Curiouser and Curiouser, Part 3: Mirror Phrases and Echo Phrases



There’s two types of pattern-based dialogue in the film. The first is what I call mirror phrases, which is when the whole phrase is repeated in full, either as a complete sentence, or as part of a sentence. As in: “Keep America clean? Keep America clean.” An example of a sentence fragment would be when Jack’s going to try to pay for his ghost drink, “White man’s burden, Lloyd, my man. White man’s burden.” The “Lloyd, my man” attaches itself to the former phrase, but the fragment was still repeated in full.

And these can be spoken between multiple people. For instance, Danny says “Keep America clean?” after Wendy says, “The loser has to keep America clean! How ’bout that?” Another good example is how after the Grady twins say “Come play with us…Come play with us, Danny…forever…and ever…and ever…” Jack, in the bedroom scene with his son, says, “I wish we could stay here forever…and ever…and ever!”

Echo phrases are similar but slightly different, less exacting, and more commonplace between different speakers, and as a device probably more open to interpretation. So a good example would be: Grady: “You give me your word on that, do you, Mr. Torrance?” Jack: “I give you my word.”

And some scenarios contain both in one bit of dialogue like the sound of the rangers trying to get a hold of the Torrances: “This is KDK 1 calling KDK 12. KDK 1 calling KDK 12. Are you receiving me? This is KDK 1 calling KDK 12. KDK 1 calling KDK 12. Do you read me?” So, “Do you read me” and “Are you receiving me” are the echoes, and the KDKs are the mirrors. Also, this entire bit of dialogue is spoken twice: once as Jack is approaching the radio room, and once all over again, with exactly the same words, after he’s entered Ullman’s office. So it’s mirrored in full by the second repeat. Does that invalidate the echoes? I don’t think so. But it seems to show that Kubrick understood the multidimensionality of this effect.

Incidentally, this scene also contains a heartbeat sound, a lub-dub, that carries from the last scene and into the next scene, and what could be more of a mirror/echo than a heartbeat?

Note how Jack’s walk to kill the radio and Jack’s walk to the interview are shot with very similar framing once inside, and with the opposing view on the outside. This speaks to the mirror/echo nature of the ranger’s dialogue. It also speaks to the way his interview walk is more about the hotel watching this man enter into its bowels, while the murder walk is more about us, the audience, watching the hotel watch Jack do its evil bidding.

To get better acquainted with this technique, I decided to do a watchthrough and note all the perfect whole-phrase mirror phrases, of which I found about 55 (not counting pleasantries and niceties, which are baked into any language). And what really struck me was how abundant these (and their derivatives) are in three particular scenarios: Jack and Lloyd, Jack and Grady, and the Jack and Wendy lounge face-off. So let’s look at those.

Quick note before we do: much of this dialogue is straight from the book, but it’s been immensely hedged and rearranged, and mirror phrases have been added in places. Such as when Jack and Grady say the n-word, in the book it’s only Grady. Jack even tries to clarify by asking “Hallorann?” So, while the content is almost explicitly King’s, I think we can still discuss the context as a concoction of Kubrick’s. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to forego comparing further the book’s structure and context to the film’s.

  • First Jack imagines Lloyd after seeing himself in the mirror. Then he asks for a bourbon in a glass with some ice.

Jack: You’re not too busy, are you?
Lloyd: No, sir. Not busy at all.

  • Lloyd’s first line (“Yes, it is, Mr. Torrance”) also echoes Jack’s speech (“Little slow tonight, isn’t it?”), but here he’s showing his willingness to use Jack’s specific phraseology.

Jack: Good man! You set em up, and I’ll knock em back, Lloyd, one by one… White man’s burden, Lloyd, my man. White man’s burden.

