Who was Jack Torrance?

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The idiot is IN
Jun 15, 2007
Cambridge, Ohio
...I like this line of thinking....

Dr. Faust-Jack
(It's me they want…isn't it? I am the one. Not Danny, not Wendy. I'm the one who loves it here. […] I'm the one who took care of the snowmobile…dumped the press on the boiler…lied…practically sold my soul…[…]) (43.25)

Dr. Faust and Dr. Faustus stories have been around since at least the 1500s. You've probably heard some version of the story. You know, where a guy sells his soul to the devil to gain knowledge, power, money, or abilities of some kind. The most famous productions of this supernatural tale are Christopher Marlowe's play The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust: A Tragedy. The basic story is that Dr. Faustus trades his soul to the devil, called Mephastophilis or Mephostopheles, for forbidden knowledge. One reason Jack doesn't want to leave the Overlook is because it's feeding him forbidden knowledge, which is kind of every artist's dream. If Jack can write a book about the Overlook's hidden secrets, he can be a successful novelist. Unlike Dr. Faustus, Jack doesn't consciously trade his soul, because he doesn't even know the devil is a part of it.

In "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" we talk about the Overlook as a manifestation of the idea of hell. If the Overlook is hell, we can make sense of these lines:

[Lloyd:] "No charge to you Mr. Torrance. […] You're money is no good here. Orders from the manager." […]

[Jack:] "Manager?"

[Jack:] "I want to see the manager. I…I don't think he understands."

[Lloyd:] "[…] you will meet the manager in due time. He has, in fact, decided to make you his agent in the matter. Now, drink your drink. (43.37, 48)

When we consider Jack's working-class ethos, and his general dislike of managerial types, it seems right to make the devil "the manager." Since the Overlook is a hotel, it needs a manager. This is also rather comical, almost like a running joke through the novel. After Jack reads about how many times the Overlook has failed, in spite of all the money poured into it, he thinks, "The management must have been spectacularly bad" (18.14). Ha! The devil is spectacularly bad!

The martinis and other alcoholic beverages that magically appear at the Overlook might also have some roots in Goethe's Faust. In a rather early passage, Mephistopheles demonstrates his ability to create alcohol. We hope you enjoy his invocation as much as we do:

MEPHISTOPHELES – (with singular gestures)
Grapes the vine-stem bears,
Horns the he-goat wears!
The grapes are juicy, the vines are wood,
The wooden table gives wine as good !
Into the depths of Nature peer, —
Only believe, there 's a miracle here !
Now draw the stoppers, and drink your fill !

ALL – (as they draw out the stoppers, and the wine which has beendesired flows into the glass of each). О beautiful fountain, that flows at will !

Dr. Faustus's last lines in Marlowe's play also seem apropos. The lines are spoken when he's on his death bed and the devil's minions are coming to take him to hell. In short, he's having second thoughts. Famously, he says:

Ugly hell gape not! Come not, Lucifer!
I'll burn my books – ah, Mephastophilis!

Jack Torrance's last spoken words are, "I WIN! […] NOT TOO LATE! I WIN! NOT TOO LATE! NOT TOO LATE! NOT—" (56.32.). Although the mindsets of the bargainers are different, they both lose in the end. Dr. Faustus wants to do a trade back – he'll burn his books on "black magic" to get his soul back and escape hell. Jack, on the other hand, is trying to keep the bargain he thinks he's made with the devil – to protect the Overlook and give Danny to it. Can we think of the scrapbook, or even Jack's imaginary book on the Overlook, as similar to Dr. Faustus's books on black magic? Jack's books are burned up with the hotel; are Dr. Faustus's books burned upon his death? All these tales, like The Shining, contain lots of anxiety about the processes of reading and writing, as well as the impact of stories on the collective imagination.

Irvin Brock

New Member
Jan 4, 2014
Reminded me of King Lear...a man more sinned against than sinning...that and the small winter wars happening in his isolated mind. So what happened with Steinbeck in Tahoe?
he got cabin fever while working as a caretaker at a home in Tahoe. According to a biography that I read years ago
steinbeck planned on using the time to write but he got snowed in.