In The Shining, Stanley Kubrick enthusiastically engages in playing with numbers, but is there any substantive meaning behind these numerical choices?
In The Shining, Stanley Kubrick heavily incorporates numerical patterns, consistently employing visual mirroring and doubling motifs throughout the film. More precisely, there are multiple instances of the numbers 42, 24, 21, and 12. To illustrate this, some visual aids can help clarify the intended significance:
Other examples include:
- Dick Hallorann’s enumeration of items in the freezer and pantry includes 12 turkeys, 24 pork roasts, 12-pound bags of sugar, and 12 jugs of black molasses.
- The Overlook Hotel’s shortwave radio call sign is ‘KDK 12.’
The abundance of these occurrences argues against mere coincidence. For further evidence of Kubrick’s fascination with numerical symbolism, one can turn to the title page of his personal copy of Stephen King’s novel, The Shining. Here, Kubrick’s handwritten notes reveal his creative exploration of ways to incorporate the number 217. Originally, Room 217 was associated with a deceased woman in the novel, but at the Timberline Hotel’s request, Kubrick altered it to 237. This choice was not arbitrary but rather a deliberate decision.
We can inquire into the reason behind this phenomenon. One possible explanation is that Kubrick delved into Sigmund Freud’s exploration of The Uncanny, where Freud delves into the disquieting impact of recurring numbers:
While we typically don’t ascribe any significance to receiving a cloakroom ticket with the number 62 or finding our cabin on a ship labeled with that number, the perception changes when two such seemingly inconsequential events occur in close proximity. For instance, encountering the number 62 multiple times in a single day or realizing that all numbered things, such as addresses, hotel rooms, and train compartments, consistently share the same digits. In such instances, we experience a sense of the uncanny.