Doctor Sleep, the follow up to the classic Stephen King story and horror movie hallmark The Shining, is set to hit theaters on November 8th, 2019. This will finally give us the long-awaited opportunity to catch up with Danny Torrance and how his life turned out after the dark tragedy at the Overlook hotel which scarred him as a child. Of course, one of the central connections that ties Danny Torrance in both the past and future is the power to ‘shine.’ The only problem some people might come across is, well, what exactly is the Shining?
For the purposes of clarity, we’re going to be incorporating elements from both the film and novelization of The Shining; while the two interpretations of the power can vary, they basically fall under the same pretenses and they help to give a bigger picture of what the power actually is. The Shining is set up as something ambiguous within the context of both the novel and the movie, at least at first, before we start to see the rules surrounding the power start to manifest.
First and foremost, The Shining is a sort of telepathic link that allows users to communicate with one another. Dick Holloran confirms as much in the film adaptation, talking about how he and his grandmother used to have “entire conversations without ever opening their mouths,” which is also where the term Shining is first coined. Doctor Sleep introduces the same concept between main deuteragonists Danny Torrance and young Abra Stone, the two able to share a sort of psychic bond that allows them to fight back against forces moving against them.
Of course, there’s more to the force besides simple communication. The Shining allows those that use it to “see things as they truly are,” or to have glimpses of psychic traces that certain people and objects leave behind. People have been able to associate this with the many hauntings and ghosts that inhabit the Overlook hotel when Danny, Jack and Wendy Torrance first move in as caretakers in 1975. While many of the hauntings in the film are left more open-ended and ambiguous, the novel gives a bit more context to some of the happenings and how they’re connected to the turbulent and violent history of the Overlook; Room 237 (217 in the novel) has a deep history in the novel, belonging to a Mrs. Lorraine Massey earlier in 1975.
Thanks to Danny’s Shining, he’s able to see psychic traces that Mrs. Massey left behind in Room 237 after she committed suicide in the tub, seeing her as a grotesque and bloated corpse that attempts to strangle him when he goes to investigate. That’s not to mention many of the other hauntings Danny encounters in the Overlook, apparitions that only become stronger and much more vivid as threats thanks to his ability to see and strengthen their presence. This also comes up in Doctor Sleep to some degree whenever the main antagonists, the Top Knots, find themselves a child that’s particularly gifted with ‘The Shining.’ Whenever one of these kids comes face to face with the leader of this immortal band of psychic predators, Rose the Hat, they gain a glimpse into a particularly twisted form that…well, let’s just say the kids spend their final moments in sheer terror at what lies underneath that dreadfully beautiful smile.
This also leads in somewhat to another aspect that’s not entirely touched upon, especially not within the confines of Kubrick’s film. As the Shining allows people to see the way things are, this gives a sort of glimpse into the past of some objects based on the imprints they leave behind. However, there’s also an indication that the Shining can act as a form of clairvoyance, a sort of warning of what might be to come. While this is never outright stated, the one thing we really have to go on with this is Danny Torrance’s imaginary friend “Tony.” Throughout the story, Tony is an “imaginary friend” that warns Danny of the Overlook Hotel’s troubled past and tells him to keep his ability to ‘shine’ a secret. Tony’s the one who’s behind that infamous “Redrum” scene in Kubric’s film.
In the movie, Tony is never seen and mostly acts as a bridge between the horrible visions that young Danny has and warnings about Jack Torrance’s decreasing mental sanity. In the book, however, Tony is a little more connected to Danny than we might think; near the final chapters, before the main climax, Tony reveals himself to be an extension of Danny, a future self based on his middle name “Anthony.” It’s heavily implied that this is Danny, at least 10 years into the future, sending messages back to his younger counterpart and warning him of the dangers he’s about to face. This bridges the gap between telepathy and clairvoyance, giving us one of the most ambiguous and slightly creepy manifestations of this ability, a way to connect with oneself in the past.
Furthermore, King actually goes to the extra lengths to develop the ability further, with powerful users of the ‘shining’ able to affect the minds of others; many of the Top Knot, the immortals that hunt children that possess ‘shine,’ have the ability to affect how others perceive them and can give hypnotic suggestions to those they interact with. Danny himself is able to utilize this within Doctor Sleep, though the exact way he does we won’t spoil here. In addition, Abra Stone, Danny’s protégé of sorts, is able to interact directly with the physical world around her. She does everything from causing earthquakes, inhabiting her parents dreams and even levitating all of the spoons in her house to match the magic trick of a party magician.
Of course, perhaps the easiest way to sum this up is that the ‘shining’ is merely “psychic,” but that takes a good bit away from the very ambiguous and slightly off-kilter nature of the power. The entire purpose behind this ability is to be a form of power that allows horrors to become disturbingly real and to act as a way for the past to come and affect the present…of course, that’s a more thematic interpretation of it and doesn’t really serve as a sufficient answer to “just what the hell is it?”
What do you think of the various abilities in the books and movies for those that can “shine?” Leave your comments down below and feel free to follow me at @LukeAdaVA on Twitter!