  • This “one buh one” bit always struck me as a good bit of what we might call sound palindroming. Like “Et tu, bruté” which is much cleverer, the sound creates a kind of mirror feeling in our mind–one buh one.
  • And immediately following that you get a much expanded version of the same thing in the “White man’s burden” line, interrupted by a “Lloyd, my man”. Also, Jack repeats Lloyd’s name a lot, and this reminds me of something Ebert said about Eyes Wide Shut and how Dr. Bill Hartford shows his ID everywhere he goes, as if trying to convince everyone and himself that he is who he thinks he is, “as if to reassure himself that he exists at all.” Here, Jack is desperately trying to see what he wants to love about himself in another human being. He wants so badly for Lloyd not to be an abstraction of himself. And because Lloyd isn’t a pure abstraction of himself, the Overlook can feed off this need. And how does it know to do that? Well, it can probably see into his mind, like Danny saw into Hallorann’s. But in terms of the dialogue, these mirror phrases Jack keeps throwing out might be tipping the hotel off to Jack’s need for symmetry, for meaning.
  • Jack discovers he has no money.

Jack: How’s my credit in this joint anyway?
Lloyd: Your credit’s fine, Mr. Torrance.
Jack: That’s swell. I like you, Lloyd. I always liked you. You were always the best of em. Best goddamned bartender from Timbuktu to Portland, Maine…or Portland, Oregon, for that matter.

  • Again, this repetition of key words, of “credit” “you” “best”, keeps the conversation squarely on what Jack is saying. Anything to get him to the finish line of that first drink.
  • In Jack’s last bit, the echo words seem to float along, daisy-chaining the key ideas in his profusion. The “like you” becomes “always liked you”, which carries the “always” into “always the best”, which carries into “Best goddamned bartender”. And then we get the two Portlands, which, following the White Man’s Burden reference, seems rather thematically continuous. It’s as if Jack draws a blueprint in these five sentences for how to crack his psyche. The Timbuktu reference might seem like a funny little turn of phrase (which it is–Timbuktu, Mali, was once thought to be the furthest place from anywhere), but the name of the city, according to one analysis, may derive from a word (Tùmbutu) meaning “womb”. So I wonder if the Overlook sensed that Jack was seeking a kind of eternal positive regard, a washing away of all his sins, so to speak. Such that when Grady comes later and says, with wonder and awe in his voice, that Jack has “always been the caretaker”, it’s as if that phrase contains everything Jack was saying here that he wanted to hear. Remember, Lloyd is the result of Jack looking in a mirror. Everything Jack says to Lloyd is what he wishes he could say to himself. He’s eternally likeable. He was always the best. And everyone in the world, from the cradle of civilization (the “womb”) to the furthest reach of western expansion, oughta know about it.

Jack: Here’s to five miserable months on the wagon…and all the irreparable harm that it’s caused me.

  • I just want to point out that “five months” is inaccurate. Wendy tells the doctor that it’s been five months since Jack had a drink. We’ve since learned that the Torrances have been at the hotel alone for 43-44 days (5pm Oct. 30th – 6pm Dec. 12th). The latest newspaper on the Torrance coffee table is from Oct. 1st. So if that was the day of the interview and doctor visit, then almost another two and half months have gone by. So Jack should say “seven miserable months”. Now it’s possible Wendy was embellishing the length of Jack’s sobriety to cover for her embarrassment about his sobriety not matching with the “three goddamn years ago” that Jack broke Danny’s arm. And it’s possible Jack knows that it has, at this point, in fact, only been five months since he last broke his sobriety (that being a secret to Wendy). But I think it’s more likely that this “mistake” was meant to echo Wendy’s earlier statement, and to create the feeling of time being stuck. It’s been over 40 days and 40 nights since Jack’s had access to booze, and he doesn’t want that time to mean anything.

Lloyd: How are things going, Mr. Torrance?
Jack: Things could be better, Lloyd. Things could be a whole lot better.
Lloyd: I hope it’s nothing serious.
Jack: No! Nothing serious. Just a little problem with the ol’…sperm bank upstairs. Nothing I can’t handle though, Lloyd. Thanks.

