Is there a connection between 2001's HAL and THE SHINING's Jack Torrance?

Both are obsessed about their "missions" or "jobs" -- HAL with, well, 
you know; and Jack with his caretaking-contract with the Overlook (and, 
by extension, to his pseudo-job of writing his book.) Just as HAL says 
to Bowman "this mission is too important for you to jeopardize it", Jack 
goes ballistic whenever it's suggested that the family leave the 
Overlook (and also when Wendy interrupts his "writing.") And both HAL 
and Jack turn into homicidal raving maniacs by the end . . .


[Excerpts from Jeff Smith's article, "Careening Through Kubrick's 
Space", CHICAGO REVIEW, Volume 33 #1, Summer, 1981 pp. 62-73]

The aerial shots that introduce the mountain setting of THE SHINING
sweep across a hilly landscape, recalling the penultimate, "Star Gate"
sequence of 2001.

We might guess that Kubrick once again is taking us to a hotel,
there to see a man transformed, again by "aliens" -- but aliens who,
like the landscape, will prove all the more sinister for their surface
familiarity, and contact with whom promises nothing so climactic as in
2001. Indeed, such contact marks only the beginning of the odyssey in

From the outset, the Shining's reduction of 'environment' to a
particular place suggests a different outlook. Elimination of 2001's
visual expansiveness leaves a 'space' that, though superficially vast --
clearly too big for its three winter occupants -- both physically
and psychologically imprisons. . . .

Thus the many doors that open only onto more hotel, and the mirrors,
deceptively breaching or enlarging space, that really turn one's view
inward and collapse the prospect of space back onto itself: the
equation of space and the self in a paradox of identity perseverant from
Narcissus to NO EXIT . . .

With THE SHINING Kubrick fully develops the most forbidding
implications of his own longstanding worldview, and in a work addressed,
like 2001, directly to the theme of man's relation to the universe.

Structurally, he accomplishes the task by making a whole story based
on 2001's middle section, the space journey. The new "astronauts" have
no universe except their claustrophobic spaceship, where relationships
begun in uneasy balance gradually break down into menace and terror.
Jack serves as the HAL aboard this ship. His degenerate sense of duty
and integrity blocks Wendy's supposed efforts to "jeopardize this
mission," and in savaging her request that they leave the Overlook, Jack
betrays his hysterical, HAL-like fear of disconnection. Many other
motifs suggest a parallel identification of Danny and Wendy with
Discovery's astronauts, the passengers and victims whose suspicions
ignite the ship's crisis. But a crucial difference arises in THE SHINING 
out of the inseperability of space and spaceship, goal and
journey. Jack ultimately also fills David Bowman's spacesuit; even more
than in 2001, man is his technology, and hence the computer can be
neither unplugged nor wished destruction. The temporary disconnection
merely marks arrival at an essential plane of being. Utterly depraved,
man victimizes himself, and since the Spaceship Overlook has no "space"
to move in except itself, the voyage never ends.

In other words, THE SHINING depicts a chaotic and relativistic
universe devoid of higher agencies, one whose very size and emptiness
infuriatingly underscore human limitations and forever condemn man to
endure his own grotesque self. Space, technology, and aliens constitute
the universe but nowhere are objectified and rendered "safe"; and with
God displaced, the weak and conflicted self known to the seventeenth
century comes to the center position, doomed to the endless deceptions
of its own doors and mirrors. What earlier eras and classic science
fiction account a Faustian interest in at least some kind of
transcendence becomes (as it is for many modernists) a chilling picture
of self-satisfied human "striving" toward indenture to the demons of the
Id. The devil's pact offers no reward in a universe where certainty of
knowledge is not possible. Man defines himself existentially only by
his own dehumanizing actions -- hence Jack's ultimate reduction to pure
act, and his likely readiness to annoint yet another as having "always"
been the caretaker.

                                                   (Submitted by J.D.)

Back to Table of Contents.