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The website Snopes documents and posits various reasons behind the number being featured, but finds no conclusive evidence.

Here are the unsupported theories put forward, to save everyone a click:

A blog created by Kubrick’s fans hypothesized that Kubrick repeatedly referenced the number 42 (as well as 24, 21, and 12) after studying Sigmund Freud‘s writings outlining the “unsettling effect that recurring numbers can have.”

It is possible, as well, the original BBC Radio 4 broadcast of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” — which aired via multiple episodes in 1978 — influenced Kubrick. According to The Frida Cinema, an Orange County art house nonprofit, scenes from “The Shining” were shot in London that same year.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Cocks, a retired history professor, has a more specific theory. Cocks — a source in the 2012 documentary “Room 237” that dissects the film’s possible hidden messages and author of the book titled, “The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust” — believes the “42” reference helps paint an allegory about Nazi extermination.

“1942 was the year of the Final Solution, and 42 has been used as shorthand to refer to the Holocaust,” Vulture published in 2013, citing Cocks’ theory.

Is there an explanation attributable to Stanley Kubrick as to why he referenced the number 42 so often in the movie?

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    Maybe Kubrick wass a fan of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? It originated as a radio drama in 1978, while The Shining movie is from 1980, so the timing makes it just possible. Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 13:48
  • @KlausÆ.Mogensen and why was 42 referenced there?
    – Bob
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 14:35
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    Douglas stated: “The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base 13, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do.’ I typed it out. End of story.” @Bob Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 14:38
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    @JiminyCricket. He didn't have to pick a number. He could've picked apple pie. And Lewis Carroll used 42 so it's not the first popular work to use it; it's not chosen randomly.
    – Bob
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 14:51
  • @JiminyCricket. For the use of 42 in Hitchhikers’, that’s the answer for people who don’t like answers. Other, more illuminating answers are available Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 14:55

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Stanley Kubrick's frequent references to the number '42' in "The Shining" can be interpreted as a multifaceted symbol, intertwining various thematic and philosophical elements that we have discussed. Firstly, the number 42 holds a special place in popular culture due to its mention in Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" as the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Kubrick, known for embedding deep, often cryptic symbolism in his films, might have used this number to subtly nod towards the search for meaning in the universe, a theme resonant in "The Shining."

Moreover, the number 42's scientific significance, such as its role in the natural formation of rainbows, could symbolize the intertwining of the natural and supernatural elements within the film's narrative. The recurring motif of 42 might be Kubrick's way of hinting at deeper layers of reality, where ordinary aspects of life intersect with profound, often mystical, truths.

In the broader context of our discussion, where we delved into concepts of consciousness as perceived by Spinoza, Jung, and Eastern philosophies, and the interconnectedness of all things as suggested by modern physics and ancient beliefs, the use of '42' in "The Shining" could be seen as a metaphor for the complex layers of reality and perception. It suggests that beneath the surface of the physical world and human psyche lies a more intricate web of connections and meanings.

Kubrick's choice to repeatedly reference '42' could also be interpreted as a reflection on the nature of knowledge and understanding. Just as we discussed the infinite ways in which knowledge systems like physics, biology, and mathematics can be stretched and interpreted, Kubrick's use of '42' might be an artistic expression of this infinite complexity and the elusive nature of truth and understanding.

In summary, Kubrick's use of '42' in "The Shining" can be seen as a rich, multidimensional symbol that resonates with various themes and ideas, from the search for meaning in the universe to the intricate interplay between the natural, supernatural, and human consciousness. It's a testament to Kubrick's mastery in using symbolism to evoke deep thought and contemplation in his audience.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This is a lot of words, which you probably didn't write, that don't actually provide a strong, evidence-based answer to the question. Where is the evidence that this is actually why Kubrick used the number?
    – DavidW
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 23:51

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