  • This is from right after Jack takes the ghost drink that finally corrupts him beyond repair. Before this, Jack was making the statements that Lloyd was echoing. Now, Lloyd is making the statements that Jack is echoing. So the drink seems to signal Jack’s handing off mirroring duties to the hotel (with or without noticing it).
  • Again, these final statements, denigrating Wendy, are blueprints. Later, Grady will talk about his “correcting” his wife, and when Jack’s locked in the storeroom he’ll needle Jack for not having “taken care” of the business of murdering Wendy, as though he couldn’t “handle” her.

Lloyd: Women! Can’t live with em. Can’t live without em!
Jack: Words of wisdom, Lloyd. Words of Wisdom.

  • Lloyd’s cliché seems to be his own first internal echo phrase. Like he’s saying, “See? I can do it too! We’re echo buddies!”
  • Jack’s response here is much like his “White man’s burden, Lloyd, my man. White man’s burden.” White man’s burden and words of wisdom are almost homophonous.
  • This leads to his second drink and his final speech about the nature of his abuse of Danny which leads to Wendy’s desperate arrival. Jack’s speech has a few more good echo phrases (“I’d do anything for him. Any-fuckin-thing for him.” “A few extra foot pounds of energy per second…per second”), but I only really wanted to draw attention to the line “But that bitch! As long as I live she’ll never let me forget what happened!” When Grady and Jack are in the bathroom at the ghost ball, a song comes on in the main hall called It’s All Forgotten Now, which subtly suggests the hotel’s power to help Jack forget his misdeeds. Another instance of blueprints being followed.
  • Lloyd vanishes when Wendy enters, and that leads to the 237 sequence, and Jack’s cover story about what happened there, which leads to him exploding at Wendy and storming off to discover the ghost ball.

Jack: Hi Lloyd. Been away. Now I’m back.
Lloyd: Good evening, Mr. Torrance. It’s good to see you.
Jack: It’s good to be back, Lloyd.

  • When Jack first enters the ghost ball, the ghost maître d’ says “Good evening, Mr. Torrance” to which Jack replies with stately airs, “Good evening”. So Lloyd echoing this is a good way to reenforce the tone of the scene without having Lloyd echo or mirror Jack, which he will continue not to do.
  • But Jack will try in vain to get Lloyd back into the echo/mirror game. In fact, this “Now I’m back”/”Good to be back” bit makes Jack sound almost desperate to get another mirror session going.

Lloyd: What’ll it be, sir?
Jack: Hair a the dog that bit me!
Lloyd: Bourbon on the rocks.
Jack: That’ll do her.

  • This is what Jack ordered the first time, so, again, Lloyd is recreating the poisonous aspect of the first half of their relationship, but not the comforting aspect.

Lloyd: No charge to you, Mr. Torrance.
Jack: No charge?
Lloyd: Your money’s no good here. Orders from the house.
Jack: Orders from the house.
Lloyd: Drink up, Mr. Torrance.
Jack: I’m the kind of man likes to know who’s buyin’ their drinks, Lloyd.
Lloyd: It’s not a matter that concerns you, Mr. Torrance. At least not at this point.
Jack: Anything you say, Lloyd! Anything you say.

  • As you can see, the mirror phrases are all on Jack’s part. Lloyd is withholding the mirrorocity, and Jack senses it, even if he’s not sure what it means. He knows he wants another drink, but he thought it would come with the same comforts as before. The same (false) sense of kinship. His feeble statement about the kind of man he is, and his effort to play Lloyd’s game of withholding, topples against the slightest push back. And when he caves, he caves with another white man’s burden-style line. And I wonder if he does this in part because there’s nothing he could comfortably mirror in Lloyd’s last line.
  • In a funny way, this scene acts like a warning to Jack from the hotel about what he’s getting himself into (to say nothing about the betraying mirror in room 237). And had he had more sense, he might’ve known to walk away here. Instead, he allows himself to be perfectly seduced into the next sequence.


Grady: Oh dear oh dear. I’m so sorry, sir. Oh dear oh dear…I’ve made an awful mess of your jacket, sir.
Jack: Oh, eh, that’s all right. I’ve got plenty of jackets.

