I watched Stanley Kubrick/Stephen King's The Shining (1980) recently and the thing I didn't get is: was there a reason behind Jack typing "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" for his book?

Was it just getting inspiration? Was he mentally unstable before and did he go nuts during the book events? Wouldn't he be conscious he keeps writing the same thing again and again and snap out of it? Is he simply under the influence of the Overlook's shining?

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    Side note, "the Shining" is Danny's psychic gift, not the malevolent influence of the hotel.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 14:42
  • Never mix up Shining "The Book" and Shining "The Movie". Kubrick wants to basically tell us that Jack is both 1) a wannabe writer who can't write, he's just producing gibberish 2) letting his violent impulses take over ("play" == "murder"). There is nothing supernatural in "The Shining" Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 21:01

3 Answers 3


Freewriting, writing whatever comes to mind in an effort to get past writer's block, is a recognized technique. The idea is that by doing something, anything, you get yourself started writing, so it's easier to move on to the actual work at hand. Likely, Jack started by typing that nursery rhyme phrase, hoping it would inspire him to write more of his play.

From there, we get into speculation, since this was invented for the movie, does not appear in the book, and never gets explicitly explained, but my suspicion is that after having typed the phrase once, Jack failed to be inspired, and so he wrote it a second time, and kept repeating it in hopes that it would unlock something more in his writing, and as he got more frustrated, he just kept pushing forward rather than taking a step back to figure out what the real problem is. It's part of a general theme of obsession in The Shining, as well as the creative sterility of Jack's inability to write (exacerbated by his drinking) and the hotel's slavish attachment to repeating the events of the past. Like the hotel, he's trapped in a cycle of repeating the same thing over and over again, unable to step outside of this self-destructive routine.


This line appears only in the movie, while in the book there wasn't. Another fact, this very line is different in every original language the film was translated to and it's always a proverb:


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.


Was Du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf Morgen.

Meaning Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.


Il mattino ha l'oro in bocca.

Meaning The morning had gold in his mouth.


No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.

Meaning Waking up earlier don't make the sun rise earlier.


Un «Tiens» vaut mieux que deux «Tu l'auras».

Meaning A «Take» is worth more than two «You will have».

Back to your main doubt

It's unclear if he writes these pages down on his own will or because he's manipulated by the Overlook and the evil inside it or simply because he's already nut; but the meaning is that he eventually went nuts and succumbs to the Overlook influence.

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    Fascinating. I guess I should have expected different proverbs for different languages.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 15:11

The Shining is a difficult concept... According to the movie’s bonus features, the Shine is hereditary—both Dick and his grandmother had it and could communicate without speaking. So, Jack Torrence had this Shine as well as Danny; that’s who Danny inherited it from. It’s been a while, but I believe the bonus features also said that the fact the Jack had the Shine but never realized it drove him insane. Not to mention, it’s stated that the Overlook Hotel was built over an Indian burial ground, so it’s safe to say that there was most likely some possession involved as well.

As for the line “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy;” it always seemed to me that it meant that “work” was anything and everything, excluding one thing; “play,” which was killing. Basically, he had been working a long time, and he was getting dull...so he needed to “play.”

And of course, the repetition is a key factor in stereotypical insanity.

Oh, also, I did start reading the book (never finished though) and Jack Torrence was a crappy human being way before he became the caretaker of the Overlook.

  • This is a nice answer, if you could dig under the quotes you’re referring to from the DVD and edit them in it would be even better!
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 8:03
  • @TheLethalCarrot I’m so sorry... I only joined tonight XD. How would I do that? Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 9:18
  • If you find the quote you are referring to, whether by finding the bonus disc and watching it or finding them online, you can then edit your post (as you've found out) and copy the quote in. If you proceed a paragraph with quote markdown, >, it will also render as a quote in the post body.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 9:22
  • @TheLethalCarrot Ohh, alright. I’ll make sure to do that when I have some time. Thank you! Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 9:23

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