All Work and No Play: Speculations on Mental Derangement in The Shining
Ashley Taylor and Kristin Benjamin
 

Critics of The Shining use such words as "demented", "perverse" and even "simultaneously humorous and disturbing" to describe Jack Nicholson, playing Jack Torrance, as he loses his grasp on reality (Smith, 1997 p.302). The Shining illustrates a man's descent to madness. Jack, a middle-aged husband and father of five-year-old Danny, watches over an isolated hotel in Denver, Colorado with his family for five months during the winter. Critics explain that Jack Torrance eventually attempts killing his family, as he descends from a troubled husband and father to a homicidal psychotic. Towards the end of this descent, Jack's symptoms indicate the development of schizophrenia.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the primary tool for psychologically diagnosing patients, establishes schizophrenia’s diagnostic criteria, that Jack seems to follow. The patient must have two of the following symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, or catatonic disorganized behavior. Jack exhibits nearly all of these, one of the most apparent being his delusions. He has no doubt that Danny uses his psychic powers in plotting against him. Moscarelli (1996) and his colleagues call this a "delusion of persecution," when the patient feels that a specific person or a group of people plots against him or her (p.7). Additionally, Jack exhibits the "delusion of control," when he believes that the Outlook Hotel's past controls his thoughts as well as his actions (Moscarelli et al. p.7).

Similar to delusions, schizophrenic "symptoms tend to prevent patients … from leading normal lives (Moscarelli et al. p.23). Chalkley (1992) states that individuals plagued by schizophrenia have a view of reality distorted from that formed earlier in life. He claims that individuals create their own view of reality (49). Exposure to fairly strong influences, as with Jack’s experience at the hotel, may actually distort the working view of reality to the point that the person develops schizophrenia. In severe cases of strong external factors, such as Jack's isolation, strained relationship with Danny, and unaffectionate, awkward marriage, the person may completely lose perspective of reality (Chalkley  p.49).

Another symptom that the DSM-IV uses to characterize schizophrenia involves hallucinations (Slade & Bentall, 1988 p.28). Jack also hallucinates, making defective reality judgements and experiencing sensory contradictions. Near the end of his life, when he suffers greatly from schizophrenia, Jack imagines many people attending a party, and even interacts with them. He chats with the non-existent bartender [click here to view this scene] , and converses with a fictitious waiter in the men's room[click here to view this scene], who tells him that he needs to "handle the situation" with Wendy and Danny, who remain oblivious to these sessions . During these hallucinations, Jack's shoulders hang low, he smiles often, and he speaks at a moderate volume and speed, showing an ironic easiness that he does not translate into his non-hallucinatory gestures. Although Hollywood may exaggerate the magnitude of these hallucinations, they do exist in cases of schizophrenia.

Patients of schizophrenia also may show social dysfunction (Moscarelli et al. p.25).  They have difficulty relating to friends and family and exhibit antisocial behavior.  Jack also lacks social interactions with Danny and Wendy. In fact, Jacks interpersonal relationships exemplify this lack of social interaction. Jack, Wendy, and Danny's inability to discuss their emotions contributes very strongly to Jack’s feeling of alienation (Manchel,1995 p.71). Jack's view of Wendy as an object instead of a confidante also contributes to the lack of communication within the family (Smith, 1997 p.50). For example, a month after moving into the hotel, when Wendy asks her husband whether he feels comfortable in the hotel, she wakes him from bed, pours his coffee, and asks if he will take her for a walk.  Despite their marriage, Wendy keeps her distance, sitting about a foot away from Jack. They share no affectionate words or gestures. Their formal mannerisms and facial expressions seem unnaturally cheerful. Thus, Jack’s strained relationship with Wendy may contribute to his uneasiness and feeling of loss of control because he cannot communicate his concerns with her. This alienation indicates a social dysfunction typical of schizophrenic patients.

Jack also exhibits difficulties in work performance, or occupational dysfunction, another symptom of schizophrenia (Moscarelli et al., p.136).  Schizophrenic patients may show a decrease in work quality and often have trouble holding a job for an extended period of time.  Fired from his teaching job three months prior to accepting the new job in Denver, Jack begins working on a writing project with little success. In fact, he accepts the job hoping that the isolation would facilitate his concentration on the project. However, as he tells Wendy when she inquires about his progress, he develops no good ideas after a whole month of their stay at the hotel.

In addition, Jack shows disorganized and catatonic behavior, another characteristic of schizophrenia according to the DSM-IV.  Catatonic behavior includes inappropriate and bizarre behavior (Moscarelli et al., p.137).  Jack acts in a way that frightens Wendy and Danny several times throughout their stay in Denver. At one point, Wendy enters the room where Jack usually writes and flips through his papers. Upon discovering that on each paper, Jack repeats the same sentence, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," she appears visibly upset, with wide eyes and mouth. Jack enters the room, advancing towards Wendy. He backs Wendy up the stairs with a baseball bat, telling her that he wants to "bash her brains in." Wendy retreats from his advances, but he follows her, leaning in with arched eyebrows and an evil grin on his face. The melodrama of this scene is not typical of everyday schizophrenia cases; instead, Hollywood has exaggerated on a symptom of the disease for entertainment.  However, Jack's behavior still exhibits his schizophrenic condition.