  • So, right off the bat, Grady is making up for the lack of mirror/echodom in Lloyd by hitting Jack with four refrains of “Oh dear”.
  • Jack’s not looking for a mirror in Grady. Jack preferred the noble servility of the proud bartender, not the lowly grovelling of this fuckup.
  • It’s funny that Jack says this line about having a multitude of jackets, because a) he’ll die in this jacket, b) jackets is how the three men connect and reflect each other, and c) jacket contains “jack”, so it’s almost like he’s saying “I’ve got many dimensions to my character” but really, no. He doesn’t. In fact, on their way to the bathroom Jack quips that he intends to change his jacket “this evening before the fish and goose soirée.” But he won’t even change it before the following murder day.
  • Jack learns that the drink is advocaat, and tends to stain. “Advocaat, is it?” he replies. The drink is so named because advocaat is the Dutch word for “advocate” and the drink, being made with eggs and apparently quite smooth, was thought to sooth the throats of lawyers, who would have to speak loudly and at length. In the bible, John 2:1 describes Jesus as an advocate who will defend our souls before heaven, or some such. So by spilling the drink on Jack Grady is symbolically bestowing a defender upon Jack while also symbolically fertilizing him with eggs, and then saying it needs to be wiped off. The eggs bit is perhaps a more Darwinian analysis, but I think both could apply. Going back to the “fish and goose” line: fish are symbolic of Christ in some European art and a wild goose is symbolic of the holy ghost in Celtic Christianity. So Jack saying he would change his jacket before then could denote something in his psyche crying out vainly to him to make the connection. He is about to lose his soul to the Overlook forever.
  • To his joke, Grady replies “Very wise, sir. Very wise.” And after Jack holds the door for him to enter the bathroom. “Thank you, sir. Thank you.” More White Man’s Burden phrases.
  • Jack refers to Grady three times as “Jeevesy” perhaps in an attempt to show a liking to this man. Jeeves was a popular comedic invention of PG Wodehouse, and a main character in many books and series. Also, Jack stands in a kind of Christ pose for ten seconds here, until he hears the name Grady.

Grady: Grady, sir. Delbert Grady.
Jack: Grady?
Grady: Yes, sir.
Jack: Delbert Grady.
Grady: That’s right, sir.

  • As you can see, the first line here, and the second to fourth lines are identical, but for the word “Yes”. That’s a neat staggering of the mirror phrases. As if Jack is building his way up to mirroring this man.

Jack: Eh, Mr. Grady…haven’t I seen you somewhere before?
Grady: Why no, sir. I don’t believe so. Ah ha, it’s coming off now, sir.
Jack: Eh, Mr. Grady…weren’t you once the caretaker here?
Grady: Why no, sir. I don’t believe so.

  • Jack’s question is ludicrous, but so is Grady’s second reply. It’s offered in seeming absent-mindedness, but we know the hotel is working like a safecracker on Jack’s sanity. So, saying he doesn’t believe he was the caretaker leaves that tiny bit of wiggle room in case it should ever come back to him that, aha, yes, now that he recalls, he was the caretaker there, in a way, not that it matters. What public figure can you think of who lies in exactly this manner for exactly this purpose?
  • Jack asks a few more probing questions about Grady’s wife and kids, then stares hard at Grady in the mirror, as if this will help his case, before moving to his big gotcha moment, which starts and ends with the line “Mr. Grady, you were the caretaker here”, once mockingly and once firmly.
  • Jack’s recitation of Grady’s ultraviolence is completely different from the words Ullman used to describe it. When Grady says, “That’s strange, sir. I don’t have any recollection of that at all” the song It’s All Forgotten Now is on in the other room. So Grady is becoming to Jack the figure Jack wishes he could be. A man who blissfully cognitively reframes the worst atrocity one could commit against one’s family. If Grady can forget…maybe Jack can too! Note also that Jack is almost miming holding the axe throughout the lean-in here. As if he’s already picturing the story he knows about this man. Jack is starting to like what he sees in this mirror.

