A look at a loss of innocence in Stephen King’s “The Shining”

Anyone who has read The Shining by Stephen King could tell you that it’s pretty terrifying to read horror through a child’s perspective. Danny Torrance, a five year old boy who “shines” in his extra-sensory perception and ability to read minds, finds himself in a pretty precarious situation when his abusive, alcoholic father, Jack, loses his job and moves the family to the secluded Overlook Hotel in Colorado to become its new winter caretaker. Jack lost his job in one an angry outburst, and broke his son’s arm in another. King’s description of this event sets in concrete the seriousness of this abuse,

“the snap of the bone had not been loud, not loud, but it had been very loud, HUGE, but not loud… A clean sound with the past on one side of it and all the future on the other, a sound of breaking pencil lead or a small piece of kindling when you brought it down over your knee. A moment of utter silence on the other side, in respect to the beginning future maybe, all the rest of his life.” (23-24)

The combination of parental abuse, his ability to “shine” and the supernatural entities at work to destroy the already broken Torrance family is the perfect equation to end bring Danny’s childhood innocence to an end.

Danny also has an “imaginary friend” named Tony, who bring’s him gruesome premonitions of the future, chaos mixed with the familiar – bloody fingers resting over a porcelain bathtub, his mother’s smashed record player and an ominous message he doesn’t yet understand – REDRUM. These messages come from Tony, waving far away, masking his identity and plunging Danny into fearful darkness. These experiences zap away his innocence and fills him with a sense of fear and dread about his soon-to-be living situation. He is stuck in a situation he seemingly can’t see a way out of. As a child, he can’t say he doesn’t want to go and he can’t clearly explain to his parents why, because he doesn’t quite understand his shine himself.

Ultimately, Danny falls into a paranormal situation at the Overlook Hotel that heightens his shining abilities and the chances of abuse from his father, not drunk from the alcohol that used to satiate him, but from a hotel with a dark past that wants to continue perpetuating evil. The longer the family stays, the further they stray from trust and comfort between each other – necessary factors for meaningful child development. Danny faces manifestations within the hotel that causes him real harm and sews mistrust between his parents that have already been contemplating divorce. Danny has to grow up more quickly than any child ever should. He is a first hand victim of his belligerent father’s explosive anger, an experience difficult to understand from a child’s perspective. He is a five year old boy, forced into dark adult thoughts and horrific adult situations with no context on how to handle them. Danny must learn quickly how to use abilities he didn’t choose to have to keep himself alive. Being plunged into life-threatening situations put the last nail in the coffin of is innocence.

For a more substantial look into this topic, check out my essay –

Bonk – Slow Creeping Chaos Breeds Mind Monsters


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