidence and making him more vulnerable to narcissistic injury.

While Jack was struggling with his failure before reaching the hotel, this is something that all people go through, as everyone is bound to fail at something important to them at some point in their lives. Where Jack differs from a normal person is that he suffered a narcissistic injury, meaning he was dealt such a blow to his ego and self confidence that he could not mentally recover. In his article “How Narcissistic Injury May Contribute to Reactive Violence: A Case Example Using Stanley Kubrick’ s The Shining”, Matthew Merced explains the phenomenon. He starts by giving an example of a real-life school shooting that happened in Washington. He discusses how the perpetrator, a seemingly normal, successful and happy 15-year-old boy, appeared to be calm, methodical and have a blank stare while shooting several of his classmates in their high school and then committing suicide. Merced explains that this was an example of reactive violence, and that it typically occurs to an already mentally unstable person after a severe narcissistic injury. In this example, one of the victims was a girl who had rejected the perpetrator when he asked her out on a date. Narcissistic injury triggers the brains defense systems, and most healthy people are able to cope, but a mentally weakened person’s normal defense systems may not be strong enough for them to move on from their failure, and the brain can subvert to a more primitive state where violence seems like the only option to protect oneself, and many perpetrator’s view these random acts of aggression as self-defense.

Merced describes many people having episodes like these as “feeling detached” or even “describing the events as an out of body experience” (Merced). He then suggests that this is what triggered Jack’s outburst, not the supernatural powers of the hotel. Supporting this theory is the timing of Jack’s outbursts in the film. The first time Jack has a major outburst at Wendy is when he is working and he tells her to leave, which she responds to by saying “I’ll come back later, maybe you’ll let me read something then”. This is the first time he really appears to break, as he yells at his wife and tells her to “get the fuck out of here” (Kubrick 44:00). At this point, nothing supernatural has happened to Jack, and it is questions about his writing that set him off. This suggests that Merced’s ideas about reactive violence do indeed apply to Jack, and that his outbursts are triggered in part by the narcissistic injury of his career failure. This is a bout of narcissistic rage; severe symptoms of which “include outburst of physical violence, directed at both objects and people, and vocal outrage” (Understanding Narcissistic Rage). The 1970’s were the decade of the celebrity serial killer with apparently successful and seemingly normal men like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy gaining national attention for dozens of random killings (A Time of Malaise). The country was captivated by the question of how these men could commit such atrocities, and the answer may lie in Merced’s article. The increase in these serial killers during this time period suggests that the declining state of the country primed men for this type of insanity. Jack’s issues and the historical context combined with the scientific understanding of narcissistic injuries demonstrate that Jack is not a man possessed, but rather someone unable to deal with his personal failures. The expectations placed on Wendy also take a toll on Jack.

In his analysis of Wendy, Manchel describes her as a passive woman behaving how she was expected to at the time but ultimately ignoring her feelings about her family. During the scene where the doctor examines Danny, Manchel describes Wendy as “Nervous and smoking rapidly, Wendy personifies a deeply troubled woman who has genuine concerns for her child’s safety and the future of her marriage” (Manchel). While he suggests she knows that her relationship with Jack and Danny is not headed in a good direction, the patriarchal society during the time period suggests she should keep her concerns to herself, and she does, which ultimately ends up hurting herself and Jack. Her intentional ignorance is shown again when she describes the incident of Danny’s abuse to the doctor, as she makes excuses for him saying he was “had been drinking and got home late so he was in a bad mood” and describes the injury as a freak accident (Kubrick 17:00). It becomes clear that she does not truly believe this when Danny shows up bruised in the hotel and she immediately blames Jack. This disfunction and lack of accountability for Jack contributes to his mental instability. Torrance’s failure to live up to societal expectations results in a damaged ego, meaning he is primed for a psychotic meltdown before any supernatural intervention.

The stance that The Shining is indeed a supernatural film as it is first to be is one taken by many critics, and even Stanley Kubrick himself. In his article “The Uncanny and the Fairy Tale in Kubrick’s The Shining”, Christopher Hoile makes the argument that the driving force of the film is “two men possessed”, referring to Danny and Jack (Hoile). He argues that they follow a parallel development throughout the film, but ultimately make different decisions and Danny’s rejection of the apparitions is what prevents the murders at the hotel from being repeated (Hoile). However, the parallelism of Jack and Danny’s paths that Hoile repeated discusses can be debated. Jack’s torment for the majority of the film is purely realistic, and it is not until about an hour into the film that he encounters anything ghostly, well after he appears to lose his grip on sanity when Wendy questions him on his writing (Kubrick 44:00). On the other hand, Danny encounters supernatural forces almost immediately upon entering the hotel, and this is the main source of his troubles until Jack breaks down. Jack’s state can be attributed to narcissistic injury and societal pressure, whereas Danny’s is purely the work of The Overlook’s ghosts.