Grady: I’m sorry to differ with you, sir, but you are the caretaker. You’ve always been the caretaker. I should know, sir. I’ve always been here.

  • Grady is basically apologizing for not being Jack’s exact double, he’s sorry to differ. He’s still saying they’re plenty alike. They’ve both always been at the hotel, for instance. But physics dictates that they can’t possibly be the same person, sadly. But this is important, because Jack is about to learn that he is lacking something that Grady has, and which Jack sorely needs: the self-esteem required to hack up loved ones into little pieces.
  • Also, going back to the Timbuktu reference, Delbert (which is also his name in the book, and which never changes) is an interesting name for Mr. Grady. Delbert is the masculine form of Alberta, which comes from the Germanic Adalbert, which means “bright”, as in shining bright. Alberta is the Canadian province to which many of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne peoples fled during the genocide of their peoples by American colonialists (remember that the street the Torrances live on in Boulder is Arapahoe Street). And in case you haven’t read my analysis of all the art in the film, every portrait of an indigenous person seen around the hotel is of a Nakoda person, who were being painted in Alberta by Canadian artists. So Delbert is a name the film is connecting to a place. And what could be more the opposite (or Siamese twin, as Saul would have it) of America than Canada? So, while Lloyd is the best bartender from the far side of the world to here, Grady is Mr. Bright Land, Mr. Shining Mountains. And what could be more eternal than the land itself?
  • I said I didn’t want to compare book and film, but I just want to point out that while the things Grady says to Jack are from the book, they’re taken somewhat wildly out of context at times, and this is a prime example. When novel Grady says Jack’s always been the caretaker, he clarifies that he and Jack were hired at the same time, and “always” is a figure of speech. But Philip Stone’s delivery of this line in the film gives the (doubtlessly intentional) impression that Jack and he are immortal beings, who live in an immortal building on immortal land. When Kubrick referred to the adaptation process as “like codebreaking” I think this is the sort of thing he was thinking of: trying to create something that will fit in a 90-180 minute movie that still captures every theme of the novel. Jack’s quest for immortality through his writing is what Grady’s feeding on when he implies their immortality.
  • After the last dialogue, Grady makes a hard left turn onto the subject of Danny’s trying to “bring an outside party into this situation”. Jack is amazed by this revelation, instantly seduced by Grady’s immortal worldview, and wonders who his son would reach out to before his own father.

Grady: An n-word.
Jack: An n-word?!?!?
Grady: An n-word…cook!

  • This is sort of the last boundary of good character that Jack had left to violate. He’s a lay-about misogynist who abandons his family in pursuit of inglorious vanity. He “give[s his] goddamned soul” to Satan in this pursuit, and not even for the greatest American novel of his generation, but in exchange for “just a glass of beer”. He calls his wife the “old sperm bank” and finally he’s giving in to the best known code word white racists have to express their racism with. This exchange is almost like the stonecutter handshake. Now these men know who they’re both dealing with.
  • The “…cook” bit comes to feel a bit like a little chauvinist cherry on the racist pie. Like not only is he not in the club with us cool family-murdering white guys, but his chosen profession, which he chose of his own free will…is woman’s work! I know I’m reading into that, but just the way Grady even says “cook” with a sneer gives it that extra gloss of bigotry.
  • Also, I don’t think any other phrase in the film is repeated three times out loud in succession like that, which could make this the moment of peak mirrorocity (to say nothing of the All Work papers).

Jack: How?
Grady: Your son has a very great talent. I don’t think you are aware how great it is. But he is attempting to use that very talent against your will.
Jack: Well, he is a very willful boy.
Grady: Indeed he is, Mr. Torrance. A very willful boy. A rather naughty boy…if I may be so bold, sir.

