The Shining: What does the ending mean?

The final scene of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining,
is confusing and long debated.  The photograph asked more questions like “Is Jack Torrance dead?”,   “Did he go back in time?”, “Is this how it ended in the book?”  While Kubrick meant the ending to be ambiguous and open-ended, it is human nature to bring balance by coming up with definitive answers.

When the finale fades to credits, you might have been left sitting confused.    Racing to read Stephen King’s novel, The Shining, will do you no service.  If you had made it to the end, you have already figured out how far apart Kubrick strayed from the book. King’s story was more about Danny.  Kubrick’s narrative is a story more about Jack.  It’s fitting the central character, Jack Torrance, and The Overlook Hotel come together as one.

Pay attention, hearing the melancholy music echo through the halls.  The hotel rewinds, playing the same old songs as if nothing had ever changed.  Jack had been absorbed into the Overlook.  Neither to the past nor present, the hotel is like a vinyl record playing an infinite loop.  Jack will be and had been part of the loop.  He’s been and always had been there.   The spirits, just as Jack first noticed them, will continue thinking of him as the caretaker.  While the final cuts of the photograph transitions from an extreme wide shot, to a wide, to a close up – it is pulling you in.  Jack is staring at you, the last of Overlook’s guests.  He looks very comfortable and at home.  It is not a tortured face of someone lost in hell.  It is a face of a spirit among many spirits.  Jack didn’t join the party.   He never left.

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining


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