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The Shining: Movie Versus Book Comparison

A normal culture in the entertainment scene is the adaptation of literal works into screen productions to ride on the book’s popularity and reach out to the crowds who prefer watching to reading. It is typical of the film adaptation to stray away from the book to amplify the cinematic experience of the story (Bluestone). Similarly, the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining into a motion picture by Stanley Kubrick perfectly captures this trend. The novel centers on the protagonist, John, who visits a desolate hotel with the company of his young wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, for a vacation. In contrast, the main character is named Jack in Stanley Kubrick’s movie. The differences between the pieces range from characters’ names, descriptions, motives and plot development. However, both the novel The Shining and the movie are masterpieces in their respective genres. A thorough review of the book and the film reveals that the input of the difference in Kubrick’s adaptation serves to amplify rather than destroy the shining of King’s story.

Firstly, the protagonist’s motives for being at the Overlook Hotel are drastically different between the book and the film. In both media, the main character is depicted as a writer struggling with writer’s block; however, the similarities end there. In the novel, John struggles with a project which he quickly abandons after getting the opportunity to caretake The Overlook for the winter season. Thus, John decides to embark on a new project writing about the history of the haunted Overlook hotel. In contrast, the film portrays Jack as a hotelier out on vacation who learns about the hotel’s haunted history during his interview for the caretaking position. As a result, John resorts to alcohol to deal with The Overlook’s ghosts, who constantly chip away at him to steal his shine. However, Jack’s turmoil is psychological in nature; hence his alcoholism in the film is unexplored. Despite the differences in the depiction of the protagonist’s motives and their way of dealing with issues, both the movie and the novel portray the main character fighting against his demons, striving to break away from self-made traps.

Secondly, the protagonist’s mental state differs greatly between the movie’s depiction and the novel. The Shinning film has Jack as a mentally disturbed individual whose grasp of reality loosens gradually as the plot develops. Thus, considering his deteriorating mental status, it is conceivable that he ends up attacking and killing his wife while injuring Danny. The protagonist’s actions are directly attributable to a mental state than supernatural causes. However, King’s John is a normal, loving husband and father. Despite his alcoholism, John cares greatly for his family. However, the ghosts haunting The Overlook possess him and drive him to attack his own family. Nonetheless, his goodwill overcomes the evil in him just in time for him to set Danny free. Therefore, Kubrick and King depict different reasons to explain the protagonist’s actions.

Additionally, John uses a roque mallet while Jack wields an axe to propagate the violence in the story. King’s protagonist employs a mallet with an oversized head to terrorize his family and Dick Hallorann. The selected weapon in the novel is appropriate to explain how the attacked characters can survive. The use of a mallet on Hallorann leads to his survival, from which he ultimately helps Wendy and Danny escape the hotel following the attempt on their lives. Similarly, the use of such a blunt tool alludes to the protagonist being driven by supernatural forces; thus, he chooses the only available weapon. On his volition, John would use a more fatal weapon. On the other hand, Kubrick’s Jack is psychotic and out to cause harm. Thus, he utilizes an axe to kill his wife and Hallorann. The axe enhances the film’s cinematic appeal as it causes more damage and gorier scenes.

Finally, John’s death differs from Jack’s death. In the movie, Jack chases Danny into the hedge maze, where he gets hopelessly lost. Consequently, he collapses in an unknown corner due to exhaustion and freezes to death because of the winter cold. Thus, his death is outside the hotel, and the hotel remains standing. In contrast, John in the novel is only violent due to the ghosts possessing him. Therefore, when he regains himself and is aware of his actions and surroundings, John remembers forgetting to dump the hotel’s boiler. Throughout the story, his duty to regulate the boiler grounds him. Thus, he stops his chase of Danny to try and relieve the pressure in the boiler; unfortunately, it’s too late. The boiler explodes in John’s face, consequently burning down The Overlook.

In conclusion, Kubrick made many alterations to King’s story in his film adaptation of The Shining. The differences include changing the protagonist’s name and causes for their violent actions. The outcomes of the protagonist’s family are also different, with Wendy and Halloran dying in the film while they survive in the novel. Despite the differences, the novel was a literary success, while the film was a Box Office hit. The changes instituted by Stanley Kubrick immensely elevated the story’s cinematic appeal. Scenes such as the twin ghost girls, conspicuously missing in the novel, cemented the film’s standing as a horror film. Thus, despite the outrage in changes made when novels are adapted for the screen, Kubrick’s alterations were necessary to provide a logical, thrilling and visually appealing story of the Torrance’s and The Overlook. The differences help celebrate Torrance’s story in a cinematic medium.

Works Cited

Bluestone, George. Novels into film. Univ of California Press, 1968.

King, Stephen. The Shining. New York: Doubleday, 1977. Print.

Kubrick, Stanley. The Shining. USA: Warner Bros, 1980. film.


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