  • Grady’s “great talent” gets broken up again into a later “great” and a later “talent”. Jack seems to pick up on this connection of key words and repeats Grady’s last word “will” in his own “willful”. Grady approves and repeats “A very willful boy” then transforms it into “naughty boy” as if redefining the meaning of willfulness.
  • Jack blames Danny’s naughtiness on Wendy, and then Grady tells a little story about “correcting” his daughters and “correcting” his wife, for their going against his will. Jack is so impressed with Grady’s glittering self-respect, he goes right from there to murdering the radio and snowcat.

  • After a presumably restless night of not calling for help or jumping in the snowcat, Wendy takes a baseball bat to the lounge, and discovers it empty, but for the collected works of Jack Torrance, America’s answer to Noël Coward.

Jack: How do you like it?
Wendy: (screams) Jack!
Jack: How do you like it?

  • Starting things off with a mirror phrase. Jack is letting Wendy know right away what he wants from this exchange: more people who confirm his worldview. A test he seems excited to watch her fail. Especially since she’s just witnessed the All Work papers, which is like the ultimate self-mirroring. But Wendy isn’t cunning that way, and doesn’t understand that Jack just wants to see his own reflection everywhere he goes, and she’ll never know to soothe his ego.

Wendy: I just, uh…wanted…to talk to you.
Jack: Okay. Let’s talk. (leafs through the All Work papers) What do you wanna talk about?
Wendy: I…I can’t really remember.
Jack: You can’t remember.
Wendy: No, I can’t.

  • Jack echoes Wendy until she dead-ends him, still laying out the blueprint for how he wants to be talked to. Wendy, not interested in twisting Jack to her own purposes, won’t exploit this need, which will give Jack the excuse he wants to go crazy.

Jack: Maybe it was about Danny. Maybe it was about him. I think we should discuss Danny. I think…we should discuss what should be done with him. What should be done with him?

  • First off, during all but the last of the preceding lines, we’re seeing Danny overhearing this conversation with eye-screaming shine power, while also getting a vision of the bloodfall, and his last of the REDRUM visions, all of which are connected to mirrors. In fact, he’s sitting where Wendy will see MURDER from.
  • Jack’s dialogue here is a delightful collection of repeating phrases. In fact, if we delete all of the repeating words from this whole set, the only word left would be “him”.

Wendy: I don’t know.
Jack: I don’t think that’s true. I think you have some very definite ideas about what should be done with Danny. And I’d like to know what they are.
Wendy: Well I…I think maybe he should be taken to a doctor.
Jack: You think maybe he should be taken to a doctor?
Wendy: Yes…
Jack: When do you think maybe he should be taken to a doctor?
Wendy: As soon as possible?
Jack: “As soon as possible…!”
Wendy: Jack! Please!

  • As you can see, Wendy keeps shutting down Jack’s attempts to invoke mirror phrases, so he switches into a chiding, mocking tone, where it’s almost all he can do to keep the conversation going. He really has no interest in what she has to say about herself or Danny. All he’s interested in is finding a way to make this about him. Hence starting things off on the subject of his arch rival for Wendy’s attentions.

Jack: You believe his health might be at stake?
Wendy: Ye…yes!
Jack: And you are concerned about him?
Wendy: Yes!
Jack: And are you concerned about me?
Wendy: Of course I am.
Jack: Of course you are!

  • Jack’s question about whether she’s concerned about Jack has always struck me as one of the most unintentionally funny lines in the movie. It’s like, I think most people would be concerned about a madman seduced by ghosts advancing on them menacingly, Jack, yeah. But that’s not the point.
  • This is the passage where Jack’s fun with leading Wendy into this trap takes on an odd shift. You’d almost think there’d be a kind of sick joy in his so concisely leading Wendy into this conversational pitfall, and so economically. The “Of course you are!” does a beautiful bit of double duty by being both mocking and genuinely angry. As if Jack is forgetting his own purpose in echoing her. Which is really apt because he’s about to go on a less controlled tirade about a multitude of echo-y concerns.
Jack points to himself to help Wendy better understand his “I” and “my” statements.

