Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining Analysis

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining Analysis

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining Analysis





Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining Analysis

The Shining, the 1980 horror masterpiece by Stanley Kubrick, has attracted uncountable analyses concerning its thematic focus particularly in relation to the American discourse. For over three decades since its production, the film has become a subject of growing academic consideration, and anyone watching it today can agree that it is a great film deserving of its reputation. This paper analyses some aspects of the film, more precisely in relation to contextual music and the themes of wealth, class, childhood, and play. It also offers an interpretation of the red color and identifies the film’s protagonist and antagonist.

Music and Emotional Quality

In this film, as in any other, music is of crucial significance. Considering that this is a horror masterpiece, one would expect Kubrick to use music of a close or similar genre as the film. Apart from a few songs, Kubrick has used music drawn from the classical contemporary repertory, a collection that fits perfectly into the contextual gothic atmosphere of this film. Use of various compositions has had a remarkable and valuable impact on the emotional quality of the film, more so if one interrogates the context of their original composition. For instance, the film derives is title from The Shining, a piece by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind which plays at 3’27’ (Kubrick et al., 1980). This scene is emotionally intense, with Jack throwing objects in the kitchen as Danny telepathically listens to his parents. The music is interrupted as Jack approaches Ullman’s office. Arguably, this interruption serves to draw the viewer’s attention to the emotionally charged events that are about to unfold, hence the title of the film. Another song, It’s All Forgotten Now by Ray Noble seems to make an ironical comment about the conversation between Grady and Jacky. Many other songs throughout the film serve such purposes besides being representative of the gothic genre, which is a combination of fiction and horror where the film belongs.

Wealth and Class

The film’s central tension can be noted in the context of differences in socioeconomic status, that is class. Many characters in the film such as Danny and Halloran (representing the emerging working class, are aware that the existing class difference resulted from past atrocities. Overlook’s owner, Ullman, commands authority and is wealthy, but the hotel has been a stage of many instances of violence. This metaphorically speaks to the fact that many wealthy people are where they are because of past exploitations of the lower classes. The emerging working class is aware of their socioeconomic standing and how what happened in the past is affecting the present and is likely to affect the future unless drastic measures are taken.


While the theme of childhood as depicted in this film cannot be discussed exhaustively, it is worth noting that it fits well within the broader tension of this horror masterpiece. Overall, the piece’s central tension can be noted in the context of the Torrance family, which represents traditional patriarchal order. In this family, there is underlying repression and violence, phenomena that are deeply disturbing as they also represent the stress, mistreatment, and difficulties defining the childhood of many an American child. Additionally, childhood marks an important phase in society because it is at this stage that societal values are taught to children, hence a near-surety that they will be preserved and passed onto the next generation.


As to the theme of play, Kubrick notably used is as a metaphor to undercut not only meaning (content) but also form. For instance, the Overlook hotel is a huge playground, an aspect that serves to concede The Shining as a playful piece which nevertheless communicates the issues affecting society.

Red (Color)

Red in the film could symbolize the violence and bloodshed that has been witnessed in American society. To refer to the Overlook hotel, it is known for its violent past, which is noticeable to any keen eye. Thus, red could symbolize the bloodshed during such violence. In a broader sense, it could also represent the conflict in society.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Arguably, Jack is the film’s antagonist who is confronted by its protagonists, Wendy and Danny. This inference is informed by Jack’s violent behavior which plays in contrast with Wendy and Danny, who then have no choice but to confront him.


Kubrick, S., Johnson, D., Nicholson, J. & Duvall, S. (1980). The Shining. Warner Home Video, n.d. DVD.