Table of content    
  1. The Ending Of 'The Shining': A Recap
  2. 'The Shining' Ending Explained: Why Jack Is In The Photo
  3. Jack's Appearance in Doctor Sleep

'The Shining' Ending Explained: Why Jack Appears In The Photo

Stanley Kubrick's cinematic masterpiece, "The Shining," has perplexed and fascinated audiences since its release in 1980. The film, based on Stephen King's novel, takes viewers on a haunting journey into the Overlook Hotel, exploring themes of madness, psychic abilities, and the cyclical nature of violence.

The Ending Of 'The Shining': A Recap

As the Torrance family—Jack, Wendy, and Danny—becomes the winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel, sinister forces are unleashed. Danny, gifted with psychic abilities known as "the Shine," foresees the impending danger. The hotel's dark history, coupled with Danny's visions, triggers a descent into madness for Jack Torrance.
The Intricate Climax
In the gripping climax, Jack encounters the ghostly bartender Lloyd and the enigmatic Delbert Grady. Grady cryptically asserts that Jack has always been the caretaker, setting the stage for a horrifying revelation. Wendy, armed with a bat, confronts Jack, leading to a chilling confrontation and Jack's temporary confinement.

The Maze Chase and Jack's Demise

As Jack breaks free, a maze chase unfolds, culminating in a violent pursuit of Wendy and Danny. The hotel's malevolent spirits come to life, revealing horrifying visions. The climax showcases the Overlook's dark past, with symbolic scenes like the blood-filled elevator and unsettling encounters in the hotel's corridors.
The film concludes with a frozen Jack in the maze, a poignant image capturing his entrapment in the Overlook's web of malevolence. However, the most perplexing moment occurs in the final shot—a photograph from the hotel's 1921 ball, prominently featuring Jack.
In the final shot, we see a 1921 photograph featuring Jack Torrance in the hotel's ballroom. However, the movie doesn't explicitly explain what this puzzling and haunting revelation means, leaving it open to viewer interpretation. Notably, the film's ending differs significantly from Stephen King's novel, where the hotel is destroyed in an explosion caused by a malfunctioning boiler.

'The Shining' Ending Explained: Why Jack Is In The Photo

why Jack is in the photoSource: IMDb

Kubrick's Explanation

In a rare explanation, Kubrick hinted that the photograph signifies Jack's reincarnation. He suggests that Jack was a former guest or staff member of the Overlook, explaining his eerie familiarity with Lloyd and Grady. This revelation adds a layer of complexity, implying that Jack is eternally bound to the hotel, trapped in a cyclical existence.

Theories and Interpretations
While Kubrick's insight provides clarity, numerous theories persist. The most prevalent theory is that the Overlook absorbed Jack's soul, akin to other trapped spirits. The cyclic nature of violence, paralleled in the Grady storyline, reinforces the notion of eternal entrapment.
At the heart of The Shining's absorption theory is the idea that the malevolent forces within the Overlook Hotel consume Jack Torrance, integrating him into the hotel's haunted history. This concept is rooted in the supernatural and psychological elements woven throughout the film:
  • Jack's pivotal conversation with Delbert Grady in the bathroom, in which Grady cryptically asserts that Jack has "always been the caretaker" and reveals a historical photograph featuring Jack. This scene implies a cyclical nature, suggesting that Jack is somehow linked to the hotel's past, laying the foundation for the absorption theory.
  • Kubrick's decision to replace the explosive boiler in the book with a maze chase is central to the absorption theory. The maze, a complex labyrinth, mirrors the layers of the hotel's history and Jack's psyche. As Jack navigates the maze, he becomes increasingly entangled in the hotel's malevolence, reinforcing the notion of absorption.
  • The Overlook Hotel, built on an "Indian burial ground," becomes a vessel for the spirits of the past, influencing Jack and other characters. The film hints at the hotel's dark history and its ability to manipulate those within its walls. This dark history serves as the backdrop for Jack's descent into madness and eventual absorption.
  • The film's final shot, featuring Jack in the 1921 photo, serves as the culmination of the absorption theory. This photograph, a frozen moment in time, implies that Jack is now part of the hotel's spectral legacy. His presence alongside other guests from the past reinforces the cyclical nature of the hotel's influence, solidifying the absorption theory as a plausible interpretation.
Kubrick's films are often laden with metaphors and symbolism, inviting diverse interpretations. In the case of 'The Shining', the cyclical nature of violence, both physical and psychological, is a central theme. Some theories even suggest underlying themes of sexual abuse, though these remain speculative. The hotel, in a literal and metaphorical sense, becomes a vessel for the ghosts of violence and abuse.

Jack's Appearance in Doctor Sleep

The sequel, "Doctor Sleep," provides a continuation of The Shining's story. It reveals Danny's ongoing struggles with the Overlook's spirits and touches upon Wendy's fate. The movie, directed by Mike Flanagan, even reintroduces Jack Torrance's character in a spectral form. Jack's reappearance in "Doctor Sleep" hints at the absorption theory, with his spirit becoming intertwined with the malevolence of the Overlook.

"The Shining's" ending, with Jack immortalized in a 1921 photograph, symbolizes the cyclical, timeless nature of the Overlook's malevolence. Kubrick's revelation about Jack's reincarnation adds depth to the film's complexity, ensuring that, like the Overlook Hotel itself, the mysteries of "The Shining" endure through time. While interpretations may vary, the absorption theory provides a compelling lens through which to unravel the profound and chilling conclusion of Kubrick's cinematic masterpiece.

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