Jack: Have you ever thought about my responsibilities?
Wendy: Oh Jack, what are you talking about?
Jack: Have you ever had a single…moment’s…thought about my responsibilities? Have you ever thought for a single solitary moment about my responsibilities to my employers?

  • Each iteration of Jack’s thrice-asked question here gets a little more ridiculous, almost like the mirror is cracking. Also, this blizzard of repetition changes the subject utterly. All thoughts of Danny’s well-being have vanished in the space of exactly 20 seconds. Not that a shift in topic is a rarity in drama, but it’s a serious feat to take a matter like a child’s mortal well-being, one of the most blindingly concerning matters known to humanity, and genuinely replace it with a more pressing concern, and in such slow-motion as this.
  • But, again, in terms of wanting to be mirrored by Wendy, this is perhaps the most desperate plea. First he states his question. Then he echoes himself, then he echoes himself again. An echo is like a soft mirror. Jack wants to hear the same sentence over and over again, but he can’t quite bring himself to do exactly that to Wendy just yet. Of course, you’re probably thinking that the All Work papers settled that already, but Wendy technically never answered Jack when he asked what she thought about them, and she’s not sure if Jack’s sane enough to understand what he’s created in them. And I think this is where the comparison of Wendy to Winnie-the-Pooh (as discussed elsewhere) becomes really important. Wendy is too simple to get what Jack wants. And I really don’t mean that as an insult. I’m a Taoist, and in The Tao of Pooh (which was published two short years after The Shining debuted), writer Benjamin Hoff presents the case that Pooh bear is basically the ultimate Taoist, and I agree. It’s not that Wendy’s simplicity makes her a fool. It’s what makes her impervious to the hotel’s charms. And feeble as she seems at times (on a more Darwinian level, perhaps–the snivelling, mewling, weak thing who gets “confused” and needs to “back to [her] room”), she conquers the hotel and Jack. Jack’s a literate, intelligent man. He owns the complete Shakespeare…in Russian. This didn’t elevate him above murdering his family.

Jack: Has it ever occurred to you that I have agreed to look after the Overlook Hotel until May the first? Does it matter to you at all that the owners have placed their complete confidence and trust in me, and that I have signed a letter of agreement, a contract, in which I have accepted that responsibility? Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethical principle is? Do you? Has it ever occurred to you what would happen to my future, if I were to fail to live up to my responsibilities? Has it ever occurred to you? Has it?

  • Ten rhetorical questions in a row. Impressive. Jack would certainly win at the Game of Questions. Or would he?
  • Also, I tried adding emphasis to capture the tone of Jack’s delivery, but it basically all needs to be italicized.
  • Anyway, this is an odd one. The screenwriters obviously felt the need to squeak in these details here, and while I have numerous thoughts on how some of these lines relate to my other theories, putting those aside, this speech comes off a bit like exposition. But it’s exposition that is, unlike 99.9% of exposition in movies, more contextual than plot-based. Jack is invoking May Day in “May the first!”, which also feels wrong, because Ullman said the hotel starts operation on the 15th of May, so what would the two weeks be for if the shut down of the hotel can be done in a day, like we see on CLOSING DAY? Invoking the concept of a contract just brings to mind Faustian bargains. Invoking moral and ethical principles just sounds like nonsense from a man about to mention the bashing in of brains.
  • Then you’ve got the four Has-It-Evers and the two Do-Yous and the two bonus invocations of Responsibility. In a funny way, Jack is like a man trying to make a cubist rendering out of a very simple concept. He seems to keep getting trapped in this notion that he owes life something (“…a contract!”), and perhaps that’s because he wants life to owe him something in return (“Has it ever occurred to you what would happen to my future…?”). The nightmare of existence is that nothing really owes anything anything. There is no literal karma, no literal justice. Everything is trapped in a Darwinian horror show where nothing is fair, and where no authority can ultimately resist doubt. The beauty of human cognition is that we’ve tried to conquer this by agreeing to live un-Darwinianly, to create fairness and authority (with law and science), and part of The Shining‘s subtext is that we should be trying to make the world a better place. One of Jack’s major tragedies is he had a dream of doing this with his art, but, because he only had a mind to improve his own life with that art, he made himself vulnerable to a bottomless pit of mirrors and echoes.

