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Stephen King’s versus Stanley Kubrick’s version of the Shining

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Lasell chapter.

At least once in someone’s life they’ve heard the phrase: “The book is better than the movie”. Honestly, it’s more complicated than that. For someone who truly enjoys both, it’s a hard question to answer. Recently I began reading Stephen King’s novel The Shining. I was super excited because I’ve seen the movie before and loved it. I’m a fan of both horror and Stephen King, so I knew I would love the book. However, I always expect the book and movie to have differences. The Shining was one of those movies. 

I want to say for starters that I do not dislike the movie, in fact I think it’s amazing. But, from an adaptation point of view, it was very different. 

Here are a few of the biggest differences between Stephen King’s novel and Stanley Kubrick’s movie:

  1. Wendy is much stronger and more confident. 

Wendy Torrance is one of the most changed characters in Kubrick’s adaptation. In the book, Wendy is this confident woman who loves her husband but is not afraid to protect her child. Throughout the book, Wendy is suspicious of Jack; she checks his breath, watches his movements, and makes sure he does not hurt Danny. Eventually, when Jack’s mind is overcome by the hotel, he hunts for Wendy and Danny. Wendy keeps a knife by her bed, eventually using it to stab Jack. She did what she needed to in order to save Danny, even if it meant killing her husband. 

  1. Jack’s symptoms of alcoholism.

One common theme in both the book and the movie is that Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic. While it is mentioned in the movie and in a few scenes, the movie does not fully capture Jack’s struggle with alcohol. In the book, the way King expresses Jack’s escalating desire for alcohol is through his symptoms. Two of those symptoms are wiping his lips and chewing excedrin. As his obsession with the hotel deepens, and the hotel’s obsession with Jack deepens, his desire for alcohol spirals. 

  1. Danny and his “shining”.

Since he was a young child, Danny Torrence had always been different. He knew things that other children did and could see things that others couldn’t. Before the Torrences even entered The Overlook, Danny had already known about Redrum. Tony had shown Danny a vision of the hotel, in which the word Redrum flashes in green fire. However, in the movie Danny is seen being “possessed” by Tony and repeating the word Redrum. 

  1. The Hotel is alive. 

There are a few specific locations besides the hotel that cause mayhem to the Torrences. In the movie one of them is the hedge maze; in the book it is a topiary garden. One of the first moments Jack begins to lose his mind is when he sees the topiary animals come alive.  However, that isn’t the only time they come alive. Danny and Dick Hallorann also have inhumane experiences with the topiary animals. 

Another location is room 217, or room 237 in the movie. In room 217, Danny walks in and sees the dead body of Lorraine Massey. In the book, when Jack enters he only smells women’s soap and briefly sees Lorraine. Danny never explicitly sees Lorraine in the movie, yet Jack does. As Jack enters room 237, he sees Lorraine: a young, naked woman. She approaches and kisses him, but when he looks in the mirror she’s old and rotting. 

  1. Dick Hallorann does not die. 

An important character in The Shining is Dick Hallorann. While he is not as present until the end of the movie and the book, he is still very important. In both, Dick is a beacon of hope for Danny. Letting him know that he is not alone with his “shining”. 

When things completely spiral out of control, Danny reaches out to Dick. This is more expressed in the book than in the movie, but is still referenced. Despite being far away in Florida, Dick fights his way to the hotel. Eventually, after flying and driving a snowmobile, he makes it to the hotel. In the book, Dick is attacked by topiary animals and falls unconscious after setting them on fire. However, he is still alive and eventually awoken by Wendy. In the movie, Dick enters the hotel and is attacked by Jack. Jack succeeds in his attack and Dick dies. 

These are only five of many more differences between the book and the movie. Both experiences are unique because of their creator; both are extremely interesting and successful because of their creator. However, when basing the movie off of the book, it does show who truly “shines”.

Jade Durkee

Lasell '25

Hi! I'm Jade Durkee, I'm a junior Psychology major at Lasell University. I'm from Hopatcong, New Jersey. I love reading, video games, crocheting, and playing piano.