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Symbolism in The Shining

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The Shining

Symbolism in The Shining determines to find all the hidden references that director Stanley Kubrick put in his 1980 film The Shining, from Indian Genocide, to the Holocaust, to the Illuminati.

Appology for faking the Moon landingEdit

The US government allegedly hired Stanley Kubrick, who’d directed 2001: A Space Odyssey the previous year, to fake film of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. The Shining contains Kubrick’s coded apology. There are piles of Tang, the powdered fruit drink used on space flights, visible in the pantry. Danny wears an Apollo 11 jumper. Room 237 is a reference to the distance between Earth and the moon: 237,000 miles. When Jack types “All work and no play…”, the first word looks like “A11” or Apollo 11. The twins represent NASA’s Gemini space programme. Jack’s rant at Wendy when she wants to leave represents Kubrick arguing with his own wife about his deception: "Does it matter to you at all that the owners have placed their complete confidence and trust in me, and that I have signed a contract in which I have accepted that responsibility?"

Native American genocideEdit

When the hotel manager gives the Torrance family a tour, he mentions that the Overlook sits atop an Indian burial ground. The film is full of Native American symbology, from Navajo wall hangings in the ballroom to the pantry’s stockpile of Calumet baking soda – the cans bearing the brand's logo of a Native American in warrior headdress. "Calumet" means "peace pipe" and the cans represent the white men’s broken promises and dishonest treaties. When Jack kills chef Dick Hallorann, the dead body lies on a rug with an Indian motif – a metaphor for weak Americans slaughtering the Indians. Danny's visions of blood streaming from the lift represents the souls buried beneath the hotel, with the elevator descending into the basement like a bucket in a well, bringing up a haul of blood when it returns to the surface. Even the date on the climactic vintage photograph, July 4th, is an ironic reference to the fact that Independence Day doesn’t apply to the country’s indigenous occupants.

Hotel HellEdit

When Jack Torrance signs his employment contract, it’s a Faustian pact with the devil – hence his descent into a hell full of blood, ghostly visions and his personal fears.

The HolocaustEdit

Much of the film’s soundtrack is made up of post-war compositions influenced by the horrors of the Second World War. Jack's typewriter is German and his deranged typing symbolises the Third Reich’s mechanical methods of killing, and obsession with list-making. The machine is made by Adler which translates as “eagle” - the Nazi emblem, also spotted on Jack’s yellow T-shirt. Most compellingly, there’s play on the number 42 throughout the film: 42 cars in the hotel parking lot, 42 on one of Danny's shirts and on the license plate of Halloran's rental car. If you multiply the numerals of Room 237 (2 x 3 x 7), you get 42. Midway through the film, Wendy and Danny watch The Summer of '42 on TV. All this numerology references the year 1942, when the Nazis put their “Final Solution” into place.

The MinotaurEdit

Stephen King’s novel didn’t feature a hedge maze but Kubrick added it for the film as a reference to the part-man, part-bull creature who lives at the centre of a labyrinth. The hotel itself is maze-like, with Jack representing the child-devouring monster. The figure on a skiing poster in the hotel resembles a Minotaur, as does another poster of a cowboy riding its bull. There are also repeated shots of Jack Torrance looking taurine, his forehead jutting and eyes rolling wildly, like a bull about to charge.

CIA mind-controlEdit

A seemingly out-of-place ski poster is visible in one of the shots of the freaky twin girls. The word “Monarch” appears on it, which was a widely rumoured codename for a CIA “behavioural engineering” programme called MKUltra, which breaks minds down using LSD and experimental techniques. The Overlook Hotel represents the CIA and is functioning the same way on Jack Torrance, chipping away at his mind with creepy hallucinations intended to crack him.

DreamworldEdit

There are all manner of spatial anomalies in the hotel: doors that don’t lead anywhere, windows with the wrong view and rooms that seem to move around. The layout of the Overlook makes no physical sense. Neither do the ghosts or visions. That’s because it’s all a nightmare within Jack’s alcohol-soaked, writer’s block-suffering mind.

The IlluminatiEdit

Kubrick used visual references to Masonic symbols, like the Eye of Providence. Eyes and triangles are highly featured in The Shining: triangular chair backs, step-ladders, roofs, mountains and tapering corridor shots.

Jack the DevilEdit

Jack's unusual pose in the vintage black-and-white photograph shown at the end of the film is exactly the same as the Tarot card for Baphomet.

SourcesEdit

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