Wendy: Stay away from me!
Jack: Why?
Wendy: I just want to go back to my room!
Jack: Why?
Wendy: Well…I’m very confused. And I just need a chance to think things over.
Jack: You’ve had your whole fucking life to think things over. What’s a few minutes more gonna do you now?
Wendy: Jack…stay away from me…please.

  • After all that big picture hand-wringing by Jack, this following section is markedly nihilistic. And note that Wendy bookends this section with her own mirror phrase, which will come into greater use in a second.

Wendy: Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me!
Jack: I’m not gonna hurt you.
Wendy: Stay away from me.
Jack: Wendy!
Wendy: Stay away!
Jack: Darling! Light of my life! I’m not gonna hurt you. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, “I’m not gonna hurt you…I’m just gonna bash your brains in.” I’m gonna bash them right the fuck in.
Wendy: Stay away from me! Don’t hurt me!
Jack: I’m not gonna hurt you.
Wendy: Stay away from me! Stay away from me! Please!

  • Jack has finally succeeded in luring Wendy completely into a mirror phrase vortex. Here on the stairs leading up to room 237, her terror has taken over, and she only has two impulses now. And that’s why I wonder if Wendy’s mirror phrases have the same quality as Jack’s and the ghosts’. Hers feel more like a way for her mind to divert energy, while she copes with this specific situation, whereas Jack’s are more about the situation of his longterm existential reality.

Jack: Stop swinging the bat.
Wendy: Stay away from me!
Jack: Put the bat down, Wendy.
Wendy: Stop it!
Jack: Wendy… Give me the bat.
Wendy: Please! Stay away!
Jack: Give me the bat.
Wendy: Stop it!
Jack: Give me the bat.
Wendy: Jack! Stay away from me!
Jack: Stop swinging the bat.
Wendy: Please stop!
Jack: Give me the bat.
Wendy: Get away from me!
Jack: Wendy…
Wendy: Stay away!
Jack: Give me the bat.
Wendy: Stay away.
Jack: Give me the bat.

  • And then she gives him the bat.
  • So there we get 6 Gimme the Bats, 2 Stop Swinging the Bats, and 1 Put the Bat Down (and the three odd phrases occupy the 1st, 2nd and 6th positions in this lineup). At the start of this section, Jack seems to shift gear back down to one before revving up to max again, and I think it’s because even the death threats were like a kind of testing the water. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to normalize violence against his wife for himself. And I think that’s true of this whole sequence until this moment. Jack was still looking for a mirror, looking for a kind of whole empathy for his madness, all the way up to this phase, when he saw Wendy regress into her own mirror phrases. That’s when he knew she wasn’t going to be the next Lloyd or Grady. She wasn’t going to get sucked into his cycles, or feed off them.
  • Also, Stay Away From Me is the most repeated phrase in this whole sequence, with 8 repetitions. Perhaps that’s what gave her the upper hand. Not simply the high ground. Mirror power!
  • Also, just to backtrack a second, how wonderful is it that even something like the 6 Gimme the Bats, 2 Stop Swinging the Bats, and 1 Put the Bat Down have their own internal logic in this script? By occupying the 1st, 2nd and 6th positions, it’s like we’re being subliminally reminded of the value of numbers in this film. 126 is a number where all digits are one digit lower than 237. And 237 is where Jack is (intentionally or otherwise) leading Wendy back to.

This concludes the scope of sequences I wanted to look at. You could do a review of the entire script for these effects, but these three sequences seemed to paint the best portrait of Jack’s journey through his own personal looking glass, from unwitting narcissist, to reformatted narcissist, to deprived narcissist.

Click here to continue to Curiouser and Curiouser, Part 4: Twins and Duos