In addition to scholars such as Hoile, Kubrick contested the idea of the lack of supernatural action taken on Jack in a 1980 interview with critic Michael Ciment. In the interview Kubrick agrees that Jack comes to the hotel in a weak mental state, but says it is “at the mercy of its powerful evil, his is quickly ready to fulfill its dark role” and that “for the purposes of telling the story, my view is that the paranormal is genuine” (Ciment). It is important to note that this interview coincided with the release of the movie, and that Kubrick had part of it redacted. It is likely that Kubrick did not want to make the film appear too unsettling, and wanted to leave more interpretation open to the viewers. Earlier in the interview, Kubrick responds to a suggestion of a more realistic interpretation by saying “A story of the supernatural cannot be taken apart and analyzed too closely … If you submit it to a completely logical and detailed analysis it will eventually appear absurd” (Ciment). In the case of The Shining, however, this does not prove to be true. Using Merced’s psychological knowledge of how narcissistic breakdowns and injury works, it can be concluded that Jack’s actions could have realistically been triggered by personal failures.

Jack Torrance’s troubles are evident from Kubrick’s very first scene, which features a disturbing soundtrack laid over a bird’s eye view scene of a car driving through the wilderness to The Overlook (Kubrick 0:01). He accepts the job largely because he has failed in many aspects of his life, in his career, as a husband, as a father, and as a man in 1970’s America. It is these failures and his inability to deal with them that spur the horrors later in the movie. Jack’s insecurities about his career failure are made evident early in the film, when Stuart Ullman tells his business partner that Jack is a school teacher and Jack quickly interjects saying, “Former school teacher” and then stating that he is a writer and “teaching was more or less a way of making ends meet” (Kubrick 5:35). This is Jack’s most glaring insecurity, and his trip to The Overlook, while supposed to be a kickstart to his writing career, ends up destroying his faith in his ability to be successful as a writer, contributing to his mental breakdown. This reflects not only Jack’s failure, but also the struggles of the United States economy, which was suffering through stagflation and oil embargos. Much as American’s had to wait in line for gas, Jack had to work a job he hated and struggle to become a writer (Myre). Jack’s dissatisfaction with his family is also evident before he even reaches the hotel, and the societal expectations of the time amplify this failures effect on his self-worth. These sentiments are echoed by Frank Manchel, writing for Literature Film Quarterly. In introducing his thesis, he states “The Shining’s reception is skewed by a contemporary critical desire to make Jack Torrance—the white, American, middle-class father–the scapegoat for the sins of a patriarchal society” (Manchel). He does not excuse Jack’s actions in any way, but in saying this he does take a much more sympathetic view of the character than most critics. Rather than blaming Jack as in individual or the ghosts of The Overlook for the tragedy, he claims that pressures for men in society at the time and lack of options for Jack pushed him towards insanity. Similar Jack has failed, but the male driven society at the time offers him no fall back plan, as men are expected to succeed.

Jack Torrance’s mental breakdown and terrible actions in The Overlook can be attributed to his narcissistic injury as a result of his personal failures. This is demonstrated by his preexisting issues before arrival, coupled with his family issues and the American mindset during the time period. Jack’s problems can be seen as a microcosm for the American “crisis of confidence” during the 1970’s, and it is important that the country learns from this. Many of the issues that cause this phenomenon are reoccurring today, from Donald Trump’s election to the increased pollical and social divisiveness within the country today. The Gallup poll (How Popular Is Donald Trump) has Trump’s current approval rating around the same level as Nixon’s second term approval rating, and that should serve as an example of how history is in danger of repeating itself. As the public goes through this period of increased uncertainty and confusion, it is important that they remember how failure can affect us all. A confidence shock to an entire country can increase personal risk for narcissistic injury, and Americans must do their best to avoid this.

Works Cited

“A Time of Malaise.” US History, Independence Hall Association.

Bergeron, Ryan. “’The Seventies’: The Decade’s Worst Killers.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Aug. 2015.

Ciment, Michel. Kubrick. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1984.

Close, Glenn. “Mental Illness: The Stigma of Silence.” The Huffington Post, 21 Oct. 2009.

Ebert, Roger. “The Shining Movie Review & Film Summary.” RogerEbert.com, 18 June 2006

“How Popular Is Donald Trump?” FiveThirtyEight, 13 Dec. 2017.

Kilker, Robert. “The Monstrous Feminine in The Shining.” Literature Film Quarterly, 54-63.

Kubrick, Stanley, director. The Shining. Warner Bros., 1980.

Manchel, Frank. “What about Jack? Another perspective on family relationships in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.” Literature Film Quarterly, vol. 23, issue 1, 1995, pp. 68

Mattson, Kevin. “Examining Carter’s ‘Malaise Speech,’ 30 Years Later.” NPR, 12 July 2009.

Merced, Matthew. “How Narcissistic Injury May Contribute to Reactive Violence: A Case Example Using Stanley Kurbrick’s The Shining.” International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 18 Mar. 2016. Wiley Online Library, Accessed 26 Mar. 2017

Myre, Greg. “Gas Lines Evoke Memories Of Oil Crises In The 1970s.” NPR, 10 Nov. 2012.

Popovich, Adam. “The Shining: The Most Complex Horror Film Ever Made.” Grizzly Bomb, 25 Sept. 2015.

“Understanding Narcissistic Rage.” Psychologia.