Often, confused speech accompanies schizophrenic behavior (Moscarelli et al. p.76).  This could mean that the patient slurs speech, mixes up words, and/or says phrases that do not fit the context of the situation.  When Jack backs Wendy up the stairs, he simultaneously babbles for Wendy to give him the bat she holds, although she is obviously the one in danger. When Jack tries to force his way into the bathroom where Danny and Wendy eventually hide with an ax, he says very random phrases. He quotes the wolf in the three little pig's fairy tale, "little pig, little pig, let me come in. Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin." Jack also alludes to Johnny Carson when he finally breaks in the bathroom door, "heeeeeeeeere's Johnny!" [click here to view this scene].  This confused speech does not fit the context of the situation, thus, making it apparent that Jack has some mental dysfunction. However, since this confusion evident in his speech accompanies such symptoms as delusions, hallucinations, catatonic/disorganized behavior and social/occupational dysfunction, Jack most likely suffers from schizophrenia.

Although Danny and Wendy escape in a Snowcat with no physical harm, Jack freezes to death outside of the hotel.  If he had received anti-psychotic medication such as chlorpromazine, been admitted to a clinic or hospital, received psychotherapy, and obtained maintenance treatment, he would have had a drastically increased chance of recovering (Moscarelli et al p.76). Director Stanley Kubrick obviously chose not to include this in the film for the simple reason that it would not have ended on such a thrilling note.
 
 

 
Annotated Bibliography

Chalkley, R. (1992). Midnight in the mind. New Scientist, 135, 48-50.

Chalkley describes how individuals plagued by schizophrenia have a view of reality distorted from that formed earlier in life. He claims that individuals create their own view of reality, based on genetic makeup and environmental factors. In severe cases of strong genetic and external factors, the person may completely lose perspective of reality. Some develop delusions, while one in ten schizophrenic patients commit suicide. Diagnosing schizophrenia proves difficult because no specific symptoms that signify its presence exist and scientists do not know exactly what causes it. Dopamine suppressor drugs decrease the effects of schizophrenia, but this does not lead to the logical conclusion that an excess of dopamine causes the illness.
Kubrick, S. (1980). The Shining. Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd. Warner Bros.

Manchel, F. (1995). What about Jack? Another perspective on family relationships in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Literature Film Quarterly, 23(1), 68-78.
 

Manchel questions the ideas that Jack’s insanity and the evil forces at the Overlook Hotel caused the Torrance family’s fate and proposes to prove that the public’s concerns must empathize with Jack’s crisis as well as Danny and Wendy’s. He begins with a discussion of Jack’s background, including his childhood abuse (mentioned in the book but not the movie, Manchel points out), current feelings of alienation, and his inability to discuss his emotions with his wife. Manchel then shows why people have sympathized with Wendy and Danny, but not Jack, stating the society’s viewpoints at the time the movie came out. Radical shifts in American values made people look for evil and feminists attacked male pride. However, Manchel insists that Kubrick wanted people to see that everyone has the potential to become evil. As shown in The Shining, Jack and Wendy’s denials of psychological dangers, bad family relations, and Wendy’s weaknesses all lead to the Torrance family’s deterioration and Jack succumbing to evil. Jack blames Wendy for his disappointments and Wendy blames him. Finally, Manchel concludes that Jack does not deserve the antagonistic reputation, but instead deserves empathy because of his situation.
Moscarelli, M., Rupp, A., & Sartoris, N. (1996). Volume 1: Schizophrenia. West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons.
Moscarelli, Rupp, and Sartoris describe the basis of current schizophrenia diagnosis. Only observable actions and patient comments prove useful in aiding a diagnosis. Psychologists currently use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the most accredited tool that psychologists use in diagnosis. According to the DSM-IV, the following symptoms characterize schizophrenia: delusions, confused speech, and catatonic or disorganized behavior. In addition, schizophrenic patients may experience difficulties in social interactions and work performance.
Slade, P. D., & Bentall, R. P. (1988). Sensory deception: a scientific analysis of hallucination. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.
 
Slade and Bentall provide an extensive review of facts and theories about hallucinations. In one relevant chapter, Slade and Bentall describe conditions that psychologists associate with the hallucination experience, including age, reductions in visual or auditory acuity, fevers, abnormal breathing patterns, medical conditions, nervous system disorders, and psychiatric disorders. Then, the authors explore evidence about whether hallucinations are signs of illness, debating whether psychologists should consider these hallucinations distinct from normal diseases. Slade and Bentall also describe psychological as well as biological theories of hallucinations. Finally, the authors conclude by integrating the information into a complete model of the hallucination: hallucinations occur when people make defective reality judgements, and sometimes hallucinators experience some contradictions between their senses.

Smith, G. (1997). ‘Real Horrowshow’: The juxtaposition of subtext, satire, and audience implication in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Literature Film Quarterly, 25(4), 300-307.
 

