The month of October is associated with Halloween and Halloween is associated with all things scary. When one thinks about scary things they usually think of horror movies and one of the most frightening films ever made is Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” which was based on a horror novel by the famous author Stephen King. “The Shining” is considered by many readers to be King’s scariest book (which is a huge compliment considering how many horror novels the man has produced) but it is also a very clever literary masterpiece that uses writing techniques—like tone and foreshadowing—to fully engage the reader and turn on the terror.
“The Shining” is not a book for young children but high school aged students should certainly be able to absorb its themes…including the use of foreshadowing (as discussed below). Discussing the literary techniques within a novel is an excellent way to make readers aware of what constitutes good writing and why. Hence, if you are a homeschooling a teen who likes horror and reading, this is one way to use “The Shining” in your lesson plan.
Foreshadowing is a literally technique that prepares readers for plotlines that will unfurl as a story progresses. Foreshadowing can be achieved in several different ways but it is most commonly implemented via the setting of a story, the characters in the story, or a mix of both.
One of the best examples of foreshadowing in 20th century literature are the events in Stephen King’s classic horror novel “The Shining.” The story centers around a man named Jack Torrance who accepts a position as a winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel. Every winter the hotel is closed for several months with only a caretaker—and his family—living there in isolation.
“The Shining” reaches its climax when Jack goes insane and attempts to murder both his wife, Wendy, and their five-year-old son, Danny. Jack’s ultimate homicidal madness is foreshadowed by a number of elements throughout the earlier parts of the novel. Firstly, it is revealed that the hotel has a dark past filled with depravity and murder. In fact, a previous winter caretaker went mad and murdered his family with an axe. Secondly, Jack’s son Danny possesses psychic abilities and throughout the novel he sees terrifying images of the ghosts that haunt the hotel. Thirdly, Jack is a recovering alcoholic who is violent when he is under the influence. As the story progresses, Jack rekindles his old alcoholism and alcohol-fueled tirades. Finally, the book expertly details the deteriorating weather conditions that are occurring outside the hotel; specifically a huge snowstorm. Hence, when Wendy and Danny find themselves fleeing from murderous Jack they have no way to escape from the hotel.
The foreshadowing in “The Shining” does not detract from the overall suspense of the story; it actually helps to make the tale more frightening since it renders the events plausible. Understanding how to use such techniques to “build up” the suspense in a story is a cornerstone requirement for being an effective and entertaining writer.