Smith’s analyzes Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining using a combination of other people’s insights, eventually proving that the movie’s serious yet satirical aspects make it unique and dark. First, Smith summarizes the movie, stating the major events and the characters’ feelings during those events. Then, Smith describes how other people have analyzed the movie, beginning with the Marxist-influenced explanation of The Shining, which states that the movies analogy to American economic and racial politics. Additionally, Smith discusses the idea that the movie satirizes racist and sexist beliefs through Jack’s haughty as well as oppressive relationship with his wife and the black workers at the hotel. Finally, Smith analyzes Stanley Kubrick’s satirical ideas and implications regarding Jack’s progression into madness.
Additional Works Consulted
Bogdanovich, P. (1999). What they say about Stanley Kubrick. The New York Times Magazine.
Movies based on Steven King novels do not usually adapt well, but, according to Bogdanovich, The Shining proves different. He comments on the appropriateness of each actor chosen for the respective roles. Jack Nicholson effectively portrays the evil father. Shelley Duvall conveys the confusion associated with her role, and Danny Lloyd is a convincing child actor. Bogdanovich focuses on director Stanley Kubrick and his attention to detail as shown in The Shining.
Brown, B. (1999). Schizophrenia’s places and seasons. Science News, 155, 11, 170.
Brown identifies several factors linked to the development of schizophrenia. The amount of schizophrenic relatives a person has correlates with the incidence of schizophrenia. Additionally, infectious disease exposure and maternal nutrition during pregnancy as well as location during birth (urban vs. rural) and month of birth link to schizophrenia development. Interestingly, results from this study link the incidence of schizophrenia to environmental factors more than genetic factors. Brown points out that the symptoms of schizophrenia typically appear in adolescence.
Chollar, S. (1988). A viral assault. Psychology Today, 22,21.
Chollar discusses emerging evidence that links the risk of developing schizophrenia to prenatal exposure to certain viruses. The study describes the diagnoses of psychiatric hospital patients who were born after a flu epidemic in Helsinki, Finland in 1957. Scientists compared these diagnoses with the diagnoses of patients born prior to the outbreak. The study’s findings revealed that exposure to the virus during the second trimester increases the risk of developing schizophrenia more than the same exposure in the first and third trimesters, due to the particular stage of neural development that takes place around the second trimester. The mother’s response to the stress accompanying a virulent outbreak causes the resulting risk of schizophrenia.
Dirks, T. (1996). The Shining (1980). Greatest Films.
Dirks enthusiastically reviews The Shining, stating that Stanley Kubrick has created a masterpiece from Stephen King’s best-selling novel by slowing down the pace and creating "lush" images to accompany disturbing music. Dirks then spends the rest of the article describing the plot in detail, including dialogue from each section of the movie. Jack, first has an interview for his new job to take care of The Outlook Hotel for the winter, and gets the job. In the next section, Jack, Wendy, and Danny move in while every employee moves out. Danny discusses his "shining" ability and the dangers of room 237 with Hallorann, the cook. A month later, the Torrance family has adjusted to their winter life, but Jack still cannot write. Danny amuses himself by playing in the maze with his mother and riding his tricycle around the halls of the hotel. However, as a snowstorm approaches, Jack apparently loses sanity, showing a devilish grin. Danny finds two girl ghost twins who invite him to play "forever and ever and ever." The snow hits while Jack’s sanity demolishes, while Danny senses everything because of his "shining" ability. Jack murders Hallorann, who came to save the Wendy and Danny from Jack’s ax, but Wendy and Danny finally escape in Hallorann’s snowmobile, leaving Jack to freeze in the snow.
O’Shea, N. (1998, December 30). The review. The Reel Site.
O’Shea reviews The Shining, describing the movie’s portrayal of human nature’s inclination towards evil through Jack’s deterioration. O’Shea states that Jack Nicholson (playing Jack Torrance) gives a "great" performance with his use of facial expressions (especially the "manic eyebrows") and dialogue presentation (particularly the staircase verbal battle with Wendy). However, the films setting proves the best aspect of the movie, as when Danny explores the hotel on his tricycle and when elevator doors open unleashing a flood of blood. Finally, O’Shea concludes that the film remains second only to The Dead Zone in all of Steven Kings film adaptations because of the acting as well as the directing.
Pathologic lesions in insanity (1994). JAMA, 271, 742.
 
The author states that the factors causing insanity remain unknown. He speculates that a certain substance in excess may flood the nervous system and cause the individual to go insane temporarily, which may result in a chronic deranged state. The author mentions various studies that have proved the "terminal end brushes" of the spinal cord influence conditions of the central nervous system. Scientists postulate that the physical connections within spinal nerves might cause certain states of consciousness and mental capacity. He further develops his theory that these connections account for the ability to perform common tasks without consciously thinking. The varying degree to which an individual has this capacity is determined by the maximum potential that one has for nerve continuity, predetermined by genetic factors, and enhanced by environmental factors. In turn, these connections affect the amount of stimuli individual synapses can tolerate, and the flooding of these synapses may result in mental derangement.
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